Engineers should focus on integration

By becoming a building systems integrator, engineers can ensure successful buildings—and a successful future.

01/24/2013


Anil AhujaIn the world in which we are evolving and human smarts (homo digi-perfectus) are taking technology and integration to next level, technology is impacting the engineering industry. Smart tenants and building owners need smart buildings.

Smart buildings, Smart Grid, intelligent buildings, and integrated systems are buzzwords in the architecture and engineering industry, but is our industry tooling to become smarter and deliver integrated designs?

When I look at the mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), or fire protection engineer of the past, hand drafting was the norm. Engineering drawings were drawn on mylars or sepias; they were not shared between engineers of different disciplines. As we progressed to AutoCAD, software and libraries were still very independent for each discipline. In today’s age of building information modeling (BIM) and Revit designs, the boundaries do not exist. This is why tomorrow’s MEP engineer needs to be an integrated systems engineer.

The engineering curriculum in universities does not offer systems engineering. Energy engineering programs are rare, and only a handful of U.S. institutions provide students with a truly integrated curriculum.

MEP engineering is not part of universities’ core engineering curriculum, and very few even touch on smart buildings in the classroom. To truly serve the movement toward smart buildings, we need to add the position of systems integrator to engineering firms. As far as I know, that position doesn’t exist in MEP offices.

Whenever energy management system or BAS specifications and drawings are required on a project (which is every project nowadays), consulting firms struggle to provide a properly skilled engineer to perform the work, as it crosses the boundaries of all disciplines and truly requires a systems integrator to design and specify products that work together across each of the building’s engineered systems.

MasterFormat Specification Division 25 (integrated automation) is currently being discussed at the committee level. A big issue at MEP firms: Which staff member is qualified to perform work on Division 25?

The MEP consulting industry must move from discipline-based engineering (fire protection, electrical, etc.) to system engineering. Manufacturers are adding smart displays on all appliances and products that can be controlled through an app or via system integration. Our industry needs to add more systems integrators to integrate available smart products to deliver smart designs now and in the future.

In the past, the standard approach to projects was architectural/engineering design, which lead to bidding and then construction. In today’s building market, smart or high-performance buildings require a paradigm shift in the approach to design and construction. High-performance buildings start with the architectural and infrastructure design phase, then progresses to the system design phase, which then leads to the systems integration phase. After construction to, it then moves to the integrated commissioning phase and finally the smart operation phase.

If today’s MEP engineers do not change their thinking or change business practices, a new breed of “integrated technology solutions” consultant will take over their share of their work in this ever-shrinking consulting market.


Anil Ahuja has 30 years of experience in building systems design, design management, construction management, commissioning, and operations and maintenance. He has project experience including commercial, institutional, educational, residential, industrial, and airports. He is a member of the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial advisory board.



GBAIN , AZ, United States, 03/16/13 10:26 AM:

Excellent reading material
Meynardo , GU, United States, 08/23/13 09:13 PM:

There are some significant unsatisfactory feedback from too much integration wihout due evaluation on what is actually happening in the field of operation after a design is constructed. Example: a multi-function relay consisted of several relay functions disabling the whole system relay function due to a single point failure. Another example: a multi-metering function disabling the whole metering system due to a single failure that disabled the multi-metering device. Another example: Confusion on the operation of a SCADA system that integrated both the mechanically oriented plant process to an distribution system process. Another example: Fire alarm system designs that has a lot of electrically engineered components that they like to integrate on a fire protection design that has more of mechanically oriented design. Integration should be carefully evaluated prior to implementation. There must continuous evaluation of feedbacks from various maintenance and operational disciplines in the field that should not be just ignored.
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.