Interview - January 2001
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EMAIL INTERVIEW  - Jim Henry & Ken Sinclair

Jim Henry has been involved in nearly every aspect of Building Automation for over twenty years. He has worked with five different automation lines in North American and Australia. He is the founder and inaugural chairman of the incorporated non-profit organization BACnet Interest Group - AustralAsia (BIG-AA). Mr Henry is the National Marketing Manager for Electromation in Australia.

Division 17 not an Issue outside of North America

Sinclair: I understand that the existing 16 CSI MasterFormat divisions are not commonly used in Australia. 

Henry: Yes, Australia's specification structure arose from Australia's cultural roots in Great Britain. They have never developed a sectionalized approach to specification writing. Basically, each contractor and subcontractor is responsible for assembling a workable tender. In both Australia there is a National Spec put out by government for building services, but this is aimed at content as opposed to structure.

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Sinclair:  What are the practical implications? 

Henry:  The lack of a codified specification system changes the tendering process. In North America, the design engineers and architect are responsible for ensuring that the specifications for Divisions and Sections are well coordinated and call for a complete job and subcontractors bid on clearly defined Divisions and Sections of the specification. In Australia, the major subcontractors tend to bid on fairly clearly delineated areas of work, mechanical, electrical, etc., which break up into the same general sections as North America. It is likely that this is because the same individual engineering disciplines in both countries design Mechanical, Electrical, Structural, etc. However, there is no common format for the structure of Divisions or Sections within each Division. Subcontractors bid to whatever aspect of the Plans and Specifications they wish, such as Controls or Sheet Metal.

Engineers in North America prepare much more detailed drawings than they do in Australia. Typically, the Mechanical Contractor, and his subcontractors will prepare their own sheet metal and piping layouts. Mechanical Contractors wind preparing a complete set of Mechanical drawings, not just marked up As Built drawings.

Sinclair:  What effect does this have? 

Henry:  The net result is that Subcontractor bids must be put in well ahead of tender closing time, because the Builder (General Contractor) is responsible for assembling a complete bid based on the Tender Documents. These prices from subcontractors are based on whatever work each Subbie chooses to include or exclude. The Builder is responsible for making sure that there are no holes in the assembled tender.

Prime Sub Contractors still bid to specific divisions, such as Electrical, that pretty well match the 16CSI MasterFormat divisions. But far more onus falls on the Builder and Major Subcontractors to assemble complete bids. Assembling any bid in Australia requires far more expertise by the Builder and the major Sub Contractors. This means bids from Sub Sub Contractors must be submitted much earlier as contractors need time to analyze bid exclusions and inclusions in order to assemble a complete tender for each Division.

The general tendering practice of last minute bidding that occurs in North America just doesn't happen. In North America contractors have developed a fairly cohesive set of practices wherein subcontractors strive to get a price in at the last minute before a set closing time. The contractor who is low at time of tender expects to get the job. With all the usual games and shenanigans.

Control Solutions, Inc Australia, of course, still has all the games and shenanigans.

There is one small advantage. Contractors can exclude items they cannot meet. This means that sub-contractors and suppliers can bid projects where they don't meet a particular clause. All they need to do is provide an exclusion in their tender. It seems much harder to have a specification that is "unbreakable". Mind you, this doesn't mean contractors can ignore specifications, but it opens clauses up to more negotiation.

Sinclair:  Okay, what practical effect does this have for building automation in Australia?

Henry:  There is a major difference in the execution of the mechanical / electrical responsibilities in Australia. The Mechanical Contractor is responsible for providing all wiring, including power for the mechanical systems. Consequently, there is a Mechanical Electrical Contractor, who is a subcontractor to the Mechanical Contractor. Mech Elec's, as they are called, provide their own MSB (Mechanical Switch Board) and do all their own wiring.

The implications for Building Automation are multi-fold and all positive: The MSBs (Mechanical Service Boards) are coordinated better to the entire mechanical plant. As well, the MSBs are designed with control integration in mind. The MechElec contractors are all qualified to take an additional subcontract to install the control wiring and integrate all the wiring. Often this means that the control wiring and the power wiring are installed together with commensurate savings. As well, the quality of installation and the understanding of mechanical systems by the MechElec contractor are much higher than it is for electrical contractors in North America. This has meant that no controls manufacturers or reps install their own wiring. Everybody subcontracts the controls installation to specialists.

The quality of electrical work in the mechanical rooms is much higher than in North America, as the MechElec is a sub to the Mechanical Contractor. This means that MSBs are arranged to suit the needs of the Mechanical Contractor only. The electrical engineer does not dictate him to.

Many Automation Contractors install their controllers and interfacing components directly in the MSBs.

Sinclair:  Any final differences in Building Automation?

Henry:  On a slightly different tack, the relationship system is exactly the same. One major difference for automation contractors is that there is no school market. School districts in North America have been prime drivers of automation, both from the benefits and experience with the downfalls. Australian public schools have neither heating or cooling in the Northern states. For that matter, many Australian residences have no heating, cooling or insulation. 

Another general contracting difference is that there is no equivalent of the Bid Depositories or Plan Rooms.

Sinclair:  What do you think of Division 17?

Reliable ControlsHenry:  As we have no codified sections, we certainly are not going to move to a Division 17 as North America is considering. However, we may achieve the same end result through revised tendering format.

I think a Division 17 is a very good idea for the North American market.

However, I don't think Division 17 should be driven by the BAS industry (HVAC controls) or even the whole of mechanical services. The real benefits to building owners will come from having a Division 17 that is for all IBS (Intelligent Building Systems).

And as BACnet is the only accepted open communication protocol for buildings at the management level, it should be promulgated as the glue for tying all the intelligent processes in a building into one framework.

The traditional drive has been to tie HVAC, lighting and security together. My personal opinion is that we will see a rapid movement to tie other electrical systems into the BAS. I think we will see Vertical Transport, Fire Protection, and Energy Monitoring brought in through BACnet gateways as well.

I foresee generic BACnet front end applications, web based of course, that can talk to all the BACnet interfaces in the building becoming more commonplace. I think the HVAC automation will just be one of those processes.

I think we will go towards Wonderware, Intellution, and Citect style dedicated front ends, but aimed for the whole enterprise. However, these front ends, or more accurately, servers will be much simpler and less expensive because we will move to BACnet as the standard management level intercommunication protocol. The value in these front ends will be in the killer apps and the feature sets, not the current primary benefit of drivers for interconnectivity.

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