Sending the Troops to Boot Camp

Integrated building system training

Integrated Building Systems (IBS) represent tremendous opportunities for electrical contractors and are predicted to eventually outgrow the traditional electrical market. Success will depend on the electrical contractor being able to provide its customers with trained, highly qualified electricians that can deliver the final integrated product, fulfilling customer’s needs.

To position itself, the electrical contractor needs to study the market and be prepared to invest in training personnel to work effectively in it. Industry organizations and associations, manufacturers of IBS systems and components, and providers of the communication protocols that truly integrated systems rely on to operate can provide the training resources required to build a team that can successfully demonstrate contractors’ capabilities and add value to their offerings. The following is a sampling of what is available.


The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) offers a new course through its Management Education Institute (MEI) for IBS project supervision. Customized for IBS contractors, the objective is to provide fundamental information vital to supervisors’ success.

Seminars are scheduled on an ongoing basis and include an introduction to the IBS supervisor program, the history and development of the program, a definition of IBS and the various synonyms by which it may be known, the key attributes and characteristics of IBS construction, and a definition of the key role IBS supervisors perform in achieving the success of these projects.

NECA also offers a number of publications to educate electrical contractors about IBS projects, including intelligent building distributed networks and specifying integrated building systems, which are designed to assist the electrical design, construction and specification communities incorporate the technology into the built environment.

As a joint program between NECA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) develops and standardizes training to ensure the electrical construction industry is equipped with the most highly trained and skilled work force possible.

Through its local affiliates, the NJATC offers a number of courses that focus on IBS projects, including the following:

  • Installing and configuring Internet servers and routers to connect, manage and route LonWorks network information over Internet protocol (IP) 
  • Designing LonWorks networks
  • Troubleshooting IBS networks
  • Selecting the best components, devices and architectures necessary to build open, interoperable LonWorks networks for building controls applications
  • Extensive hands-on experience designing LonWorks network devices that meet LonMark interoperability guidelines
  • A 40-hour, hands-on train-the-trainer course designed to prepare journeymen, technicians and electrical contractors to design, install, configure and troubleshoot distributed intelligent control systems, using the Echelon LonWorks control platform

BICSI, Tampa, Fla., sets the standards for cabling infrastructure design, installation and maintenance and addresses the educational concerns of the telecommunications industry. Its registered communications distribution designer (RCDD) professional credentialing program is now recognized as the benchmark for information transport systems (ITS) professionals.

BICSI offers courses, conferences, publications and professional registration programs in support of the growth of the convergence in the ITS industry. RCDD certification demonstrates to the customer the contractor’s knowledge in the design, implementation and integration of information transport systems and related infrastructure, while the goal of BICSI’s installation registration program (IRP) is to produce highly competent cabling installers at three levels: Installer, Level 1; Installer, Level 2; and Technician. The program offers core skills training, registration examinations and structured on-the-job training to meet the diverse needs of the telecommunications cabling industry.

In addition, publications such as the Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual cover horizontal and backbone distribution systems; building automation systems; and design, construction and project management.


Honeywell International Inc., Morristown, N.J., provides modular IBS technology built around open architecture, allowing economical system expansion and lifecycle savings. The company takes full advantage of leading open standards, including BACnet, LonWorks, OPC, ODBC, AdvanceDDE and Modbus, for easy configuration and seamless, third-party communication. Honeywell building systems also meet Continental Automated Buildings Association and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.

The company’s Building Solutions Training Center enables contractors to take advantage of the latest building automation solutions and improve their customers’ business results through professional quality training on Honeywell products such as enterprise building integrator (EBI), building management, security and access control, Excel 5000 CARE and CARE LON engineering, digital video manager (DVM), fire and life safety solutions, SymmetrE building manager, and legacy solutions such as XBS, XBSi, XLPlus and E-Vision.

Professional trainers offer both technical expertise and interpersonal teaching skills. Honeywell’s training center provides fully operational lab equipment that mirror real world installations and provide hands-on training and interactive instruction.

ABB University, from ABB Inc., offers a comprehensive training portfolio on the company’s products, processes and applications, and general technology, as well as training contracts and training assessment programs. Training courses on control systems, motors, drives, power systems, robotics, utility automation, paper systems and more can be taken on-site, over the Internet or can be customized to the contractor’s specific needs.

On-site training is beneficial if the contractor has multiple people to train with similar needs. With on-site training, the contractor can reduce its training costs, while providing its staff with the same education they would receive at one of the company’s training centers. In addition, ABB’s instructors are able to maximize contractors’ exposure to the IBS technology unique to their situation.

Web-based training allows contractors to narrow down the courses they are seeking by specifying the type of training, language or country, while ABB University’s customized training programs are targeted to a mainstream audience that may need a more focused approach.

To enable contractors to improve their job performance and the performance of their customers’ automation assets, Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee, Wis., offers technical knowledge, from installing new building automation equipment to maintaining an existing system. Rockwell Automation Training Services provide a systematic, performance-based, training methodology that offers the right combination of traditional instruction, hands-on practice and refresher exercises to maximize knowledge retention.

Instructor-led training provides in-person instruction on a wide range of automation topics, or contractors can choose from more than 250 open enrollment classes designed around the use of automation technologies by job function. Rockwell also offers tailored and custom courses to meet contractors’ specific needs.

Finally, the Rockwell Automation Certification program is designed to produce an exclusive base of proven professionals who have demonstrated exceptional technical competencies and expertise in the area of controls and networks. The program is open to all individuals using Rockwell Automation controls and network technologies in their business.

Siemens Building Technologies, Buffalo Grove, Ill., offers a variety of training to help maximize the customer’s building systems investment. Siemens’ Learning Center provides an online, interactive learning environment on the operation and maintenance of the APOGEE Automation System product line, from fire detection and alarm system basics, the basics of HVAC, and APOGEE basics, to an introduction to distributed digital controls and network basics.

Hands-on, classroom training includes an overview of building automation, including an introduction to APOGEE field panel communications, APOGEE terminal equipment controllers, and an introduction to pneumatic controls and HVAC basics. Other building automation classroom training opportunities include APOGEE workstation and advanced operations, programming for efficient building operations and energy management, and principles of troubleshooting.

Building Automation self-study, which is Web- or CD-based, offers APOGEE basics, instruction on field panel operations, and an introduction to terminal boxes, PPCL programming, and distributed digital controls. Other offerings include introductions to modular equipment and building controllers, interpreting sequences of operations and an introduction to open communication protocols. For Web-based training, go to

Communication protocols

There are various ways a building’s systems can be integrated, but they all rely on communications protocols. LonWorks, developed by Echelon Corp., San Jose, Calif., is a flexible and expandable standards-based control networking platform upon which manufacturers can build products and applications. The company offers free eTraining courses with Macromedia Flash-based lessons that demonstrate how to design and install LonWorks products and control networks faster. Courses include an introduction to the LonWorks platform, transceivers and neuron processors, the interoperable self-installation protocol, and interfacing LonWorks devices to TCP/IP networks.

In addition, Echelon offers on-site training for companies with six or more employees who need training on the same topic. Custom and on-site training courses range from an introduction to the LonWorks platform, network design, integration tools, and network troubleshooting to iLON installation and configuration, LonWorks device development, and network tools development. Courses can be held at the contractor’s convenience and are designed to focus on what is relevant to the company.

BACnet, developed under the sponsorship of the ASHRAE, is a data communication protocol for building automation and controls networks, and its governing set of rules cover everything from what kind of cable to use to how to perform a particular request or command in a standard way. ASHRAE offers two BACnet training courses. In an Introduction to BACnet, contractors learn the fundamental principles of BACnet and how to relate them to a simple model for describing BACnet systems. The course also discusses the basic components of any multivendor BACnet control system, how different systems can be merged together using BACnet and how BACnet facilitates the integration of older systems with BACnet-based systems. The Understanding and Specifying BACnet Systems Seminar prepares contractors for writing and understanding specifications that make use of the BACnet standard. Conformance classes, functional groups, PICS and other relevant materials for specification are reviewed, and contractors also learn the basic questions and answers useful in determining the appropriate pieces of BACnet to be specified.

In addition, several BACnet tutorials are available online, including BACnet—A Tutorial Overview, BACnet/IP and Understanding BACnet Encoding.    EC


BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or




About the Author

Darlene Bremer

Freelance Writer
Darlene Bremer, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributed frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR until the end of 2015.

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