January 2008

Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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New Year New Beginnings
“We don’t plan to fail, but often fail to plan”.

 Paul Ehrlich & Ira Goldschmidt
Building Intelligence Group

As published

January Issue - Column 


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January, the start of a new year, is always a good time for new beginnings. Not only is this the start of a new year, but for our industry it also marks the annual ASHRAE meeting and AHR show, a great time to re-connect with colleagues and find out what is new in the industry. This January, however it also marks a major change for the Engineered Systems Building Automaton column. After many years of insights and information our good friend Ken Sinclair is taking a break from column writing, although he will continue to be a regular contributor both online at www.automatedbuildings.com as well as in the pages of Engineered Systems. And that leads us to the new beginning of this column with joint authorship from Paul Ehrlich and Ira Goldschmidt. Both Paul and Ira are well recognized in the area of building automation, controls, sustainable design, and intelligent buildings. Our intent with the column is to continue the great work that Ken has started, but to add our insight as designers who are actively working with owners on the challenges of planning and delivering projects on a day to day basis. We recognize that the design and delivery of control systems and intelligent buildings systems is seen as a challenge, but we believe it is essential for the delivery of sustainable and high performance buildings. We intend to use this column to share our experiences with Engineered Systems readers and hopefully make controls and automation a less daunting challenge.

For many of us January is also the start of a new tax year. The start of a new fiscal year is a good time to be thinking about the topic of planning. How well did my business do last year? What changes should I make? What does 2008 look like? What changes should I make? All of these questions help you to form a plan that will guide you through the next year and beyond. Planning is an invaluable process, yet we find that when it comes to Building Automation many owners do not have a plan. A great general once said “We don’t plan to fail, but often fail to plan”. Not surprisingly many of the failures we see are due to a lack of a plan.

So what is involved in developing a plan?

Paul: One of the most important elements in starting a plan is to understand how the owner operates their facilities today and how they would like to operate them in the future. Intelligent Building systems and integration allow for vast improvements in efficiency, sustainability and operations. Often these fit in well with owner goals for sustainability and improved operations. Understanding both where things are today, and where they need to go is invaluable in selecting systems and direction.

Ira: It is also important to start the planning process by documenting what is in place today. This includes looking at existing systems including HVAC control, Lighting control, Security, Energy metering, and associated systems. For each of these systems we look at how well they are operating, what changes are already under consideration. The documentation usually starts with a review of existing documents then includes a walkthrough to verify what is on site. When we do this documentation we are looking for the vintage of systems, what protocols are in use, any maintenance or operating problems.

What follows this initial stage of data gathering?

Paul: Analysis! We typically do both a technical and financial analysis. This includes clarifying and prioritizing goals, budgeting upgrade costs, clarifying benefits and researching options. The analysis phase often takes several stages each of which will look at various options, refine them, and prioritize.

Ira: For some owners this is a fairly straightforward process. For others it can be more complex, involving changes to networks, systems and vendors. One of the challenges in this process is that for large institutional owners many different groups may be involved. As consultants we need to understand the terminology, perspective and needs of each of these groups. The ideal solution works well for all groups.

Control Solutions, Inc So you gather information, and then analyze, what follows this?

Paul: Once we have the information and the analysis completed we typically work toward the development of a “Master Plan”. This plan identifies what is in place today, what should be left in place, upgraded, or replaced. The plan typically contains budgets and schedules for recommended changes.

Ira: One of the nice things about this type of planning is that many owners have ongoing upgrade and construction programs. The use of a master plan allows them to design the next project so that it fits into the master plan. Without this type of plan in place, new projects can become an extension of the existing legacy (or the start of a new legacy) and does not move the owner toward their long term goals.

So then you’re done?

Paul: For most owners there are several follow up steps. These include the development of new master documents or specifications. Design development guides, and the development of project specific designs.

Ira: Often we will take the master plan and then pilot selected elements to prove out the approach. The broader approach can then be utilized on follow up projects.


We have yet to find an owner who does not have some sort of building automation system already installed, and few, if any of these systems are really meeting needs for use of open protocols, integration, and operability. Yet these systems involve a large investment and mass replacement is usually not an option. The use of a master plan allows for systems to be upgraded, or replaced over time, resulting in a final solution that meets the owners needs and budgets.

About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at www.buildingintelligencegroup.com  We also invite you to contact us directly at Paul@buildingintelligencegroup.com or ira@buildingintelligencegroup.com


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