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Creating Integrated Building Management System Architecture for Commercial Buildings

Image of Laura Miller
Laura Miller

The introduction of smart technology has rapidly improved the sophistication of integrated building management system architecture. With building management increasingly dependent upon connected devices and systems, the role of automated building systems and the need for advanced system architecture will continue to expand, too.

Next-generation automated systems are extraordinarily complex and regarded as systems of systems (SoS) rather than standalone equipment. A coherent and modern IP-based architecture that reduces the friction that comes from integrating a wide range of legacy systems and protocols is essential for managing this complexity. But architecture will continue to become more intricate as the number of systems connected to the centralized SoS increases as technology continues to evolve. Building owners and facilities managers who invest in well-architected systems today will reap great benefits now and have the agility to adapt in years to come. 

Building the Best Integrated Building Management System Architecture

Integrated building management system architecture should be based on a specific set of objectives decided upon by building owners and facilities managers. These objectives guide how the system components are deployed, scaled, and integrated with each other.

The components include:  

server-1

Servers

Handle central processing and data storage. With next-generation technology, that means cloud-based servers. 

workstation

Workstations 

Interfaces to monitor and control points within the system. In a smart building, this typically includes access via mobile devices like smartphones and browser-based interfaces. 

sensor

Smart sensors

Capture data on building conditions and operations and send that data to the central building management system.

analytics

Analytics platform

Interprets building data reported from smart sensors.

The most effective architectures for integrated building management systems harness the power of the cloud for its flexible data storage and processing capabilities. Cloud-based infrastructure also streamlines software and security updates and increases protection against unseen vulnerabilities. These are important benefits, as well-designed system architecture must be built with network and device security as a key aspect of the overall approach. 

Open Protocols

Open protocols are ideal for integrated building management system architecture. Proprietary systems lock users into products from a specific company. This means you can’t take advantage of cutting-edge technology made by other manufacturers that may work better. With open protocols, however, you can create the best building management system possible using the components that make the most sense for your building. 

When looking at products and their protocols:

  • Choose products with an open protocol that’s used by multiple vendors. 
  • Focus on products with modern IP-based connectivity, rather than serial network communications.
  • Research protocols by asking the right questions. These could include:
    • How easy will it be to add new devices in the future? 
    • What are the pros and cons of products that use this protocol? 
    • Which vendors support this protocol?
    • Will it work with current equipment?
  • Rely on a trusted partner, such as a master systems integrator (MSI), who can recommend the best products for a particular system.

Open protocols allow software and hardware to communicate seamlessly without the need for translation, regardless of the developer or manufacturer who made it. Interoperability is the key here, as the products—whether hardware or software—need to work together and communicate with each other. 

Bandwidth

Sufficient bandwidth is necessary to facilitate dataflow from IoT sensors to the central core of an integrated building management system. Architecture design must provide sufficient bandwidth through the use of IP networks and fiber optic cabling.

To ensure that the required volume of data flows through the network quickly and reliably, the architecture must use modern connectivity, such as IP networking. The network links between devices and networking infrastructure components must also be scaled to account for the expected volume of data. This ultimately determines the scalability of the network. 

Serial networks will still allow systems and equipment to function, but only on their own as an island. This approach does not allow systems to reliably or efficiently communicate with each other. It also greatly reduces options for increasing scale and for additional integrations within each system.

Case Study: Scripps Health

Buildings IOT spent years developing standards for the framework of its Integrated Automation Systems (IAS). This included integrating BACnet IP-based controllers with open protocols into building management system architecture. 

In 2019, Scripps Health hired us as its network integrator to deploy these standards across its building portfolio, which includes hospitals, medical office buildings, clinics, and corporate office space. We brought system data into the Niagara 4 Supervisor to command and control the entire enterprise through a Niagara 4 graphical user interface. 

The proprietary systems throughout the Scripps Health portfolio were outdated. After discussions with stakeholders, we determined our integration priorities. This involved pulling their data into the Supervisor and unifying the interface with N4 graphics. We found that each building had different integration needs that require unique integrated building management system architecture and comprehensive strategies to prioritize integration. In response, the Buildings IOT team developed standards for integration and graphics that are now being implemented across Scripps Health properties.

Creating Custom Solutions

Integrated building management systems are more valuable and more complex than ever before. An expert MSI will ensure that your integrated building management system architecture gives your building the functionality and flexibility you need in the best way possible. 

Buildings IOT has the expertise to create the best integrated building management systems architecture for your commercial property. Contact our team of experts to learn more about what we can do for you.

 

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