September 2018

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The Building Systems Integrator

Commodity or Strategic Partner?
Brian Turner
Brian Turner,
Buildings IOT

as published

Building Systems Integrator

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This is a tough topic for everyone involved and yet it is one of the most important decisions in the success of the building's performance. The role of the role of the Master System Integrator (MSI) has been defined and I have previously discussed how this role can have a positive impact on projects, especially when engaged early. At a recent conference, this concept was discussed openly as though it is the norm in successful intelligent building projects today. The phrase may have been "table stakes."

Hard Way Easy WayThe term MSI gets some pushback from other industry integrators, because what makes the OT system integrator the “master” over say the IT system integrators? There are many systems within a building to integrate. Especially in new construction, these teams can be working simultaneously on different sides of the same coin.

A New Name

So here let’s just focus on what I’ll call the Building Systems Integrator, the BSI. This is the team that should be dedicated to the OT systems in the building, on retrofits or new constructions.

The real question here is how do you hire the right BSI? Most BSIs today come from a strong background in one of the buildings systems. Without performing a formal scientific study, a fair guess would be the majority of BSIs you can hire today have the most experience with HVAC controls. To a lesser extent you’ll find some with expertise in energy management, lighting controls, or security.

Either way, these requirements lead one to believe the BSI is simply a bi-product of the brand that’s being installed in the building. The (false) idea is that anyone meeting commodity requirement is capable of the full project delivery (which includes design, installation, programming, integration, database design, tagging, commissioning and ongoing management support).

In many cases, the mechanical contractor makes the decision on who will install the controls for a given project, and often going with the lowest bidder. This is not a value recipe.

If this paradigm sounds familiar and is satisfying your needs, read no further.

A Better Way

However, if you are not achieving good results with this model and are spending more money post-occupancy to get more insight, more data, more integration, let's continue the discussion.

The drivers of intelligent buildings are not about brand or protocol.

I know this is a shock to many people, but the drivers of today’s buildings, whether they are built to house machines, animals, or people, are performance and operational excellence. This is not something that can be decided on at the last minute and it’s not something that grows out of one specific communication protocol or manufacturer.

Rather, for a building to operate at peak performance throughout its lifespan, it takes products from many manufacturers, communicating over many protocols, sharing thousands of data points. It takes edge computing devices, intelligent network design, cloud solutions and SaaS offerings to provide that value for the life of the building.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]This kind of longevity requires innovation and an environment that can adapt to future developments, so the building can change with the times without major, costly overhauls.

Where the BSI fits in

For this vision of the future to work, building system integrators need to work with the vast network of other integrators and contractors on the job site. It is rare for a BSI to have expertise in every system, and that’s ok.

Building Systems IntegratorThis BSI, with expertise across the OT network and familiarity with the whole ecosystem of manufacturers and protocols, is starting to sound way more interesting to the success of the project...the entire project. The BSI should contribute throughout the design process and the entire construction process.Many will continue with the building well past the warranty period as they continue to maintain the successful operation of the integrated platform.

Many of the most successful real-estate companies are piloting programs with a BSI as a strategic partner, but this is definitely not in the main-stream thinking of all developers. Some worry about too much risk. The question to answer here is where is risk really the highest?

If you are following the trending conversations, you are aware of the amount of intelligent insights coming out of the buildings business. There are tremendous opportunities out there to create special buildings that provide the best space for whatever your business requirements demand. However, to maximize the potential, some change is required. Some of the change feels monumental. Some have said it is too big to change. I say, if it is too big to change or too hard to do...then it is worth doing. The BSI is a major factor in getting it done.


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