Seven tips when integrating facility control systems

It can be useful to integrate building control systems. Advice follows to help with that.
By Anil Ahuja July 7, 2016

The building automation system (BAS) has become key to ensuring all systems within a building are working effectively and efficiently. Integration of lighting, HVAC, fire/life safety, and other engineered systems requires the designer to specify an appropriate system. Seven tips for control system integration follow.

1. Factors such as first cost, disparate manufacturers, legacy control systems, Internet security, and age of the building all come into play when considering facility control system integration.

2. Integration and operation to reduce energy consumption is a top priority. However, this can only be done through integration of the system with the use of technologies such as energy management and the BAS, and by doing it in a manner that ensures the efficient operation of a facility.

3. Integration through a variety of devices via the Internet-especially the Internet of Things (IoT)-and software available as a monthly or annual service that does not require it to be loaded on a local PC or server.

4. For new construction, specifying an all-encompassing, single-vendor solution can work, or devices and systems can be integrated natively with protocols like BACnet, LonWorks, and Modbus.

5. Proprietary protocol systems, in retrofits, can be integrated using native or gateway devices to help disparate systems exchange information.

6. There are good legacy integration solutions, but it is important that they are researched to ensure optimal integration as well as longevity.

7. Software as a service (SaaS) is also a useful tool and is best used as a "rental" rather than a purchase. The cost of the SaaS application covers the costs of the software itself and the ongoing operations and infrastructure costs.

Anil Ahuja is president of CCJM and a member of the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial advisory board. Rocky Moore is regional sales manager-Midwest with American Auto-Matrix. Adapted from a 2015 article by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

For more on this topic, see the peer-reviewed article from Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine, "Building automation + integration = efficiency."