Article - March 2003
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The Builconn Story

Heather Deal
Public Relations 
Exhibition Management 

The Building Systems Industry

The building systems industry is made up of a number of sub-industries ranging from HVAC to security, public address to IT infrastructure and more. Each of these sub-industries behaves as a stand-alone industry as they deal with issues relating to their specific function and the value they provide for building owners.

These sub-industries typically have infrastructures of manufacturers, distribution, products, technologies, services as well as associations, trade events and conferences—things normally found in almost any developed trade in the world.

All these sub-industries relate to buildings and are associated with each other, especially when seen from the end-user’s point of view. This is a logical assumption as they provide elements required to make the building operate in accordance with the owners and operator’s needs.

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As information technology (IT) evolves, the natural expectation is for these disciplines to be better connected. This is, after all the model that is found in many other areas of IT, such as the Internet and corporate information systems.

The challenge is how, from an organizational and technology point of view, these sub-industries can work together to deliver building owners and operators the increased value of connected systems in their buildings.

Trends driving the industry

Several industry trends have emerged instigating the need for BuilConn.

First, we need to look at the convergence of building systems with IT. Most buildings these days have some form of IT infrastructure within it, typically for the occupiers of the building. These infrastructures may be a commercial enterprise, educational campus or any other system operating a complex facility such as airports, retail or public facilities.

More and more, building occupants appreciate that linking the building system with their business management system makes immense sense. They realize the leverage they can gain by treating their facility as an element of their business data. After all, if the building stops functioning their business will be impacted.

Most organizations also have invested heavily in IT infrastructures and see a lot of sense in converging building systems with their IT infrastructure, both technically and organizationally.

Open Systems is another trend that influences the need for BuilConn. The debate on open systems has raged for over a decade. Technology is no longer the barrier and neither are the philosophical arguments about open systems; it makes general sense to achieve the flexibility of open systems. The question is when and how can the industry deliver on this promise.

As any industry develops, the distribution channel is bound to change. Distribution for building systems in the past has been structured around the control that manufacturers hold. Without common standards for interconnectivity, this method makes the most sense.

As the trends of open systems, IT convergence and commoditization of products evolve, distribution is likely to evolve into the models found in many other industries such as IT. In that industry there are a few system providers, a plethora of components channeled though distribution and a strong network of integrators or solution providers who deliver the solution to the paying customers.

No gathering place

Control Solutions, Inc If one accepts that integration is an important role, then it becomes disturbing to realize there is no place where integrators from all angles of the building systems industry can gather and discuss these issues.

No place, except building projects of course.

Projects are obviously driven by the customer. Customers desire results, measured in almost all cases by the completion of the job, for which contractors and sub-contractors must deliver upon their part. More often than not, there is no party who is responsible for delivering the integration part. Sub-contractors are somehow expected to work in unison to make everything work when there is no reason to expect them to want to do so.

No, there are currently no places where players in networked and integrated building systems gather at a strategic level to educate themselves on how the dream of integrated and intelligent buildings can be achieved.

Why BuilConn

BuilConn is born out of a number of observations from the above analysis of the building systems industry.

The building systems industry is not a single industry. It is not organized that way, and unlikely to ever be organized that way. Each of the sub-industries has significant momentum in dealing with their “local” issues. Much of these issues are “mechanical” in nature such as physical locks in security, ducting and air control in HVAC, and efficiency and design of lighting diffusers in lighting.

Thus there is no organization, trade association or event where all of the issues can be brought together. Each of the existing organizations focus on their own trades, and this needs to continue as technologies develop in their respective areas.

The function of bringing these disciplines together is a different matter.

Though many of these sub-industries talk about “integration”, it’s normally a view of integration from that particular sub-industry’s point of view. The lighting industry for example, would look at how to integrate other building systems with lighting, viewing lighting as the most important issue, which understandably it is to them.

Successful building system integrators will tell you that this is a very narrow-minded view of integration. Complete building integration is a discipline in its own right; it is a function quite separate from any of the sub-industries described above.

BuilConn provides a venue that is totally focused on this discipline, effectively creating a new sub-industry that brings together all of the building systems elements described.

Some integrators try to keep up with all of the sub-industries by maintaining relationships with each discipline, joining associations and going to numerous trade shows in each of the areas above. They combine all the information to come up with an integration strategy. This is an expensive exercise and not guaranteed to provide an adequate view since it is most likely that such view is not comprehensive. This is because most integration companies have a natural bias toward their main area of strength such as security, HVAC , etc.

Going to all of the events and joining all of the associations is an impractical approach for most.

What is BuilConn?

Reliable Controls BuilConn is a new event made up of a boot camp, conference, trade show and more importantly a venue where integration practitioners can network and understand the technical, commercial and organizational issues of networking building systems together.

BuilConn is defining the term Networked Building Systems (NBS) as a new field within the building systems industry. NBS is the networking of otherwise stand-alone building systems into one holistic system with the ability to provide owners and managers with incremental return on their investment in building systems.

NBS enables integration; it enables a building to be intelligent and allows systems to work with each other to maximize the three important requirements of a building system: comfort and safety for building occupants and economical management for the building owner.

NBS is not a technology, nor a product or service. NBS is achieved when the elements of the building systems industry work together. This means that the technology works together, the information between systems flows smoothly, the solutions are delivered effectively and most importantly, the people from various disciplines are able to work together, leveraging their strengths by building connections between them.

The BuilConn audience is comprised of the channels that deliver integration including integrators, contractors and dealers. Also involved are manufacturers, distributors, technologists and experts that provide much of the solutions and content for the conferences.

Why name BuilConn?

The event has a great deal of technology content but technology is no longer the critical issue for the industry, if anything, too much technology has been used in the industry, an attempt to drive progress.

The event has more to do with reshaping the industry; as an industry is basically a collection of people, the event is all about people that will need to make or re-make connections, thus the theme and name of building connections.

There is an double meaning of the word building, used as a verb and the target object of the industry, there is a further double meaning of connections as in between people as well as between systems found in buildings.

Finally the “Forum” aspect of the name; BuilConn is designed as a gathering place for practitioners of the industry is to gather, learn and move the industry forward. The combination of conference sessions, expo, networking and social activities provides for the best mix for positive development and progress.

BuilConn Objectives

contemporary BuilConn is designed to deliver a great deal of tangible and immediately useful information to delegates, as well as providing a longer term dialog regarding networking building systems and the benefits of integration. Specific objectives include:

Provide a Voice for Integrators: Acknowledging that integration is a discipline separate from other areas of building systems, BuilConn aims to provide integrators and other members of the NBS channel a collective voice. Such a voice will provide integrators a vehicle to promote their value to the industry and thus provide them a way to improve their businesses.

Unbiased Education: Some of the critical factors integrators face are the extensive new topics, technologies and techniques required. Most education sources (manufacturers, technologists, etc.) are often biased or inappropriate for the role in which integrators find themselves. BuilConn intends to start a process of delivering education to players in NBS.

The first BuilConn will be packed full of conference sessions covering many topics related to integration, delivered from domain experts and facilitated by the team of moderators including BuilConn’s Advisory Board. But the first BuilConn is only the start as other education delivery mechanisms are planned.

Networking: The format of BuilConn is designed to maximize networking opportunities--for the channel to network with their peers as well as suppliers and domain experts. Networking will be encouraged during numerous receptions, breakfasts, luncheons where the Building Systems Expo is being held. The ultimate networking event will be the NBS industry’s first Industry Gala on the Friday evening concluding the BuilConn event.

Technical Feedback: Bringing together all aspects of the broad building systems industry provides an opportunity for suppliers and experts to learn from their market. Learn significant feedback on trends, technologies and products.

Market “Integration”: To many end-users and consultants in the building industry, integration is a panacea that has yet to be delivered. To many owners, the benefits of integration and intelligent buildings is elusive while the cost significant. To a large degree, this has been caused by “Integration” having been driven either by vendors with often narrow or inappropriate solutions, or by technologists that promise a great deal while they struggle to develop their solutions to meet their promise.

BuilConn intends to help integrators deliver a pragmatic approach to integration, not product or technology based, but solutions oriented.

Ongoing objectives: BuilConn will be held as an annual event. It will be a common place for companies that create or distribute products and solutions as well as the distribution channels that deliver upon that promise.

BuilConn will also deliver this message directly to end-users and the engineering consulting players that aspire to work on integrated and intelligent buildings. 

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