This informal CPD article on The challenges of retrofitting smart systems into existing projects was provided by Dr Matthew Marson, Co-Founder of Smart Building Bootcamp, industry leaders responsible for delivering smart training to you.
As more of us uncover the benefits of using smart systems on our projects, the more we are finding complexity in how those systems are designed, installed, configured and procured. The challenges are even greater in existing physical assets where legacy building systems need to be integrated. As all buildings are different, the mix of systems and how they need to interact is just as different. It has led to a landscape that is full of variance and therefore, complexity. Outdated skillsets, low abilities to make informed decisions and vendor over-promises have resulted in an industry that is cautious of innovation in existing buildings.
To overcome this and cultivate a culture of innovation and responsible technological exploration, we must first seek clarity on best practices for implementing technology within buildings. As an extension to this, we must then work to upskill and support all those maintaining, working with and using technology to ensure it delivers the value it promises.
From a technical standards perspective, it is challenging to integrate and enable systems to meaningfully transfer information between each other. A significant hurdle facing building technologies is in how different systems are codified. It is common for different systems in a building to use different identification tagging formats for the same assets; a computer aided facilities management (CAFM) system might identify a light fitting as LGHT-001, while another system might identify it as LT-001.
If these systems are to be integrated, without using the same tagging system, an additional layer of abstraction in the form of mapping, will be required. To reduce the technical burden in a retrofit, the systems have to undergo the time- and money-intensive process of updating one or both systems with the same ID formats. That same problem arises for new buildings where all systems may have been originally set up using the same asset ID tagging, but through ongoing maintenance and asset replacements the consistency of as tagging becomes diluted by miscellaneous naming of new assets not in keeping with the previous formatting standards.