Making the decision to integrate systems within existing buildings isn’t easy. On one hand, there are numerous problems that you could run into during the process. On the other, integrating the system will give you advanced functionality, more focused and meaningful information, and building automation. The fact is, existing buildings come with some baggage. They usually have some preexisting issues that have to be resolved during the systems integration process. But, the long-term benefits often outweigh the preexisting issues and with a little planning it’s possible to avoid most challenges.
The Benefits of Systems Integration
Constantly changing regulations and higher demands from tenants put a lot of pressure on building managers and building owners to improve the efficiency of their buildings. And, as the popularity of “green” buildings grows, the demand for improvement will continue to increase. Whether you manage a large building or a small building, integrating your building automation system so that you can use a top-of-the-line facility management and maintenance software program has multiple benefits, including:
- Reduced downtime
- Real-time data that can help you make managerial decisions
- Accurate budget data
- Enhanced function and life of assets
- Increased productivity and employee retention
- Ability to control maintenance expenses
- Lower operating costs
- Lower utility costs
- Helps you optimize labor usage
- Improves tenant satisfaction
Not only does integrating a building automation system within your existing building help you lower costs and reduce downtime, but it makes future planning a lot easier. When you combine system data, your facility manager isn’t limited to analyzing data from one system at a time. Instead, he or she has access to one database that contains information from multiple systems. And, with all of the pertinent information located in the same place, it makes it easier to spot anomalies and make future plans to reduce the building’s overall expenditures.
One of the most important benefits of functionally linking two systems is that it gives facility managers system capabilities that neither system offered on its own. For example, once your systems integration is complete, the fire alarm would trigger the HVAC system to control ventilation and smoke and the elevator system to either bring the cabs to the bottom floor or provide cabs for quick evacuation. Without an automated systems integration both of these components would need to be adjusted separately and manually.
Common Issues with Integration in Existing Buildings
One of the biggest issues that you face by integrating systems within an existing building occurs when older buildings already have building automation systems installed. Automation systems in older buildings often use proprietary or legacy network protocols, which need to be mitigated to open protocols. Changing the system protocols is what allows the systems to communicate between each other, so it’s a necessary step. Unfortunately, it’s also a step that could cause you numerous headaches. The good news is that as long as you have a detailed plan in place for each integration phase, you can work around any issued caused by your current network protocols. In addition to network protocol issues, some other common issues include:
- The original as-built drawings for the building may not be available
- It can be difficult to find existing cable pathways
- Organizational issues that involve coordinating facility management and the information technologies (IT) department
Keep in mind that all of these issues are issues that are common in older buildings. However, none of these issues should deter you from integrating your building’s systems. As long as you’re aware of any problems you’re facing during the planning stage, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any problems that can’t be resolved.
Creating a Plan for a Successful Integration
Before you begin integrating your systems, you need to have a multiple-phase plan. It’s important that you gather all of the information that you have that refers to the capabilities and features of your building’s existing systems. This includes documentation about the building’s subsystems, points’ lists, as-built drawings of the building, control drawings, system versions, model numbers, network architecture, server locations, a profile of past work orders, and any energy data that you can compile. When you’re gathering the information you need, don’t count any data out. By the end of the process your facility manager needs to know the details of every system inside and out, so you can’t have too much information compiled. Also, the more information you have available, the easier it is to plan and the faster the project will go.
Once you have all of the data in front of you, it’s easier to identify opportunities that provide additional functionality and automation. Some of the areas you should consider are:
- Setting up a system for off-hours activation
- Event scheduling management to control lighting, doors, and the HVAC system prior to scheduled events
- Setting the HVAC and lighting systems up so that they coincide with the amount of sunlight coming into the windows during the day
- Using a power monitoring and control system to provide data that triggers energy reduction sequences
With any building systems integration the ultimate goal is to have one database that links to other business systems and facility management systems. This way, one software platform is used by everyone. So, in addition to including building controls in your plans, you should consider including common facility management applications that can:
- Manage the building’s assets
- Create and manage work orders
- Schedule preventative maintenance
- Manage the building’s inventory
When you combine your building automation system and your facility management system, it also integrates data that’s used in accounting, budgeting, and purchasing, allowing you to access building automation functions, as well as the financial side of facility management in the same place.
There is no reason why an older building can’t reap the same benefits of newly constructed buildings. While it takes some time to plan and implement the transition, it doesn’t have to be difficult to integrate systems with an existing building. When you’re ready to cut your expenses and increase your productivity, contact Eagle Technology, Inc. for a no-obligation quote.