Invisible and Uncontrollable
Monday, June 11, 2007 at 05:10PM
Toby Considine in Background

Recently a reader posed the question, why integrate building systems. He wrote that the primary mission of a building systems is the economic provision of healthful and comfortable space. It is usually run in set and forget mode - and has no interaction with the business processes of the tenants. They remain invisible and uncontrollable unless they break.

Building control systems extend way beyond HVAC. Access control systems should interact with human resources. Intrusion Detection systems should interact with the catering schedule. Medical gas distribution systems should interact with patient care and surgical scheduling systems.

Traditionally we have talked about HVAC first, because of the easy tie between HVAC and energy use, and between energy use and money. Because traditional business models keep the building ignorant of market prices for energy, anything beyond static energy analysis is not rewarded. Because of the lack of standards and insufficient abstraction, there has been no way for business processes to integrate with HVAC. This old-school model is what we find in most buildings today. And within it, the value of integration is limited.

The value of integration can be found in new business models that it enables; these will develop in tandem with the abstract protocols that enable them. Dynamic power grid pricing will create incentives for building responsiveness. Four dollar a gallon energy prices will create incentives for accounting for business decisions that affect when the building is operated. HIPAA compliance requirements will require improved interactions between medical processes and physical access to record storage....and these are not issues that fit neatly into the old business models.

In the future, invisible and uncontrollable will not be good enough.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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