Integrated Automation

Controlling safety and comfort from one unit

The electrical contracting firm’s core business typically includes Division 26/Electrical of the Construction Specifications Institute’s (CSI) 2004 edition of the MasterFormat that specifies the requirements for a facility’s power distribution and lighting systems. In addition, most electrical contracting firms perform all or part of CSI Division 27/Communications that addresses voice/data/video (VDV) systems and Division 28/Electronic Safety & Security that includes fire alarm, access control, intrusion detection and other similar systems. However, the electrical contracting firm wanting to expand into the integrated building systems (IBS) market should also be familiar with the new CSI Division 25/Integrated Automation (IA).

The IA system specified in CSI Division 25 is the heart of IBS. Traditionally, building systems have been designed, installed and operated as independent, stand-alone systems except where there is a specific need or requirement for different building systems to interact. These system interactions are usually limited to specific functions such as the closing of HVAC air distribution system dampers by the fire alarm system for smoke control. The goal of IBS is to optimize the overall operation of the building in order to provide a healthier and more productive environment for occupants as well as increase the efficiency of building operations. For the optimization of building operation as a whole, this goal requires the integration of all building systems under the control of the IA system.

CSI Division 25 specifies the IA system that integrates all of the subsystems represented by CSI MasterFormat Facilities Subgroup, which includes Division 21/Fire Suppression, Division 22/Plumbing, Division 23/HVAC, Division 26/Electrical, Division 27/Communications, and Division 28/Electronic Safety & Security along with Division 11/Equipment and Division 14/Conveying Systems. Division 11 covers equipment that serves a unique function in a building such as food service, laboratory or athletic equipment. Division 14 covers conveying systems such as elevators and escalators.

Division 25 specifies all of the hardware and software needed to implement an IA system. This includes conductors and raceways, network equipment such as servers and hubs, instrumentation and terminal devices that interface directly with building equipment or through system-specific devices specified elsewhere, gateways to establish a communications link between the IA system and other stand-alone building systems, and control sequences that describe how the IA system is to operate.

IA system architecture

Whether building control systems will remain proprietary or shift to open-architecture systems is an important consideration for the electrical contracting firm considering if it wants to become involved in IA. An open-architecture control system is one where the hardware and software specifications are public information and available to anyone who wants to manufacture hardware components or develop software for the system. This is in contrast to closed-architecture or proprietary control systems where the original system developer maintains control of the system specifications and is the only entity that can supply hardware or software for the system. Today, proprietary building automation, fire alarm, security and other systems are the norm and the manufacturers not only supply the system but also do the original installation and provide ongoing maintenance. Proprietary control systems restrict the amount of practical system integration as well as limit the amount of work available to the electrical contracting firm.

The adoption of open-architecture control systems over traditional proprietary systems will have a significant impact on the future of IBS and provide opportunity for the electrical contracting firm. The impact will be similar to what is happening in building communications where structured cabling systems and open communications standards allow any manufacturer’s device that complies with these standards to communicate with devices on the building network or worldwide through the Internet. The Electronics Industry Association (EIA) and Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has adopted EIA/CEA 709.1-B-2002 entitled Control Network Protocol Specification as an open-architecture building controls standard. This standard is approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and was originally developed by Echelon Corp. Echelon’s LonTalk, the communications protocol that allows LonWorks-compatible control devices to communicate with one another, is based on this standard. LonWorks compatible devices include an Echelon Neuron chip or any other manufacturer’s compatible device that allows building equipment such as fluorescent ballasts to be controlled by the building’s IA system, creating an open-architecture control system.              EC

This article is the result of a research project investigating the emergence of the IBS contractor that is being sponsored by ELECTRI International Inc. The author would like to thank EI for its support.

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at The University of Kansas and is a frequent instructor for NECA’s Management Education Institute. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 or

About the Author

Thomas E. Glavinich

Freelance Writer
Thomas E. Glavinich was an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. His tenure as one of Electrical Contractor's most trusted and reliable source of industry research end...

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