Bidding an IBS Job

By Deborah L. O’Mara | Nov 15, 2006
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Every modern building needs lighting control; security; fire detection; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC); data networks; communications; supervision; power and backup; and more. With all this going on, it makes sense to tie them together in a logical manner. The result of a properly planned and executed integrated system is an efficient, safe and secure building that operates to its full potential while saving energy—thanks to automation.

Because these systems can save energy, integrated facilities are also emerging strongly on the heels of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. LEED, administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, is a benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Because LEED parameters give building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance and energy savings, commissioning is part of the process. For example, it’s not enough to install occupancy sensors or HVAC management or lighting controls. At the root of commissioning is the fact that to earn LEED credits, the plan/specification has to detail exactly how much energy will be saved for each device.

It’s time for IBS to become part and parcel with every new and upgraded facility. The benefit to the owner or property manager is in operation.

“When you integrate, you reduce the cost of operating the facility,” said Anil Ahuja, P.E., LEED, RCDD and senior vice president, CCJM Engineers Ltd. in Chicago. Ahuja is the author of “Integrated M/E Design-Building Systems Engineering.”

“An integrated building system is the demand of the market, the demand of the time,” he said. “Communications will generally be the backbone of an IBS.”

Ahuja said integration can save some 5 to 10 percent on total annual energy operation costs for a facility.

“If the contractor is savvy and smart, he can save a lot of money for himself and the owner by using the same voice/data interoperability communication for other mechanical/electrical controls.”

In IBS, the technology, software and interfaces that tie it all together are now ready for adoption. The software has moved from proprietary to parameters that mostly work on BACnet—a data communication protocol for building automation and control networks developed under the auspices of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)—or Echelon’s LonWorks control networking platforms. These are the two primary networks electrical contractors will encounter.

IBS must be custom-tailored to the application, but they may include scenarios such as using occupancy sensors to detect movement and activate or extinguish lights, motion detectors to trigger an alarm and record images through closed-circuit television surveillance, and even fire detection. Though required to be under its own control under life safety parameters, fire detection systems will interface with locking devices, doors and even elevators.

But, how do you spec it? You become an expert or you work with well-known and respected specialists in their appropriate disciplines. Many electrical contractors will have separate divisions to handle the work, but those who don’t can find industry partners to assist.

Get ready

Start with the actual plans or specification documents, and you need to know, of course, whether it is a design/build or a design/bid/request for proposal (also referred to as a hard bid). Design/build gives you the ability to select equipment specific to the facility. Design/bid may not have the same flexibility as design/build, but it may offer the ability to substitute products or “value engineer” the specification, so the contractor can select products based on the performance or end-use application.

If security is an overriding concern and the core of the automated system, a thorough analysis of the protected premises and a risk assessment are in order. If you don’t know how to do a risk assessment—what it generally does is outline what is at risk, why and how to protect it—then you might consider hiring an outside consultant who can tackle that task. Look for security consultants who are certified protection professionals (CPP) (see box on page 104).

Chances are, it will be a design/build project, because more electrical contractors are not only installing, but they are selecting the equipment and tying it to the network, HVAC and other controls. According to the “2006 Profile of the Electrical Contractor,” an independent study conducted by Renaissance Research & Consulting, New York, 43 percent of electrical contractors’ revenue was derived from design/build or design/assist work, and these numbers continue to rise (see excerpts of the study in Electrical Contractor, July 2006, page 36, or the full report at

The second question to ask: is it a specification that follows MASTERSPEC 2004 MasterFormat or the 1995 version?

Peruse the plan

“Start with a visit to the table of contents of the specification to determine where the work is and what design specification system is being followed or adopted for the plan,” said Tom Montgomery, PE and principal, Spectrum Engineers Inc., Salt Lake City. He said the work could follow the Construction Specification Institute’s MASTERSPEC MasterFormat 1995, which puts the work primarily under the sections known as Divisions 13 and 16, or MasterFormat 2004, which organizes construction specification standards among 50 different divisions.

The General Services Administration (GSA) has adopted MasterFormat 2004 and requires design consultants to use MasterFormat 1995 or 2004. As part of a current interim adoption period, GSA has been allowing either version for use on GSA projects at the design consultant’s choosing.

Recently released, MasterFormat 2004 is representative of the present and future of integrated systems solution contracting. Because technology in electrical contracting and related construction disciplines has grown, it became necessary to reorganize and increase the number of divisions and, also, set up separate ones for integrated automation, electrical, communications, electronic safety and security, fire suppression, plumbing, and HVAC. These are located in a new subgroup of divisions called Facility Services. The new divisions covering the electrical and fire protection systems include the following:

  • Fire suppression (Division 21)

  • Electrical (Division 26)

  • Communications (Division 27)

  • Integrated Automation (Division 25)

  • Electronic Safety and Security (Division 28)

  • Transportation (Division 33—includes traffic signals)

  • Power Generation (Division 46)

Once you know what guidelines or specifications are being followed, you can refer to the representative document, which gives detailed information on requirements and helps put devices to plan. From here, you should be able to compile the number of devices and other hardware and software as you assemble a complete parts list. Reserve the right to value engineer and substitute parts or products as long as it still meets the application.

Also critical, according to Montgomery, is to know what local codes, national codes and TIA or BISCI communications standards may come into play.

Planning an IBS requires a thorough analysis of the parameters and open lines of communication between contractor, owner and end-user, so the specification will meet the intended needs of the facility.

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or [email protected].

About The Author

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at [email protected] or 773.414.3573.





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