August 2004

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Convergence or Divergence

Convergence or Divergence
Anto Budiardjo, Clasma Inc.

Connecting Convergence
Ken Sinclair,

As published in the 
August issue Supplement/Outsert
Connecting Convergence

While the industry buzz in the past couple of years has been the idea of convergence, now is a good time to review what is really going on in the industry delivering building systems. To do this, let us look at the drivers and trends and then analyze what is going on to move us forward in delivering value to building owners and operators.


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Technology developments are clearly the most visible driver in our industry. In the past decades we have seen the advent of DDC (Direct Digital Control), the proliferation of networked controls and even the creation of open system standards. These changes significantly affected the internal workings of the industry. They provided new features, flexibility, cost savings and even the freedom of choice between systems to control and manage a building. They did not however, change the relationship between building systems and the owners in any significant manner; building systems remained entities unto themselves.

Today, the change brought about by the significant use of IT and the Internet dramatically alters the relationship between buildings and the rest of the universe. Buildings are no longer stand-alone entities with occasional systematic contact. The technology available today means that an enterprise (commercial or institutional alike) can have real-time information and control of all of its facilities anywhere in the world. And this is not just about a few bits of data and overrides; this is the availability of rich information and control, including trends data for any number of points, streaming video, real-time control, and download of parameters.

Cost and efficiency
Significant business drivers in the past years include the use of sophisticated IT systems to bring a new level of efficiency to enterprises in the western world. Corporations in developed regions now have an unprecedented array of tools to manage business resources affecting the bottom line. Concepts such as JIT (Just in Time) manufacturing, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and others have brought about new levels of expectations for the visibility of a corporation’s activities to the C-level executives (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.) who need such information to make informed decisions.

Today, the change brought about by the significant use of IT and the Internet dramatically alters the relationship between buildings and the rest of the universe. Buildings are no longer stand-alone entities with occasional systematic contact.

Today a corporate head office in Dallas can have visibility of the transactions of retail outlets around the world, dozens of manufacturing plants, goods in transit, and consumer demographics. All of this information brings business management to a new level: corporate can tell the success of a new product within days (if not hours) of introduction and adjust manufacturing up or down instantly or even redirect goods in transit from one region (where acceptance of the new product is bad) to other regions where acceptance is better.

Furthermore, once corporations refine the cost structures of doing business to such a degree, there will be a desire to seek out other costs to manage. Buildings, be it factories, warehouses, offices, or retail outlets are second only to the cost of people in corporate operating cost structures. The enterprise’s management of facilities means required access to the operation of a building or raw information about the building such as: inside and outside temperatures, occupancy, energy usage, equipment status, and comfort.

Security, Risk and Safety
Whether a corporation is concerned about security from terrorist threats or the general safety of employees and customers, or simply managing risk on any number of fronts, the issue of security is foremost in many, if not all, corporations today.

Mitigating risk involves having good system-wide visibility in addition to visibility of the entities that make up the touch points of risk in a corporation’s infrastructure of facilities.

Lighting is a significant contributor to security issues; illuminating a facility’s surroundings can draw attention to a business to create revenue (retail as one example), but also provides safety to employees and customers. Monitoring the HVAC plant in such a way to predict failures can reduce the downtime of manufacturing or of a retail outlet, which in turn reduces the risk of negative impact on business. Monitoring and recording information for environment-, temperature-, or humidity-sensitive goods can significantly mitigate risk from selling damaged (though visually OK) merchandise.


[an error occurred while processing this directive] Flexible spaces in buildings
It used to be that a building was built for a specific purpose, often with a lifetime of decades, not designed nor expected to change its purpose. Those days are long gone as corporations regularly shift use and expectation of facilities to better reflect rapidly evolving markets. Most of today’s facilities have an expectation of change and flexibility built right into them. Office, manufacturing, and retail facilities need to change to reflect the current needs of the enterprise. Some of these changes are on a day-to-day basis, such as flexible hot-desk and telecommuting scenarios where employees are not provided with a fixed office. Change can also happen on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis as demonstrated by retail, distribution, and manufacturing. Other changes are slower: the ability to modify office arrangements and work teams for today’s project-based enterprises who perform their work on a temporary basis.

This required flexibility brings about enormous benefit to the enterprise but demands a great deal from facility managers; they must understand the change and make the transformation at the least cost possible and quite often overnight. Change of work/manufacturing space can affect lighting, environmental control, security, IT, voice and data, in addition to the hard changes (walls, tables, desks) that will need to be implemented.

It is imperative for the building systems industry to provide for the needs of these trends and provide benefits that enable facility managers to answer the needs of the enterprise with minimal costs.

Demanding Users
It used to be that people’s demands on buildings were low. Buildings were basically a form of shelter for work, life, and entertainment. The interfaces to buildings were also simple: a basic thermostat, maybe a time clock, locks, switches to control things like lights, fans, and so on.

As the use of buildings grew beyond simple shelters, and the complexity of people’s lives became more demanding of their environment, the need for sophisticated interfaces increased. This trend is being driven by users’ needs to become more effective and for the experience within a building to improve so that building users (typically employees and customers) are more likely to enjoy the time spent within the building.

In addition, users are generally becoming more demanding of other aspects of their lives, especially in areas where they interface with technology. People demand to see the schedule of television programs instantly on their TV sets; they demand to listen to their type of music on the radio; and they demand to hear any specific song at any given moment on the Internet. People demand to see the balance of their bank account online and on demand, and in fact, use that medium to find out all manner of information from any corner of the globe.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Integration is no longer an option
It used to be that humans did not expect things to be integrated, the newspaper was the source of news, television for entertainment, radio for music, the movie theater for blockbuster entertainment, a bank statement at the end of the month was the source of financial information, and the shopping mall was for procuring goods.

Today, the above scenario is integrated into one experience called the Internet. While it may not necessarily replace all the aforementioned independent entities, the integration provided allows the audience to look at them and use them in a very different light.

In exactly the same manner, neither from a technology point of view, nor from a usability point of view can un-integrated systems be considered acceptable in buildings of today. The two main users of buildings—people and the enterprise—look at a building as a whole, not a collection of HVAC, security, lighting, and so on.

Is this Convergence or Divergence?

From a technology point of view, the above drivers and trends clearly spell convergence – different technologies, perspectives, and disciplines that unite their contribution for the benefit of the end user, the building owner and the operator.

The view from the enterprise and the building users (operators and consumer/public) is that of a single entity called the building.

So, where is the Divergence?

It must be acknowledged that there is a different view belonging to the industry that must deliver the building to the enterprise. Here there is a significant argument that a divergence is occurring in what professionals in the industry are actually doing.

In looking at the above arguments there is a consistent theme: there are two groups of stakeholders in the picture, those providing the fundamental systems and those responsible for the systems working together for the benefit of the new client—the enterprise.

The two main classes of professionals that will be working in the “connected building of tomorrow” are those who are domain experts in certain disciplines and those who are enabling and performing Enterprise Building Management.

Building Domain Expert

Once corporations refine the cost structures of doing business to such a degree, there will be a desire to seek out other costs to manage.  The enterprise’s management of facilities means required access to the operation of a building or raw information about the building such as: inside and outside temperatures, occupancy, energy usage, equipment status, and comfort.

Just as journalists still exist now that news is delivered via television, radio and the Internet in addition to newspapers, and actors and musicians still exist now that entertainment is delivered via multiple medias… domain experts will still have a valuable role in the scope of the building.

HVAC engineers as well as security, lighting engineers, and other disciplines should have no fears about their profession being diminished in the future of the enterprise-connected building. What this group of people and industry needs to realize is that the landscape around them is changing and though for many this will not be a comfortable adjustment, it is futile to resist.

Domain experts are specialists, they hold the key to making systems work, they are the only group that can design a building properly, make it function and keep it working throughout the life of the building. Without these specialists there are no reliable buildings systems.

Enterprise Building Management (EBM)

Enterprise Building Management is the key for the evolution of the relationship of buildings within the enterprise. EBM enables the enterprise to look at a building in a manner that is effective for its needs. This is not simply an integrated view of the building; nor is it delivering all the data and information available in the building up to the enterprise for consumption, and it is not related to the use of the IT infrastructure for building systems.

EBM is about a deep understanding of the needs of the enterprise, looking into areas where those needs can be affected by the enterprise’s buildings and then providing a mechanism for the enterprise to be connected to the building to achieve enterprise objectives.

EBM cannot be instigated by building systems domain expertise though this expertise is the key to the information required. To understand further, one must understand the typical objectives set by stakeholders:

EBM is not as much interested in the temperature in a building, as it is interested that the temperature in the building satisfies the objectives of the enterprise—a very subtle but important difference in an EBM perspective on a very fundamental feature driving the environmental control industry. From a human perspective it may be more comfortable to have all indoor environments at 72ºF. But if it is more efficient to the enterprise to have the facility at 74ºC because the enterprise has hard data that correlates higher temperature with producing more business, then so be it.

Integrating the building system with other enterprise systems can also bring about new benefits that can only be achieved at the EBM level. Scheduling is a significant variable in the enterprise picture, for example the coordination of delivery times of raw material according to a manufacturing schedule is an obvious use of schedule integration. But how about linking schedules that the enterprise knows about with the schedule of the building itself? Coordinating departure and arrival at airports with lighting and HVAC would save money and have no negative impact to users of the airport; coordinating manufacturing schedules in a factory could save significant utility costs in heating or cooling unused factories; and linking meeting room, school or hospital schedules to building systems could provide costs savings as well as improve the experience for the end user of the facilities.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Maintenance, or more specifically predictive maintenance of building systems, can significantly benefit from an EBM view. From such a perspective, a system can monitor the performance of the building against the objectives set out by the domain experts in many areas including HVAC, lighting, and security. A single enterprise EBM-based system can monitor the performance of all of these areas and automatically determine issues that stand alone systems cannot.

In Conclusion

While convergence is the leading term used in the evolution of building systems, the industry that delivers the ultimate value to owners is diverging between those who provide the core services and those who are aggregating the services for the benefit of the enterprise.

Let there be no mistake, what happens in the building is still of paramount importance; buildings are still shelters in which people work and live. The need to satisfy the end users of these facilities will never diminish. The challenge is to appreciate that buildings are a key strategic component to tomorrow’s enterprises, and that the new discipline of EBM evolves to ensure the enterprise achieves its objectives while users and local operators of buildings ensure their own objectives.

As an industry, the challenge is to deliver the increased features and benefits from the multiple disciplines of specialized professions while at the same time ensuring the creation of the necessary environment for EBM and most importantly for the enterprise to achieve the desired bottom line.


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