Kevin Cunningham is director, integrated solutions, at Siemens Building Technologies, Inc., Buffalo Grove, Illinois. He can be reached at kevin@email@example.com. Sylvia Rainey is senior marketing manager, higher education, for Siemens Building Technologies, Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The convergence of disparate technologies on campus, some say, is not only inevitable, but may even be more exciting and challenging than the new technologies themselves. In fact, a few institutions have already discovered that the positive outcomes and benefits of the "intelligent campus"-one that integrates voice/data communication with building automation-can be extraordinary. The keys to success require a basic understanding of the new technologies as well as how the technologies must converge to benefit the institution.
The stream of new tools available to today's campus facilities professionals to help them meet the challenges of education, it seems, is never-ending. Market forces are at work-rising needs for safety, security, and greater choices- driving campus professionals to seek new ways to remain competitive and focused on their institutional missions.
Until recently, convergence of communication technology implied the integration of voice, fax, data, and images over one commonly used infrastructure, such as an Internet protocol (IP). However, this vision will evolve as both the integration of the infrastructure and the integration of applications converge, creating significant opportunities to leverage an institution's assets. Affecting the vision are three major societal trends: the Internet, e-business, and increased mobility. As a result, colleges, universities, and schools are struggling to adapt and respond to a constituent base that can communicate from any place via any network to any device or system in any situation.
On its own, the Internet presents a veritable fountain of opportunities for educational institutions to "mobilize" their services, particularly with regard to distance learning. True e-commerce and e-learning for today's institution can effect business transactions and processes over networks and distributing core activities across time zones and geographical boundaries.
Convergent technologies enable the integration of voice and data solutions that distribute and process information and provide much greater access to learning. This makes possible Web-based, alternative-delivery learning systems and leading-edge service offerings that meet new student-driven demands, such as just-in-time and other distance-learning courses. Campus management itself can be improved markedly via integrated applications that can process both voice and data to enable the institution to optimize workflows and leverage its intellectual capital.
E-commerce and the Internet offer enormous potential for lowering institutional costs while enhancing revenues and the overall quality of educational services. Prime examples include online application for admissions, payment of tuition and student bills, student purchases of educational materials and merchandise, business-to-business procurement, and electronic access to facility information, databases, publications, and other resources.
These trends place greater pressure not only on new technologies themselves, but also on how they can all work together, or converge, for increased value. In essence, when a building automated system (BAS) converges with seamless voice and data network operations, users have the ability to access over the Web, navigate and manage interoperable systems such as HVAC, power monitoring, lighting control, security, and fire alarm/life safety.
In most cases, the greater the facility-management challenges on campus, the greater the potential return on the technology investment: rapid facility growth, advanced research laboratories, infrastructure improvements and deferred maintenance, and environmental issues can all be addressed more effectively via convergent technologies. The challenge is not just finding new technologies, but finding new ways to make technologies work together on campus for greater value.
It Takes Two
Two key components are required for effective technology convergence. One is the communications or wide area network (WAN) infrastructure, such as across a large campus, while the other is a facility management infrastructure in the form of a robust BAS. Respectively, these constitute two symbiotic technologies: the communications network as the "nervous system" that provides the universal, high bandwidth connectivity; and the BAS as the "brains" to manage all of the local area network (LAN) functions, such as individual buildings or departments, in an intelligent campus environment.
These WAN and LAN networks are highly complex technical enterprises that, when engineered properly, can meet predictable service standards for data management by network administrators. A network hierarchy consists of precisely defined functional layers that build from the physical infrastructure to network applications, with each layer relying on the layer below it.
Both the simplest LAN and the most advanced WAN use these layers as basic system building blocks. The physical layer is the physical pathway that carries the electronic signals, the network layer comprises the protocols that convert the signals into messages, and the application layer includes the network applications that turn messages into services.
The BAS is a core enabler to achieving higher degrees of automation because it provides the base tool necessary for systems integration. Essentially, a typical BAS architecture is composed of three levels grouped by network: the LAN floor level network, which comprises dedicated controlled devices; the LAN building level network, which comprises principally the global automation system; and the WAN campus or management level network for enterprise information and management.
Systems integration allows different building systems to communicate and "interoperate" as needed. The BAS is responsible for collecting all of the data and delivering the data to whomever needs the information and whenever the information is needed through workstations, or laptops and wireless devices.
Campus Safety and Security
Most of the elements of campus safety-including fire alarm, voice activation and communication, physical access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection, asset control and management, and network access-can be managed more effectively and efficiently when the systems are networked.
One of the most tangible benefits of integrating multiple building systems on campus involves fire safety. As systems become interoperable and capable of sharing and exchanging data, smoke and fire detection schemes are enhanced considerably, as is fire suppression, notification and evacuation, and annunciation. The efficiency of these systems' operator is improved via a single terminal at each monitoring location.
Numerous inter-system operations can also be pre-programmed, such as egress control (unlocking access controlled doors and elevator control), smoke control via fans and dampers, and automated closed circuit TV (CCTV) verification. Locking and unlocking of buildings on a time schedule can be performed automatically, rather than by roving personnel.
When voice communication, or intercom, is integrated with the call button, the CCTV system and the graphical display software, the user is afforded distinct advantages. Ideally, CCTV control should be interfaced through access control and other security subsystems. A specific camera can be commanded into viewing action while a graphic map of the location's floor plan is displayed at the workstation. Alarm conditions involving security, fire or building management systems can be verified. Events, conversations, and date/time may all be digitally recorded, tagged with the respective alarm and related system, and archived for future use.
Systems integration also reduces operator errors, requires fewer groups and/or individuals to be coordinated, and provides more consistent response activities. Vectored alarms (by alarm type/condition) can be routed immediately to the appropriate terminal with operator password authority. (A single point of responsibility can be assigned, which is a key benefit.) Voice evacuation during an emergency can be monitored both locally and remotely, with automation control contingent on other system alarms.
Global, inter-discipline reports can then be generated to include trend-based analysis and various system conditions. Physical access control itself is improved throughout the campus. As vectored alarms are identified based on type, they can be routed to administrative, security, and maintenance personnel and handled more efficiently as needed.
Related campus disciplines are enhanced, as well. Code compliance, a major issue with modern facilities management, can be more professionally addressed. Testing, inspection, and maintenance of a variety of equipment and components can be automated, managed, and reported with greater ease and accuracy, less paperwork, and in shorter response times. Automatic call-up of the respective CCTV cameras can also be performed as needed for assessment and verification.
Utility Cost Management
As one university CFO proclaimed out of frustration, "I count every pencil and paperclip on campus, but we spend millions of dollars on electricity without knowing where a dime of it goes." This, too, will change as today's campus learns how to prepare for and cope with electric utility deregulation and as its infrastructure adapts to emerging and converging technologies.
For many institutions, for example, the technology already exists for integrating control and management of energy costs while automatically responding to Real Time Pricing (RTP) rates. Facilities professionals can monitor precisely how and when the campus is using energy and what measures can be implemented to reduce waste.
Building metering systems, when integrated into the building automated system, enable the institution to minimize utility costs sensibly while actually increasing "profit-center" performance. These measures can be also be implemented while maintaining the integrity of indoor comfort and safety levels.
When Web access capability is provided by the BAS in an intelligent campus environment, consistent and accurate energy usage measurement throughout a single building or campus wide is made possible. Building metering (or submetering) systems empower facilities professionals with not only the data and access to important operating information, but also the analytical power to determine energy usage by building, by department, by function, by enterprise, or by specific equipment. Users have the ability to define energy usage patterns along with specific areas to control when the price of energy is high.
The effects of specific energy conservation actions can also be measured accurately as they are implemented. This greatly improves the facilities manager's ability to reduce energy loads at peak times and to take full advantage of the cost benefits of RTP rates. In the new era of deregulation, the most effective control strategies are those that can be easily changed as the price signals change. As a result, labor costs can be lowered, energy waste is reduced, and the optimum balance between comfort control and energy usage can be achieved.
Specific applications of building metering for campus facilities include power quality monitoring, load shedding, demand control, and RTP response, as well as individual tenant billing for on-campus housing. Armed with the technology for accurate cost allocation and recovery, a research university would, for example, be able to track energy costs associated with specific research or grant projects.
Optimizing Sophisticated Environments
Research facilities are challenged continually to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs, especially as the institution's size and complexity of operation increases. For these organizations, integrating certain building functions can boost productivity and reduce operating costs while helping to adapt more quickly to regulatory changes.
Operational efficiencies are also maximized as facilities professionals are armed with the capability to handle enormous amounts of data in shorter periods of time, with fewer people needed to collect the data. Equally important, in alarm conditions, response time is shortened considerably to reduce downtime and loss.
Systems that are integrated into a network ensure safer and healthier work conditions within the laboratory facility. Specific operating parameters, such as fume hood ventilation, security alarms, temperature, and humidity can all be tightly controlled and responded to more efficiently, reducing risk and exposure to occupants.
In a facility with convergent technologies, facilities professionals are elevated to a new level of information management. Building automation and systems integration solutions can be tied directly into other key information systems within the organization-document management, inventory tracking, and business management.
As a result, the institution realizes significant cost reductions via operational efficiencies and productivity gains, automated documentation, decreased liabilities, and labor reductions. Expenditures normally difficult to quantify can be tracked and forecast through charge back systems, cost accounting techniques, usage forecasting, and space planning.
Technology convergence of laboratory operations can help universities operate as an enterprise, attract top-notch researchers and grants, and help secure contract work from the private sector. Industry at large can benefit by streamlining pre-clinical trials, by helping to recoup research and development costs and by increasing competitive strengths. All sectors can benefit from automation by being better equipped to comply with current standards and future changes.
In order for an institution to make measurable gains in expanding its quality of learning environment, existing and emerging campus technologies need to be leveraged in novel ways. This places greater pressure on not only the technologies themselves, but also on how they work together, or converge effectively.
Outcomes can range from lower costs and decreased operating, maintenance, and energy costs to improved productivity via greater availability to operational information and data management. For institutions that get it right, the integration of technologies helps improve the teaching, research, community services, and economic development of education.