FM Issue: Integrated Systems, Effective Operations

By Carlos Petty
Published in the November 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The progression of intelligent buildings has resulted in the need for a more efficient design approach, as managing today’s facilities requires faster and more processing power to support high bandwidth communications cabling practices and new controls and data applications, including multimedia and video capture. Additionally, cost savings continues to be a driver for facility managers (fms) who are charged with the responsibility of optimizing building operations, services, and management. So what methods can they look at for doing so?

An Information and Communications Technology (ICT) integrated design approach serves the needs of fms seeking to manage facilities in an efficient, cost-effective manner. More specifically, the ICT process involves the development and integration of data technologies, telecommunications, computers, middleware, and disparate information systems that communicate using a common unified wiring method. It also includes the convergence of audiovisual and telephone networks with data systems.

An integrated design approach is the prerequisite required to convert a “standard building” to an “intelligent building” model. Significant capital and operational cost savings can be realized by integration, including reducing the cabling infrastructure backbone necessary for facility based systems such as building management, lighting control, emergency power monitoring, security, data, voice and audiovisual systems.

Reduced wiring also allows fms to implement better disaster recovery wiring methods, such as a redundant wired network. A completely redundant system consists of redundant switches, redundant communication ports, and redundant device pairs. All Ethernet devices and workstations are connected to both independent ring network architectures, which accommodates critical operations. Having fewer active communication hardware components also reduces yearly operational and maintenance costs.

The overall goal of integrating systems is to apply technologies that improve the basic facility environment, providing a healthy, comfortable indoor environment and by enhancing building services and functionality for occupants. The ability to monitor, control, collect, and process traditional facility related data, coupled with the ability to interpret the collected data quickly and seamlessly implement the appropriate corrective actions without human intervention, is essential.

The installation of a building wide Ethernet communication cable plant allows multiple building based systems to coexist and, in some cases, to share facility related data information. This strategy takes advantage of the fact that data communications for many systems share the same communication protocol, such as the PC industry standard of Ethernet TCP/IP (IEEE standard 802.3).

Featuring an Ethernet backbone and a wireless backbone for voice and data, this schematic of a fully integrated ICT platform maps out the components of this type of system for facilities. (Image: Syska Hennessy Group.)
Featuring an Ethernet backbone and a wireless backbone for voice and data, this schematic of a fully integrated ICT platform maps out the components of this type of system for facilities. (Image: Syska Hennessy Group.)

However, the continuous advancement of technology has fundamentally changed how facilities are designed and operated. An integrated design approach acknowledges this and seeks to use many of the following system technologies.

Migrating To The Cloud

The cloud is a simple way of describing web based services that are hosted outside of a facility. An integrated design approach allows fms to take advantage of cloud computing. When using cloud based services, part of the IT infrastructure resides remote from the property (off-premises) and is maintained by a third party instead of residing on a server at the facility that is maintained. Once an intelligent and integrated building design is in place, fms can take advantage of additional data capacity with minimal physical plant cost impact, consolidating many facility business productivity services into a cloud based solution.

As cloud computing is still evolving, providers are able to innovate and offer various services. NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce) has identified three cloud service models:

  • SaaS (Software as a Service). The best use of SaaS is in productivity and collaboration apps in the cloud like Google Apps, Online Project Management, etc.
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service). This service model is dedicated to application developers, testers, deployers, and administrators. This service provides everything needed to develop a cloud SaaS application.
  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). This allows for virtual computers, cloud storage, and network infrastructure components such as firewalls and configuration services.

At a minimum, Web-based cloud services enhance the design of integrated systems by providing fms more operational efficiencies through convenient access and remote control. Web-based cloud services have the potential to provide even greater benefits from new services and user interfaces not present in any individual facility system.

Facility Systems For ICT

Multimedia/audiovisual systems. These use a microprocessor type control system with preprogrammed intelligence to distribute facility wide audio and video/graphic information via digital signage during certain events. These systems can be monitored, tracked, and controlled remotely via Internet Protocols (IP) by authorized facility support personnel. Systems can be set to turn off or on automatically, based on predetermined schedules, with minimal human intervention. Systems can also be integrated into other applications such as room HVAC and lighting controls as well as other facility based systems, including video teleconferencing systems and motorized shades.

Emergency power systems. Critical facilities require greater fault tolerant features via integration from specialized uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and emergency power systems. Traditionally, emergency power systems and equipment functions independently of other facility systems. New state-of-the-art emergency power systems are now capable of supporting standard IP communications. This advancement allows multiple emergency power system sites to be monitored instantaneously and remotely at a single location. Essential standby and emergency equipment operating parameters can be recorded automatically without the need for additional personnel.

Security systems. System integration and software advancement has expanded how security is deployed for modern facilities. State-of-the-art security systems seamlessly provide integration with other facility management (FM) systems such as access control and alarm monitoring, video surveillance, pagers, intercoms, and digital storage devices for video capture. System integration eliminates the need for multiple software/hardware packages. IP-ready cameras using Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)/IP networking protocols provide connectivity anywhere on an intelligent buildings communication network.

Security systems have also taken advantage of Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology. PoE has created a host of new security products for “smart devices” that have IP network connectivity but require low voltage power for operation. Applications include wireless CCTV cameras and security access control. This application reduces the need to install low voltage wiring traditionally needed for many of these systems, thereby reducing cabling infrastructure installation costs by approximately 50% or more. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) Committee has defined a higher powered PoE Standard which now allows for up to 50 watts to be delivered to smart devices.

Fire life safety, fire protection, and smoke control. Fire life safety (FLS) systems use an independent communications network and are not incorporated into common cabling infrastructure. Addressable remote data gathering panels and amplifier panels are distributed throughout a facility using an independent communications network eliminating single point of failures that existed with previous FLS designs. A distributed FLS architecture reduces cable riser size and quantity, while providing more flexibility. Although local life safety codes prohibit FLS systems from using a common cabling network with other systems, the code does allow for a “UL864 interface” that provides exact point data information to an external system (e.g., building management).

An integrated design allows new FLS systems to be integrated with a building management system for overcall of HVAC systems for fan shutdown, smoke exhaust, purge and pressurization for smoke evacuation, and alarm reporting.

Mass notification systems. These systems are used to alert facility occupants to emergencies not typically handled by the FLS system. In the event that security or other FM personnel need to issue a warning or alert to occupants not directly related to a fire emergency, a mass notification system can be used.

An integrated system design is capable of using fire alarm and audiovisual system digital signage elements to relay prerecorded and/or live messages. The digital signage produces visual instructions to occupants based on the message relayed by the mass notification system. Furthermore, an integrated design approach allows for FM mobile networks to notify occupants via SMS text messaging, e-mail, and by phone. Mass notification can be provided internally and externally to occupants or visitors. By providing this service, fms afford an additional emergency layer of communications to both management staff and occupants.

Lighting controls. The U.S. building industry spends about one-quarter of its electricity budget on lighting. The use of intelligent, automatic lighting control developed during the past decade can help cut these costs by as much as 60% while enhancing lighting quality and reducing environmental impact. Current designs trends include the use of energy efficient lamps in conjunction with intelligent, sustainable lighting system designs that improve optical efficiency and increase lamp life, while reducing maintenance and operating costs.

Building management system (BMS). This microprocessor based control runs through the Ethernet communication cabling system extending energy management capabilities to fms with the operational information it provides. Most notably, the use of real-time energy dashboards by a BMS is growing. Energy dashboards typically are being used to indicate instantaneous and cumulative representations (e.g., hourly, daily, monthly) of energy, water, and other metrics and real-time displays of data from buildings for which network accessible data is available through the BMS. These BMS energy dashboards give fms the tools to make better decisions that can reduce overall energy use by providing historical and real-time energy performance and trends.

In summary, an integrated design approach champions technologies that have proved to benefit fms and occupants by providing facility wide optimization through integrated solutions. Greater opportunities to integrate and consolidate different building system functions into fewer independent systems will help fms to reduce overall operating costs.


Petty is a vice president and group manager in the New York City office of Syska Hennessy Group, a consulting, engineering, technology, and commissioning firm that provides technical solutions for building automation system design, facilities management, energy management, fire/life safety, technology consulting/engineering, and turnkey design/build services. Petty works within the firm’s specialized Information Communications Technology (ICT) practice.