April 2006

BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
BACnet Testing Laboratories

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Are you going to get what you thought?

John C. Greenwell,
IBS Sales Engineer
Continental Electrical Construction Company, LLC

What is needed is one electrical contractor who coordinates the entire low voltage electrical infrastructure. 

New Products
Past Issues


We are entering into a new era with controls being available from so many sources.  Who stands to gain the greatest market share under the new open protocol paradigm?  Building owners have pushed for this for years, but are they really going to get what they thought?  Will it really change the pricing structure? Will they get more value?  With the major controls manufacturers looking for more creative ways to capture market share, will they really be open?  Will you be able to call the provider of your choice for parts and service?  Building owners and managers have always been held hostage because of single source product offerings.  You will need to ask some very straightforward questions when deciding on a technology solution.  Can I pull out your NAE, MBE or pick any other acronym for today’s network controllers and replace it with someone else’s?  Will the JCI or Siemens “open” terminal controls really work with anyone’s network controller?  Can I add a terminal controller from another manufacturer to the existing field bus and have it map to the network controller?  Will they perform just as the other controller on the network?  Will they talk peer to peer?  Are they ANY proprietary BACnet objects or SNVT’s?  You must have your MEP consultant write the controls spec to include the proper language and then write that language into the contract.


Maybe there is another way?


An electrical contractor who stays technology agnostic and offers products that are available from multiple sources could be in a good position to enter into a new arena.  All of the low voltage systems are converging on the building IP backbone.  The electrical contractor is currently installing the IP cabling infrastructure.  The electrical contractors are being subcontracted to install the wiring for these low voltage systems now; doesn’t it make sense for them to expand their offering to the actual systems being installed?  Who better to engineer a structured cabling system that truly encompasses all of the low voltage subsystems?  Wouldn’t an owner feel more comfortable having one source of responsibility for the turnkey installation of the best available systems across all of the low voltage subsystems?  Manufacturers’ products generally work; the important part has always been who installs them.  Some of the major electrical distributors are starting to offer technology solutions such as card access and CCTV.  As controls and other low voltage subsystem technology becomes a commodity, more products will become available through the major electrical suppliers.   Innovative product manufacturers looking to expand distribution channels will find new ways to increase market share. 


Typically the electrical contractor isn’t focused on back end sales but on making a fair profit on each installation.  The electrical contractor doesn’t need to call anyone else to fix wiring problems or replace controls, thus eliminating double markups and finger pointing.  The electrical contractor that installs the building IP infrastructure can, engineer and install the security system, the card access system, the BAS system, A/V systems and any other wired or wireless technologies.  After all, we know that wireless takes wires, right.  Today, multiple technology contractors all-employing their own electrical subcontractors are installing each system as a silo.  Each electrical sub must install their own hangers and raceways causing inefficiencies and coordination problems.  What is needed is one electrical contractor who coordinates the entire low voltage electrical infrastructure.  The 2004 CSI master specification uncovers technologies traditional hidden under other divisions in the current model.  This poses a problem for the general contractor, as they will be asked to manage more without being paid for it.  An electrical contractor capable of packaging the low voltage systems design and installation would benefit the GC’s by giving them one source to manage. 


All of this serves the building owners ultimate goal.  If the contractor doesn’t take care of their needs, they can find alternate sources for products and service.  Isn’t that really what building owners have been asking for? 


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