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The Benefits of System Integration Will Transform Your Building

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Brian Cline

Before the arrival and dissemination of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other smart technologies within the built environment, building systems that controlled climate, lighting, energy, and other aspects affecting operations were siloed. These various systems used disparate protocols that didn’t allow them to communicate with each other. There was little regard for ensuring that they spoke the same “language,” as there was no need for them to do so.  

As the Internet Age brought connected devices into buildings that collected data and helped control these systems, communication between them became imperative. It is for this reason that today’s most cutting-edge systems and devices utilize open-source protocols, which allow them to communicate easily with one another and the building automation system (BAS). Understanding the benefits of system integration is now critical to optimizing and enhancing building performance. Not only will integration allow building systems and subsystems to communicate with each other, but it will also transform built environments. 

Transforming the Built Environment Through Integration

The benefits of system integration are more than just the sum of a building’s parts. Integrated systems transfer data with each other and a BAS. They are able to cooperate and provide numerous advantages to a building’s overall performance. System integrations now range from simple alarm exchanges and bidirectional exchanges of data to control capabilities that allow advanced analytics, utilizing machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) software. Smart technologies have allowed greater integration, facilitating seamless sharing of data. As technology continues to advance, the capabilities for integration within a building’s infrastructure, equipment, and systems will continue to transform the performance of built environments. 

Building equipment and systems integration helps optimize include:

  • Access control
  • Video surveillance
  • Fire safety
  • HVAC
  • Intercoms
  • IT and telecommunications
  • Lighting
  • Power management/monitoring
  • Irrigation
  • Visitor management
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Additionally, monitoring of aspects like the occupancy in certain spaces and areas of a building has helped improve a building’s energy efficiency. All this is driven by integration within built environments. The benefits of system integration allow greater interoperability, data collection, and control of all a building’s systems. In the end, this benefits tenants, building owners, facilities managers, and other stakeholders.

5 Key Benefits of System Integration

Enhanced building performance has been touted as one of the most important benefits of system integration. Previously, such integration was limited by the available technology. With new innovations, a much greater degree of integration is now possible. These benefits are not static, however. Technology continues to improve, making system integration an ongoing task. As smart buildings evolve, the integration of their systems and subsystems will enable a wide range of benefits for occupants, tenants, building owners, facilities managers, and other stakeholders. 

Five key benefits of system integration are: 

1. Enhance the Occupant Experience

The evolving demands of building occupants have shifted how built environments are utilized. The comfort of occupants has become increasingly important, along with the effects building designs have on human health. A historic pandemic has additionally driven the need to make buildings healthier places in which to live and work. Matching these important issues with the need to increase the satisfaction of building tenants and occupants is what’s driving system integration now and into the future.

Benefits of system integration for occupants include:

  • Augmenting occupants’ thermal comfort.
  • Enhancing lighting quality.
  • Improving airflow to lower the chance of developing respiratory conditions like asthma, or airborne diseases like COVID.
  • Improving safety and security by enabling stricter access control.
  • Incorporating Internet connectivity throughout a structure, providing a better user experience and increasing productivity.

Smart technology allows building owners to install software applications that enhance users’ experience, such as help with finding parking, booking a desk or office, and touchless building access.

2. Improve Productivity

Integrated building systems perform better than those left siloed. For staff working to maintain the building, the streamlining of processes ensures they’re able to complete tasks more efficiently. One of the benefits of system integration includes better building data and access to it, which helps increase the efficiency and productivity of all operational staff.

Some ways in which integrated building systems improve productivity:

  • Allows facilities managers to respond quickly to multiple and changing issues.
  • Enables predictive fault detection and diagnostics.
  • Helps reveal opportunities for boosting system performance and cutting waste.
  • Makes allocating resources more efficient.
  • Provides real-time awareness of maintenance issues.
  • Streamlines system monitoring to more efficiently evaluate building operations.

For building occupants, who are usually tenants’ employees, system integration supports the technology where they work, also enabling greater productivity by creating a more comfortable working environment.

3. Maximize Space Utilization

Integrated occupancy sensors help keep count on how many people are in a building, a factor that helped when first reopening commercial buildings and other workplaces after the coronavirus pandemic. These sensors also provide capabilities to reduce waste in smart buildings by automatically turning off lights or reducing ventilation to unoccupied areas.

System integration additionally enables better decision-making. Over time, the data collected by occupancy monitoring systems allow better utilization of space within built environments. This historical data can provide facilities managers with accurate information on how a space is used, allowing them to better optimize a building’s various systems.

4. Optimize Energy Efficiency

One prime benefit of system integration involves making buildings more energy efficient. Integrating systems reduces energy consumption by monitoring energy use over time and then identifying areas where energy can be conserved. An integrated software system such as a smart building management platform helps stakeholders analyze historic data, enabling targeted optimization of building systems and subsystems.

System integration helps regulate energy use in order to:

  • Allow informed implementation of demand-based strategies.
  • Detect anomalies that signify possible equipment faults when energy usage fluctuates.
  • Identify times, places, and equipment that are using the most energy in order to reduce waste.
  • Predict where, when and for what energy will be used throughout a structure.
  • Track energy use in both real-time and historically to increase efficiency

By gathering and analyzing both real-time and historical data, significant energy savings are possible. Areas of concern are more easily identified, allowing focused adjustments or repairs to equipment that lead to energy conservation. This building data also distinguishes underutilized areas, allowing the implementation of energy conservation strategies. Thus, making buildings more energy efficient brings a parallel benefit of system integration, helping to reduce the strain on the environment.

5. Achieve Sustainability

Energy efficiency and sustainability go hand in hand, as the less energy used in a building, the more environmentally friendly that building will be. Sustainable building construction and renovation help reduce the negative impacts caused by humans on the environment. This is especially true with organizations wishing to upgrade their existing facilities, as older structures tend to have fewer eco-friendly features. Whether achieved through new construction or retrofitting, using smart technology to reduce energy usage enables building owners to benefit from system integration through various certifications and standards.

Certifications and standards for sustainable buildings in the US include:

Additionally, there have been numerous public/private programs that partner facilities managers, building owners, and other stakeholders with various organizations to drive energy efficiency within built environments. Through the incorporation and integration of smart technology, including IoT-enabled control and monitoring systems, buildings have become increasingly sustainable.

How Open-Source Data Standards Make Integration Easier

When HVAC, lighting controls, submeters, and other building equipment are able to communicate easily with each other, stakeholders will see the benefits of system integration. Yet system integration has been made difficult by the plethora of protocols and standards that define elements within the built environment. Those in the building automation industry understand the difficulties inherent in integrating building systems, especially when it comes to retrofits.

System integration solutions start with enabling better communication throughout a smart building’s technological layers. It involves utilizing standard procedures to tag and name elements within a building and the data associated with them. To aid with system optimization, strategies like the Ontology Alignment Project (OAP) are being used to bridge the communication gap between legacy systems and innovative new building technologies, as well as between devices from different manufacturers or vendors. Efforts like the OAP are helping to transform buildings, making data analytics applications more capable of enhanced fault detection and diagnostics capabilities, along with improving the functionality of user interfaces.

To achieve the most benefits from building system integration, open-source data models within the building automation industry must align. Standardization of building data helps make communications more transparent by making definitions uniform and relationships clear, thus allowing real-world data to be utilized more effectively. In this way, the benefits of system integration from smart building technologies will be more seamlessly implemented.

Curious to learn more about the capabilities of your building's technology? Schedule a consultation with a smart buildings expert to review your building's technology assets and see how smart your building can be with the help of an expert master systems integrator.

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