H System Integrators

Give system integrators a seat at the table

Nov. 22, 2022
System integrators are too often introduced only after the design work is done.

By Justin Lavoie, vice president of channel development at Schneider Electric

System integrators (SIs) have a deep understanding of smart-building technologies for electrical and mechanical systems. Despite their knowledge, they are too often introduced only after the design work is done. When SI expertise only arrives at the scene this far down the path, it can lead to design incompatibilities or other missteps, putting the building’s efficiency, performance, comfort, health and overall value of the asset itself at risk.

Further, SIs are important to bring in at the beginning of project design for buildings because they provide advocacy for the customer (end-user) and ensure their desired needs and outcomes are met within the design of the building’s systems. Customer feedback on the systems of the building play an important part in delivering a solution that serves its intended beneficiaries.

For developers, owners or operators to complete a successful project, especially when sustainability is the goal, the order of operations must change. By giving systems integrators a seat at the table earlier in the process and using cutting-edge digital tools at their disposal, building stakeholders can introduce a more collaborative environment and enjoy various positive outcomes.

Systems integrators offer numerous benefits

Building-systems integrators have a host of responsibilities, from specifying and designing systems (like network communications), to fluid/gas handling, to intelligently assembling components from multiple vendors. Making SIs part of the design team and having early and frequent conversations with building owners and facility managers will:

·     Improve project efficiency

·      Improve facility performance

·      Create a healthier, more productive smart-building infrastructure designed for maximum usability

Clear-eyed scoping makes projects more efficient

Rework and delays are major efficiency drains on industrial building projects. Unfortunately, the cost of rework exceeds 12% of the budget on the average industrial project in the US. About 80% of that cost results from design deviations. Offering SIs a seat at the table earlier in the process is vital to minimizing the risk of rework cost incursions.

For example, SIs are experts in technological solutions for automation. When they lead the charge, it ensures these solutions are integrated end-to-end with building systems. Introducing automation from the ground floor boosts process efficiency during the entire building process, as well as long-term maintenance and operating efficiency. These efficiencies reduce implementation risks and minimize downtime, mitigating the risk of rework.

Ensuring all stakeholders, including SIs and facility managers, agree on a crystal-clear scope before bidding begins is the best way to eliminate assumptions or unplanned surprises in the process. This collaboration is the only way to drive better specifications for optimized designs that allow digitization and integration to be delivered at the same price as a traditional building.

Measurements improve, ensure long-term building performance

With cutting-edge technological tools that enable digitized facility infrastructure, building owners have more insight about the project from design to operation. Digitized insights empower facility management teams to acquire, curate and present simplified and actionable paths to successful outcomes when challenges arise.

Some of these insights are standards-driven and can influence the long-term performance of the facility. For example, standards exist to measure lifecycle costing and general lifecycle analysis. And though there is no consensus industry standard, there are various benchmarks that measure the “economic impacts of buildings and building systems on occupants’ health, productivity and performance.”

Only by involving SIs from day one can building owners and stakeholders accurately assess building performance, find solutions when challenges arise and ensure facilities perform up to industry standards for the lifetime of the building.

SI-led trifecta maximizes building usability

Efficient design, planning and construction processes coupled with long-term facility performance and customer advocacy is the ideal trifecta to optimize building usability. Again, we see that involving SIs early helps stakeholders with this aim. Experts, such as systems integrators, can improve specifications for final integrated solutions and ensure they’re detailed enough to support the client’s required outcomes.

With their expertise ingrained in the process, SIs can help establish a culture of advocating for the customer and their desired outcomes while collaborating with the design firm and general contractor. The added benefit to customer advocacy is the reflection of that advocacy within the SI’s direct impact on the project, ultimately winning more business in the long run.  

Aligned, integrated project teams are the future of facility management

The Construction Institute finds that project owners should focus on the project-delivery strategy rather than solely on the delivery method. Importantly, the institute also finds that “those strategies which align the core project team—owner, designers, primary builder, and key specialty trades—are more effective in meeting or exceeding their cost, schedule, and quality goals.”

SIs operate with the efficiency, performance, comfort and health of the building in mind and always look at a building as a critical asset whose value is worth maximizing. Prioritizing collaboration, in part by welcoming SIs into the core project team, can inject their thoughtful approach and integrated knowledge into the entire building process. Leveraging SIs’ input from the beginning in an aptly named integrated effort offers tangible benefits to stakeholders with proof of success, and represents the digital future of facility management.