The integration issue

By Michael Ivanovich, Editor-in-Chief June 1, 2009

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Yes, folks: 1+1=3 when talking about integration.

Integration happens at many levels. Components, such as circuit boards, are integrations of chips, filters, solder, and the boards. Subsystems, such as an economizer, is a an integration of dampers, controllers, and sensors. Systems are an integration of subsystems, and buildings ultimately are an integration of systems and materials.

Integration, however, requires coordination, which often results in agitation because coordination takes time, and often that time is not adequately planned for and thus either doesn’t happen enough, at all, or well. Integration at most levels is voluntary; guidelines for procedures and best practices are often undocumented or incomplete. A lot depends on individual talent, and experience with technical and managerial skills.

Integration is best when driven by the owner—and when commissioning is included. As we all know, commissioning, like integration, is best when it begins during the design phase. Cough. Yeah, right. Dream on.

Nonetheless, it’s always best to work from the ideal and nip and tuck (and cut corners) from there depending on schedule, budget, and local expertise.

But back to integration. In this issue, Consulting-Specifying Engineer casts a spotlight on integration. An article by Arup’s John Mahoney discusses integration of fire alarm systems with other building systems. A touchy topic to say the least. Mahoney does a good job of hitting code-mandated and voluntary integration measures on page 14.

Another critical issue is the integration of primary and standby electrical systems. This is covered in depth in a story by Brian Rener on page 20 . Rener carefully lays out the articles of the National Electric Code where integration is pertinent, and also brings into the fray green power sources.

Both of these articles emphasize the need for proper planning at the beginning of projects. Another, and more obvious, issue of integration is that for BAS. BAS integration and interoperability have been covered extensively in the trade press for years, so for this article , I teamed up with a freelance writer, Richard Kronick, to interview engineers representing consulting firms, a major utility, and manufacturers strong in BACnet, LONworks, and proprietary controls to illuminate issues such as sensors, controllers, and engineering practice. The purpose of this article is to stimulate discussion on BAS technologies and practice. Comment online at and post your comments at the bottom of the article.

A well-performing building requires that it be well integrated. A well-integrated building requires successful integration of systems and subsystems. We at Consulting-Specifying Engineer hope that the articles presented in this issue help practitioners convince owners on the need to allocate time and budgetary resources for integration and integration planning, and that they help practitioners perform in the field.

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