Master Systems Integrator

In today’s environment, standalone, single-source, locked-in system designs are out and the multi-vendor, fully integrated, fair-bid contracts of open systems are in. When facilities managers investigate options for new projects, the most sought-after benefits are:

  • Open procurement
  • Flexibility
  • Future-proofing
  • Sustainable design

More consulting engineers are embracing this concept due to the demands of the procurement offices. Each step - from the initial engineering effort to the initial system contract to the service contract - needs to be open bid. Multiple bidders are needed to keep costs in line.

Several key factors are involved in orchestrating successful multi-phase, multi-building, multi-bid campus projects. To achieve these benefits, a master plan must be identified, including the short-term and long-term design criteria and the procurement methods. The current method of contracting building projects must be adapted to the campus master plan.

Enter the Master Systems Integrator (MSI). This consultant sets up best practices, advises on the campus master plan, and makes sure specifications are installed and enforced so benefits are achieved. Like the IT consultant who designs the campus data network, backbone, and systems, the MSI focuses on the control systems, graphical user interfaces (GUI), and common databases for the subsystems, communications protocols, and system architectures for all new projects. The MSI often consults directly with the campus IT group on issues such as security, scalability, and energy management to make sure the objectives for all new building systems are met.

In the building automation world, we must design a common architecture and infrastructure for the various subsystems and follow the IT model as much as possible. This requires a coordinated effort, with campus standards developed and delivered to each design engineer. The MSI works directly with the owner making sure open systems, open procurement, and fair and competitive bidding practices are used. The MSI can also be responsible for the design and implementation of the system GUIs, ensuring a common look and feel for the various buildings and systems. Web browser technology makes this possible, preventing a system from being locked in to a single vendor’s user interface. Standard databases of devices, interfaces, routers, and controllers can be designed, and can include naming conventions, alarming standards, scheduling methods, and trend analyses. Once someone has created a common backbone for the subsystems to communicate over and a standard set of design criteria to follow, it's easy to achieve the full campus integration objectives.

Start with a good master plan, develop the best practices and objectives for both short-term and long-term integration, and then develop the specification standards around this plan. When hiring a consulting engineer, make sure he or she understands the objectives and knows how to design the controls strategy to meet the plan. Use the services of a good master system integrator to help coordinate full campus integration.


Related Links:

  • 200607_MSI_p1.pdf(opens into a new window) — Knowledge Based Business: Making the Case for the Master Systems Integrator (Part One), 2006-07, LonMark Magazine (90k)
  • 200610_MSI_p2.pdf(opens into a new window) — Knowledge Based Business: Making the Case for the Master Systems Integrator (Part Two), 2006-10, LonMark Magazine (82k)

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