Vital Roles: MSI

Altura Associates / UC Irvine

January 1, 2016
sq. ft.

Project Overview

Altura developed the specifications, standards, and templates that enable large scale converged network integrations of building automation, lab control, indoor air quality, lighting, and energy metering systems into an open, non-proprietary building automation front end and new data analytics platform for the entire University of California, Irvine (UCI) campus.

Project Scope

When Altura and UC Irvine started working together in 2016, UCI was struggling with proprietary automation systems (predominantly Siemens, JCI, and Alerton) and a brittle information technology network, leading to high costs, inflexibility, and poor network performance. Additionally, ongoing energy optimization and maintenance support projects were limited by data being stranded in multiple locations, often missing, and always with a high level of time consuming effort to access in support of even simple questions regarding the University’s networks and systems.

Altura worked with UC Irvine on twin efforts to integrate multiple campus systems into an open data analytics platform (SkySpark) and unlock the campus from several proprietary BAS systems and databases. They collaborated with multiple stakeholders and vendors to develop new Division 23 & 26 specifications and standards (naming, tagging, ontology) that leverage BACnet IP field controllers with an open Tridium Niagara supervisory environment. The new standard eliminates proprietary supervisory controllers and directly connects controllers via a large scale BACnet network to the supervisory stations, further future-proofing the systems via network architecture design. To support this, Altura worked heavily with the IT team to re-architect the network backbone for OT systems, including network standards, provisioning, and network traffic troubleshooting and optimization. To further the goal of delivering a multi-vendor environment, Altura helped UC Irvine develop a request for qualifications resulting in the selection of two qualified MSIs to perform work in the Niagara environment.

One of the unique challenges they are navigating is managing a highly integrated multi-vendor Niagara supervisory environment. To overcome this challenge, Altura is providing oversight of the campus MSI’s and other systems vendors, enforcing deep database, tagging, and naming requirements that are critical to success. As the master systems planner, Altura continuously improves the standards, specifications, and design documents needed to adapt to lessons learned and new technologies. They also oversee the health of the networks and stations, identifying risks and issues that impact system performance. 

Why It's Important

Altura has significant lessons learned from working with multiple MSIs in a multiple vendor enterprise BAS system. Their learnings extend to large scale BACnet network management as well. The takeaways on how specifications are enforced in practice versus on paper are insightful and showcase how to best plan for this.

The Future

While more than 20 buildings have been converted to the new open Niagara front end, more than 100 buildings remain to migrate to the new system. Migrations to date have been slow, requiring hardware upgrades with significant field and commissioning effort. Altura and UCI are currently working together to develop a new, more agile approach using software to enable migration of the legacy proprietary systems without requiring hardware modifications. This will allow UCI to then plan deeper, more valuable retrofits of the automation systems when appropriate, truly moving the campus further towards an open data architecture (without having to do everything all at once).

Altura and UCI are also working together to explore new ways to leverage the data analytics platform to enable ongoing Cx (OCx) as a proactive practice for identifying and remediating issues that can impact comfort and energy performance. This would rely on new workflows within the various shops on campus and the change management and support needed to make this a success.

Learn more about Altura.

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