In efforts to achieve the efficiencies of building integration, whether broad-based or site-specific, today’s facilities professionals have grappled with the challenges of its implementation. Jay Hendrix, senior product manager, Integrated Systems, at Buffalo Grove, IL-based Siemens Building Technologies Inc., recommends the top three integration questions you should ask in 2004.Q: What can an integrated system offer for my building?“There are a number of ways in which integration can help. A common site-wide user interface helps on training costs for facility operators and makes managing all facility sub-systems more efficient. Systems can be managed remotely, further leveraging staff resources. There are greater efficiencies in collecting data and putting it into a central repository where it can be pulled for reporting, comparative analysis, or predictive maintenance purposes. Finally, individual system operation can be harmonized into an overall management system, improving operational performance.“As a facility manager, it’s important to ask, ‘Which of those things can help me?’ ”Q: What can I do to ensure success on my next integration project?“I think of this as a series of high-level steps:“First, understand your expectations. Ask yourself, ‘What’s most important to me?’ Through conversation and dialogue, define the requirements of a particular project.“Next, document a master plan of your mission and goals. Being able to refer back to this clearly defined, documented plan – whether that be the building owner or a consultant to the project, and especially during the procurement process – ensures everyone has the same expectations. Plan for constant checks [against the plan] throughout implementation.“Once requirements are determined and documented, you may then choose to select a systems integrator. During the design process, consultants should be able to take your documentation and through the specification come back with ‘Here’s how we think this could work.’“Next – and throughout the entire process – communicate, communicate, communicate. This is especially important as you may be dealing with different suppliers bound by different divisions of the project specification that do not have contractual responsibility toward one another.“Once installed, proper commissioning makes sure the systems are functioning as a whole. This step is also important in order to demonstrate to an owner that the goals of the project are being met.“Lastly, train the operators on how the system works and how to reap the rewards of the system. A combination of [general] classroom training with hands-on training of your particular system works best. Ideally, in either procurement documents or service contracts, it’s a good idea to include additional hours of follow-up training, possibly novice vs. advanced operator training.”Q: What technology and/or protocol will provide the greatest benefit?“Depending on the situation, it may take a combination of protocols – BACnet, LON, ModBus, and/or a supplier’s proprietary protocol, particularly in the fire protection area – to meet your individual integration needs.“That doesn’t mean there aren’t great solutions. It just means you may have to leverage any or all of them to build a truly integrated solution for your project(s) – one that best suits your needs and goals.”Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.