Designing for Building Integration

By Marilyn Michelson | Nov 15, 2005
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Interest in integrated building systems (IBS) is stronger than ever. These systems not only improve the overall performance of a facility, but the performance of the workers as well.

Building owners want an effective facility that operates efficiently, while attracting and retaining occupants through its amenities and benefits. This type of integration (effective) is not just tying subsystems together, but making them functional. When executed properly, it reflects on the bottom line of financial reports by reducing the initial and life cycle cost of a building.

The construction industry is changing to accommodate owner needs and their interest in high-performance facilities. Once computers became a part of businesses and building systems, a new dimension was added to building management that optimized building operations, managing the building's assets to increase productivity and employee morale, and to reduce energy costs-which parallels supporting a company's strategic goals.

Building automation systems (BAS) are integrated and can control building functions so they operate in the most effective manner possible.

There are also Internet-based BAS applications now available where a facility's systems can be integrated while providing building owners or their staff members with real-time performance data to make informed strategic decisions.

A BAS can include all the major building control systems, some of which include a building's energy efficiency, which help lower costs. A building's control of the working environment can meet individual needs and increase a company's overall productivity and bottom line.

These control approaches can often eliminate the cost of lost work due to employee discomfort and could outweigh the initial cost of a building automation system.

What is being integrated?

Most commonly, automation and control subsystems are being integrated-these manage the regulation of the environment (HVAC, electrical, energy, fire and security). These components are now more sophisticated and can communicate electronically.

How do you design for integration?

First, find out which operating standards are needed for the systems you are about to install and how many there are.

When you select a system that can integrate multiple standards, the designers and end-users have more flexibility in choosing the subsystems than otherwise, and more attention can be dedicated to making sure those subsystems deliver.

Control centers for systems that are integrated means that operators can focus on how well the building is performing, instead of worrying about how to operate different systems.

This is where training requirements are reduced, and operators can respond much better to critical situations in the facility. Dollar savings from this type of integration continue to show over the building's life.

Business interruption in a manufacturing environment can be very costly when the manufacturing line has to stop. Other types of building automation systems can have an impact on a facility as well, but effective integration of all systems can help ensure that the business process is not interrupted.

Systems benefiting from integration

The types of systems that benefit from integration are security, HVAC, electrical, energy and fire. Lighting is a very important system that can be successfully integrated and can help a building owner economically.

Why control lighting systems?

Lighting is the single largest user of energy in a commercial building. Typically, lighting can be between 35 and 65 percent of the total energy consumption.

As part of the IBS, you will find buildings are being designed to be sustainable, flexible and energy efficient. Efficiency and cost savings are directly affected by the control of lighting systems.

Now is the time to consider this technology because of the new federal energy bill, along with the new generation of fluorescent controls (for dimming) that have recently come onto the market-digital ballast technologies.

Using this technology for schools and general office space ensures better lighting for the inhabitants and can save an additional 25 to 50 percent of the building's light energy use.

“With new and stricter codes and guidelines, as well as an upcoming new Energy Bill, contractors who have the best understanding and installation techniques of the latest in integrated lighting controls, will offer a greater service to their customers,” said Ken Walma of Lutron Electronics Inc.

For an example of a lighting system, Lutron has developed the EcoSystem technology composed of devices that listen, think, decide and remember.

This system consists of fluorescent dimming ballasts and any combination of occupant sensors and personal and manual controls-free from interfaces and power packs-all cost effective, simple to install and easy to maintain.

Installation involves connecting up to 64 EcoSystem ballasts and a power supply together on a single two-wire communication wire to create a lighting system.

A larger system can be built by connecting multiple 64-ballast loops. Within this lighting system, any sensor or wall station connected to the ballast can “talk” to any or all of the other ballasts on the loop.

Installing a lighting system

An installer of the Lutron EcoSystem is provided with control wiring options: the control wiring can be wired as either Class 1, which runs in conduit with the power wiring, or Class 2, which is wired in a cable tray or with other communication wiring.

Installers can select their preferred wiring format, such as daisy chain, star method or T-tap, because the control wiring is topology-free. This EcoSystem wiring is also polarity-free-if the control wiring is reversed when connected, the ballast will still operate. Sensors and wallstations can be easily added or removed (whether the control wiring is Class 1 or Class 2) with simple Class 2 connections at any fixture.

IBS example

For an example of a system that controls lighting plus other activities, look to the Cache County jail located in Logan, Utah. It has become a modern prison facility, thanks to work performed by Cache Valley Electric Co., also based in Logan.

The high-security facility integrated security and lighting controls for the benefit of those running the operation and the 150-plus state and federal inmates. The construction led to five primary workstations with graphics that would operate 100 doors, intercoms, lighting, water and TV controls.

With minimum staffing, Cache Valley Electric found that the jail could run the 360-bed facility, as well as its other related responsibilities of booking, visitations, movement of guards on rounds, remote control and implementation/denial of TV programming, remote control and monitoring of electrical power consumption and HVAC status, along with redundancy and system backup.

What was involved in the design?

After the jail personnel outlined their expectations and criteria and took a tour of the facility, it was decided that the jail would meet the toughest state and federal regulations-that meant it would be designed as a “hardened” facility where the high-security prisoners could be housed.

Additionally, staff efficiencies and attendant safety were a critical consideration. In this hardened facility, centralized control and monitoring systems were designed with redundancy and protection in case of prisoner insurrection or a natural disaster.

Systems chosen

The systems installed pertained to their environment: centralized AV monitoring with control of individual cell doors, AV court arraignment systems, registration of visitors, remote control and TV programming, electrical power consumption and HVAC status, electronic registration of guard rounds, and system redundancy and backup in the event of a power failure or riot.

How to get involved in this industry

When a large firm is looking to provide centrally controlled IBS, they need to have the expertise in-house. As long as that expertise is valid and if there is an architect involved on the project, a contracting firm can establish a working relationship with that architect.

One structure developed by a contracting company included a control and automation group that integrated building automation, HVAC and security personnel.

Another point is being physically nearby the prospective client's operations. This brings a level of comfort to the customer because they know the contractor can be reached and has the expertise to do the follow-up work.

A smaller company could collaborate with a manufacturer or a larger contracting firm. But key to this type of arrangement is putting together the agreements on who does what and how revenues are shared, before any “partnering” work is done.


Integrated building systems are important today. If a contractor is looking at designing these systems, they need to develop their expertise (either as a division of their company or as individual experts) and cultivate relationships with organizations that can benefit from this concept.

Some contractors have multiple locations that look good to customers because of the proximity of experts who can provide follow on support. If you are a smaller shop and have some of the expertise, collaborating with others may be your answer.

Certification as an integrator of automated systems is also very important. In the end, the customer wants to see a professional proposal, with the best design and competitive pricing. EC

MICHELSON, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards. Contact her at or [email protected].


About The Author

Marilyn Michelson, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards.





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