Controls and integration — today’s challenge for the CxA

Building and system designers continue to push the envelope in an effort to meet mandates associated with energy efficiency and system performance. Building developers and tenants are seeking “high performance” buildings: those that contribute measurable, year-over-year benefits for building owners (typically exceeding industry standards and/or metrics established by a certification authority). At the same time, manufacturers are incorporating control hardware, software and preloaded operational strategies into their equipment to deliver turn-key solutions to their clients.

However, many engineers lack the depth of experience and expertise to adequately design and specify control systems with the strategies necessary to meet these goals. Instead, they often opt for more generic, performance-based specifications. The final design of the control architecture and sequences may be left to the controls contractor to develop during the submittal stage of the project. Implementation of the integration and interoperability between various equipment and building systems often is left to contractors, vendors and the Cx authority during the construction and acceptance (testing) phases of the project. Experience has proven this can be a costly and time-consuming approach.

Proper controls design must start at the inception of the project, including meetings dedicated to discussing desired levels of control and monitoring, communication protocols, integration between systems, projected system expansion in points and/or capabilities, graphic requirements, alarm protocols and interfaces with various devices (tablets, smartphones, dashboards, et cetera). Beyond HVAC control, today many systems also integrate energy information, fault detection and diagnostics and predictive maintenance capabilities. The successful integration between equipment, systems and application software is critical and must be coordinated early with the project team.

Because verification of proper controls operation and integration will be the CxA’s responsibility, it’s important he or she become engaged throughout the design phase, reviewing system design for completeness, clarity and a clear division of responsibilities between contractors and vendors. The CxA creates the test scripts to confirm that all systems and applications slated for integration are functioning as intended, with accurate data delivered to the intended devices. Successful integration between all system components is critical to achieve reduced energy consumption, real-time control, optimal equipment performance, efficient system maintenance and immediate notice of alarms and events.

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