Cooperation, planning makes systems integration work

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Tuesday, July 1, 2003

What makes sense from a building systems or even security point of view may not always be the best solution in the event of a fire. That’s why, noted Steve Sargent, director of worldwide sales for Keltron, project management “is critically important” as systems integration gets under way.

“It’s more complicated today,” Sargent said. “You can’t have individual fiefdoms.” In fact, he said, as companies look to align the priorities of all the stakeholders involved - such as IT, HVAC, security, access control, fire - ”fire has to have the priority.”

Janis Phelps, principal of Terminal Velocity FM and a 20-year veteran in facilities management, said the renaissance of personal safety has put the spotlight on the creation of safety information plans, including such features as evacuation and fire mapping.

She said it has also forced individuals within companies to look their outside specific departments and develop links between sectors and systems. “You share the information and lower the workload on everyone,” she said.

“That way you get a level of both tracking and reporting.”

Integrating systems, she said, can allow appropriate personnel to be contacted via email or pagers when an event occurs.

By it’s highly regulated nature, fire control and detection is often calling the shots within in integrated system. If it’s operating on an IT network, noted Steve Thompson, director of marketing-fire and security at Johnson Controls, that network must be UL listed. National codes and varying local ones must also be brought into consideration, he said.

But Sargent said regulatory agencies, such as UL, may have to change their approach and look to streamline, rather than increase, their oversight to keep things moving along.

“The downside (of integration) has been the complexity,” said Greg Turner, director of platforms and legacy systems for Honeywell. “People are looking for less complexity, not more.”

One way to achieve this, Turner said, is to specify a contractor who is responsible for the entire system and to follow CSI MasterFormat specs related to building management.

Thompson said as more companies are faced with retrofit and legacy systems, the challenge becomes how to integrate with these systems. “The emerging way to do it is to use a communications protocol a-greed upon by the industry,” he said, such as BACnet.

By sharing information and using a workable protocol, he said, “it’s nearly almost always possible to provide integration.”