Octoberr 2008
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Selecting the Building Automation or Systems Integration Contractor

The process that we use involves a formal “Request for Proposals” (RFP), allowing us to gather information and evaluate it in an impartial manner.

 Paul Ehrlich & Ira Goldschmidt
Building Intelligence Group

As published

October Issue - Column 

Selecting a supplier and contractor for building automation has never been a trivial task. Of course, price is a big issue, but other major issues including service, support, quality, and conformance to open standards hold equal weight. As we get involved in projects that are increasingly sophisticated and integrated, this gets even more complex and demanding. Suddenly the issue is not just who can provide the best BAS – but also, who can you use as a systems integrator? The skill set often includes knowledge of building systems including HVAC, lighting, power metering, fire alarm and security as well as knowledge of Information Technology and business systems.

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We find that every owner, project, and market are different. For projects that are fairly basic, it may be alright to simply list acceptable contractors and suppliers based upon the designer’s experience and to allow the general contractor or construction manager to select them based largely on price. But for more sophisticated projects, including those that include extensive integration, multiple buildings, or critical systems, we prefer to use a formal pre-qualification process coupled with an owner directed selection process. Using this type of arrangement allows for a careful evaluation of products, experience, and commitment, resulting in the selection of what will ideally be the best supplier.

Pre-Qualification Process:

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The process that we use involves a formal “Request for Proposals” (RFP), allowing us to gather information and evaluate it in an impartial manner. The RFP typically will outline the general scope of the project and the expected work from the contractor. It will then request documentation from the contractor including prior experience, staff resumes, financials, references, and detailed product documentation. The responses to the RFP are carefully evaluated and documented by the project team. We will then make calls to confirm with the identified references. Finally, the top scoring suppliers are invited to participate in interviews as well as potential site visits, demonstrations and detailed protocol conformance tests. Following this process, we are able to assign scoring values to the results and select the most qualified contractors and products. Once qualified, the contractor can then be listed in the procurement documents.

Contractor Selection:

Realizing that many systems integrators and controls contractors have the ability to install a variety of products, we typically list both the qualified contractors and product lines in our specifications. Projects can be procured through a variety of methods including design build and design, bid, build. While it is typical on projects for the building automation contractor to be a sub to the mechanical contractor, for large integrated projects, we find that it is best for the systems integrator or building automation contractor to be under direct contract. Often these projects are using a Construction Manager (CM) and can easily accommodate this structure. For design build projects, we still like to see a clear set of performance criteria provided to the systems integrator that can be readily measured as the project proceeds.

The careful and proper selection of contractors and suppliers can help an owner achieve long term success with their building automation system.

Qualification Process Flow:

  1. Develop a set of pre-qualification criteria and issue an RFP.
  2. Work with the owner and project team to identify a list of potential integrators who will receive the RFP.
  3. Issue the document to invited integrators.
  4. Respond to questions by integrators as required.
  5. Evaluate written results including references.
  6. Conduct interviews, tests and site visits.
  7. Provide scoring input and a full written on recommended approval of products and contractors.

About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at www.buildingintelligencegroup.com  We also invite you to contact us directly at Paul@buildingintelligencegroup.com or ira@buildingintelligencegroup.com


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