Introducing the Master System Integrators and WHY you need them for your next Smart Buildings
What are Smart Buildings?
Smart buildings will eventually be a reality in cities around the globe. If a city wants to deem itself a smart city then it certainly has to build smart buildings too. Every building has a purpose and it’s no longer only the structure that dictates that purpose. Various systems and sub-systems need to come together to drive that building purpose home. This is currently the case in most buildings. However, to be deemed a smart building these systems need to be integrated and work together harmoniously.
Isn’t that the job of the System Integrator (SI)?
Yes, a System Integrator can be called upon to integrate all these various systems together. However, there are limitations on what they can achieve. SIs are usually brought in during the construction phase. This usually means they are there after the equipment and systems have been selected and purchased and some of these systems may not be able to talk to each other. This can also lead to variation orders and change requests that can prove costly. Imagine the building owner has already paid for a million dollars’ worth of video walls yet they are unable to communicate with the audio-visual systems.
So why not bring in the SI earlier?
Unfortunately, SI’s don’t work that way. SI’s need instructions and a scope in order to integrate all these systems together. They are usually vendors themselves and would be dealers for certain products etc. Since they are not consultants, they also lack the high-level design qualifications or ability to develop tender documents.
Master System Integrators (MSI)? Sounds familiar.
If you’ve been in airport construction projects then you’ve definitely heard of the term MSI. Airports are complex network of structures and systems that have to run like clockwork due to their requirements. Some airports may have a few terminals, runways and a control tower with people movers in between all of them. Airports could be easily defined as the original Smart Buildings due to their complex nature of integrated systems. MSI are responsible for a myriad of systems such as passenger bridges, airport lights etc. Below is just a simple illustration of some (not all) of their responsibilities. Imagine if all of these responsibilities would be handled by just the MEP consultant? They’d be overwhelmed. They would have to manage mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and be able to grasps all these specialized systems too. Below is a simple illustration of the responsibilities of an MSI with regards to an Airport design and construction project.
So what would be the responsibilities under an MSI for a Smart Building?
A very valid question. In order to best utilize an MSIs expertise for a Smart Building the following systems (and not limited to) should come under their responsibility.
Safety and Security eg Fire Safety, CCTVs, Access Control, Intrusion etc
Telecommunications such as Wireless/Local Area Network, Unified Telecommunications Systems, Telecommunication Distribution Systems etc
Building and Facilities such as HVAC, Energy Management Systems, Lighting control, Elevator & Escalator control etc
Audio & Visual such as Digital Signages and information kiosks, Parking Information systems, Public Address systems, Video walls etc
Of course the MSI should not only be limited to these systems and should also be adapt to including systems for other industries. Eg for transport terminals they should be able to include transport information systems, queue management and ticketing etc. For hospitals they should be able to include patient tracking systems and visitor management systems.
MSI are future ready
In the near future we should be able to see the increase in automation use and inclusion of robotics in buildings and terminals. MSIs would be able to introduce such systems such as robotic cleaners, automated hotel check-ins and AI (Articial Intelligence) in management. This would greatly aid in lowering building maintenance and operations costs whilst improving operational efficiency and effectiveness.
MSI can benefit Smart Building Architects and Owners
Its clear that with more requirements from Smart Buildings the MSI will eventually become a mainstay in the industry. They'll be armed with building system expertise and a good grasp of the available future ready technology. Coupled with a strong understanding of design and management fundamentals the MSI will be able to assist the architect and the building owners in turning their vision into a reality.