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Building controls Integration

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We need

to change the facilities management model because systems are often too complex and hard to understand

– Darren Burford

as possible and avoid the need for specialised training, experts argue. Roger Moncur of Schneider Electric says:

‘Historically our systems were focused on HVAC control and monitoring, but we now have to go far further, especially with the need for broad-based energy control. For example, there is currently not enough integration between lighting control and general energy management systems. We need to work on ensuring lighting is disabled more of the time.’ So, has the industry failed to deliver easy-to- understand energy management tools? If so, the challenge will be even greater for facilities managers once the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) is rolled out. Darren Burford, of Andromeda Telematics, says

that too many FMs see controls as a ‘black art’ because they are rarely involved in the early stages of a project: ‘Also, many systems, which may never have been commissioned or load tested properly, are often out of date by the time the building is handed over. This makes them difficult and expensive to maintain, so our industry has a reputation for being expensive and often unable to get the systems to do what the operator wants them to do. ‘We need to change the FM model because they often

end up with a system that is too complex and hard to understand. We need to rethink design, specification and handover of controls systems to make them simpler.’ Derek Clements-Croome, chairman of the CIBSE

Intelligent Buildings Group, which recently hosted a seminar on system integration, says the true measure of the success of a controls strategy is the impact it has on the people operating and occupying the buildings. The industry is now being measured on a wide range of social, economic and environmental values, and so it isn’t enough to evaluate the technology for its own sake. Moreover, some argue, the traditional fragmented

process of procurement continues to frustrate efforts to deliver truly integrated systems and intelligent buildings. While technologies exist to deliver energy

savings and other benefits of systems integration to clients, these services are not being delivered as the norm. This is partly due to the fragmented structure of the

supply chain, with the different professionals working in silos. There is also the problem of cost consultants applying ‘value engineering’ and cutting out system integration, while failing to understand the lifecycle value that controls can deliver. The controls industry has a reputation for being

expensive because clients do not take the energy savings possible with integrated controls systems into their calculations. One suggestion is that controls suppliers should be asked to tender on a five-year basis so that clients could make meaningful comparisons between initial capital and on-going running costs. Another approach could be to engage controls

designers on a fee-basis so they contribute to the initial design, thus ensuring the controls are considered before the HVAC hardware is specified and delivered to site. Whichever technological opportunities are taken up,

buildings will remain difficult to achieve unless the industry establishes more integrated teams in place of the traditional ‘sequential’ design approach. Martin Davis, a member of the Strategic Forum for

Construction’s integration task group, says: ‘Integrated teams add value. They get projects under way six months faster for a start.’ He says the combination of the demand for low carbon buildings and the economic crisis meant the time was right for reform of the supply chain. ‘To achieve low carbon targets, we need to integrate the delivery team and bring in the FM at the start. We need to become one team, with individual staff seconded to each other. This will create a culture of shared reward when we get it right and shared pain if we fail.’ Then, and only then, he says, will integrated controls and intelligent buildings become the norm. l

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