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System Integration: New Construction And Existing Buildings


Today's briefing comes from Jim Sinopoli, managing principal of Smart Buildings LLC. When it comes to the idea of integrating systems in existing buildings, facility managers may find themselves torn. On the one hand, there are solid, bottom-line reasons to integrate systems in existing buildings. One the other, there is a range of problems that don't exist in new construction, from legacy systems to missing information. But those problems don't mean that facility managers should forget about integration in existing buildings. Good planning can go a long way to getting around those challenges.

For new construction system, integration is addressed in MasterFormat Division 25, created in 2004, with the resulting product being construction documents for integrated automation similar to specifications and drawings from other design disciplines.

While new construction may have higher visibility, the fact is that existing buildings make up the overwhelming majority of building stock, and there is no reason why existing properties can't benefit from system integration. The financial impact of improving the performance of an existing building and adding appropriate technology amenities can be compelling. The investment in an existing building is returned in reduced operating and energy costs, lower cost for tenant improvements, higher rents, higher asset valuation, and a positive impact on capital planning.

Existing buildings come with baggage, however: They already have building systems installed. It's likely that older buildings may have automation systems using proprietary or legacy network protocols which will need to be migrated to open protocols. Typically this means the use of gateways or some middleware to translate protocols.

There are other challenges. Sometimes the documentation on the building systems — such as the original as-built drawings — may be unavailable. Cable pathways, if needed, may be difficult to find. And there may be organizational issues involved with coordinating facility management and IT.

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