Engineers should focus on integration

By becoming a building systems integrator, engineers can ensure successful buildings—and a successful future.

01/24/2013


Anil AhujaIn the world in which we are evolving and human smarts (homo digi-perfectus) are taking technology and integration to next level, technology is impacting the engineering industry. Smart tenants and building owners need smart buildings.

Smart buildings, Smart Grid, intelligent buildings, and integrated systems are buzzwords in the architecture and engineering industry, but is our industry tooling to become smarter and deliver integrated designs?

When I look at the mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), or fire protection engineer of the past, hand drafting was the norm. Engineering drawings were drawn on mylars or sepias; they were not shared between engineers of different disciplines. As we progressed to AutoCAD, software and libraries were still very independent for each discipline. In today’s age of building information modeling (BIM) and Revit designs, the boundaries do not exist. This is why tomorrow’s MEP engineer needs to be an integrated systems engineer.

The engineering curriculum in universities does not offer systems engineering. Energy engineering programs are rare, and only a handful of U.S. institutions provide students with a truly integrated curriculum.

MEP engineering is not part of universities’ core engineering curriculum, and very few even touch on smart buildings in the classroom. To truly serve the movement toward smart buildings, we need to add the position of systems integrator to engineering firms. As far as I know, that position doesn’t exist in MEP offices.

Whenever energy management system or BAS specifications and drawings are required on a project (which is every project nowadays), consulting firms struggle to provide a properly skilled engineer to perform the work, as it crosses the boundaries of all disciplines and truly requires a systems integrator to design and specify products that work together across each of the building’s engineered systems.

MasterFormat Specification Division 25 (integrated automation) is currently being discussed at the committee level. A big issue at MEP firms: Which staff member is qualified to perform work on Division 25?

The MEP consulting industry must move from discipline-based engineering (fire protection, electrical, etc.) to system engineering. Manufacturers are adding smart displays on all appliances and products that can be controlled through an app or via system integration. Our industry needs to add more systems integrators to integrate available smart products to deliver smart designs now and in the future.

In the past, the standard approach to projects was architectural/engineering design, which lead to bidding and then construction. In today’s building market, smart or high-performance buildings require a paradigm shift in the approach to design and construction. High-performance buildings start with the architectural and infrastructure design phase, then progresses to the system design phase, which then leads to the systems integration phase. After construction to, it then moves to the integrated commissioning phase and finally the smart operation phase.

If today’s MEP engineers do not change their thinking or change business practices, a new breed of “integrated technology solutions” consultant will take over their share of their work in this ever-shrinking consulting market.


Anil Ahuja has 30 years of experience in building systems design, design management, construction management, commissioning, and operations and maintenance. He has project experience including commercial, institutional, educational, residential, industrial, and airports. He is a member of the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial advisory board.



GBAIN , AZ, United States, 03/16/13 10:26 AM:

Excellent reading material
Meynardo , GU, United States, 08/23/13 09:13 PM:

There are some significant unsatisfactory feedback from too much integration wihout due evaluation on what is actually happening in the field of operation after a design is constructed. Example: a multi-function relay consisted of several relay functions disabling the whole system relay function due to a single point failure. Another example: a multi-metering function disabling the whole metering system due to a single failure that disabled the multi-metering device. Another example: Confusion on the operation of a SCADA system that integrated both the mechanically oriented plant process to an distribution system process. Another example: Fire alarm system designs that has a lot of electrically engineered components that they like to integrate on a fire protection design that has more of mechanically oriented design. Integration should be carefully evaluated prior to implementation. There must continuous evaluation of feedbacks from various maintenance and operational disciplines in the field that should not be just ignored.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.