Systems integration

Building automation systems: Building Control Systems, Energy Management Systems and Building Management Systems, for a building of any size, should be integrated to form one building management and control system (BMCS). This assumption means in practice the implementation of modern technologies, both computers, controllers and peripheral equipment, as well as communications networks with the appropriate protocols.

The operational effectiveness of the building automation system depends on the right choice of the computer system. And the integration of hardware and software stemming from various systems and subsystems is a solution, which provides optimum functionality of building automation. Therefore, a BMCS covers the equipment and devices connected to the network, as well as communications units, which allow access to the data of the whole building or building complex. Thanks to system integration, the user has full information on the site, and can manage all its operational parameters.

System integration opens up totally new possibilities regarding building resource management, and it is an integral part of the very idea of an intelligent building. It is the integrated system, where the intelligence of the building can be found, and the implementation of such an approach profits with the creation of a flexible platform, which is easy to adapt, answering to the needs of the user. The main structural components of an intelligent building are:

  • a building energy management system (BEMS)
  • a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC)
  • security and safety
  • access control
  • fire safety
  • lighting control
  • telecommunication
  • structural cabling
  • integration of systems using computer control

An integrated system is the fusion of at least two different kinds of systems. Fusing systems can take place with the use of hardware, software or data transmission media. The profits from system integration are enormous. Such an architecture allows the precise and complete control of any situation across the whole building, while reducing costs. The idea of system integration entails the fusion of management of functions which up to this point were controlled and executed separately. Thanks to automatisation of control and decision support, one can optimise the work of the building and the people responsible for it. The effectiveness of building management is achieved, among others, by real-time analysis of data on the state and operational conditions of each device and installation at the site. The gathered information serves then to generate reports and take actions appropriate for a given situation.

Integrated signalling systems play a very important role in smart buildings. These specialise in detecting all kinds of danger, situations which can negatively influence the processes taking place in the building. The differences between systems cover functions executed by subsystems or the methods of their integration. Within signalling systems one will find fire safety systems, alarm systems, and others, aiming to protect life and property. Signalling systems are also used in conjunction with other subsystems, such as: closed-circuit TV, heating and ventilation, power supply, lighting, audio amplification, etc. Through integration of all these we can obtain a complete overview of the state of the whole building. Another asset of these systems is the freedom to configure them, thanks to which they can be adapted to the individual needs of the users, as well as the type and use of the building – the number of possible configurations is practically unlimited.

In integrated systems we are dealing with distributed intelligence. This means that each device installed in the building is responsible for the operation and control of various sensors; they can perform control functions without interruptions, even in case of a communication failure with the superordinate management unit. This is possible thanks to the fact that the controllers are outfitted with their own processing units and operational memory, where data on the operation of the controller is stored. This way we are dealing with local process management, different installations, without the need for the system operator to constantly be present. Apart from this, such a solution increases system reliability, as well as the reaction time to different dangers and alarm conditions. The ability to freely model the shape of the system is also an asset – thanks to this it is flexible, and able to always adapt to the needs of a particular organisation. Remember that in order to constantly be able to provide comfort to the users, the building has to evolve with the organisation(s) operating in it. In the modern world it’s not the users that should need to adapt to their working conditions, but it’s the building and its subsystems whose task it is to create for them a safe and effective working environment. Integrated systems are characterised by openness and standarisation. It is thanks to set standards that effective communication, as well as quick and simple installation of such systems is possible.

The system should be 'open’, i. e. it should have the capability to expand itself. Apart from this, it should allow the interconnection of different equipment by different manufacturers, and be able to add further operating stations and communications interfaces, which abide by specific standards. The network of the management system should in a sense resemble a phone grid, to which one can add (connect) thousands of new telephones by different manufacturers. For this purpose the net is a distributed one, and each automatic unit controlled by electronic circuits installed at 'nodes’ execute specific tasks of the whole system. In order to provide full control of the building, these circuits have to constantly communicate across the whole management system network, i. e. they have to pick the recipient for their data, send messages (control signals) and receive information addressed to them.

At present, we can notice development in different types of intelligent buildings, allowing quick and secure information exchange. The increasing popularity of computers had caused most information to be exchanged in electronic form. This comes with various dangers and challenges for an intelligent building. One has the need to provide to the employees reliable communication with the outside world via different transmission media. Both the Internet, as well as digital ISDN networks, allowing the integration of various services (transmission of data, voice, images) are the answer to the need for even broader and simpler access to information. With the implementation of modern technologies, however, come new problems. In case of Internet access, data protection against access by unauthorised people is important. Another issue is the confidentiality of data sent by electronic mail. Considering the fact that this type of communication is becoming prevalent, one needs to utilise many levels of security measures.

Another issue is the protection of data, and data exchange, inside the building. Depending on whether the building houses one or several organisations, the telecommunication networks have to be properly constructed, because it is in the interest of every company to protect their data. Modern style of work requires i. e. effective information exchange, which can be done through various means (electronic mail, video conferencing). That is why an intelligent building, following its assumptions, has to follow the newest technologies and shifting user needs. Apart from security of data one also needs security in the building, especially in terms of organised crime. Modern alarm systems, using hundreds of types of protection devices, have to face stunningly equipped and increasingly better prepared intruders. Also in this aspect reality forces intelligent buildings to utilise the most modern solutions.

Dynamic development of technology forces designers and constructors to adapt their intelligent buildings to the newest standards. Analysing the happenings of the recent years one can safely say that the pace of these changes is bound to keep up in the near future. Intelligent buildings have proven themselves in practice, and it looks as though we are forced to use these kinds of solutions. Even though this idea is not yet that popular in our country, one can see that the situation is getting better every year. One of the reasons limiting the development of intelligent buildings are financial hardships and the dreadful situation of construction industry.

Although it is hard to predict, what kind of technical solutions will the future bring, it is obvious that the assumptions of intelligent buildings will not change, and if so, then these will be minute adaptations. It is clear that irrespective of technological revolutions, one will always strive to consume less electricity, increase air-conditioning capacity, simplify and reduce cabling, and increase the mobility of the people working in the building, and care for their safety and health. To use an analogy to the story of the intelligent building, one can foresee that the path towards miniaturisation and even more integration of the various subsystems will be followed, maybe control will be exercised via an ordinary remote control, and all installations will be commanded by one chip. After a while the term 'intelligent building’ might even disappear, because all buildings will follow the requirements posed today, and the idea of a thinking building will emerge. No matter what the farthest future might bring, today’s situation of intelligent buildings is important, as is the role they may play in our lives.