July 19, 2012
EllisDon combines building automation, computer networks in George Brown College health sciences building
EllisDon Corp. is working with Cisco Systems Inc. on the Toronto waterfront campus of George Brown College, in which the building sensors will be on the same network as the information technology and communications systems.
The building will have a “very high level of building automation,” said Terry Comeau, executive director for waterfront development at George Brown College. She made her remarks during a recent tour for journalists and industry analysts of the new health sciences building, under construction on the shore of Lake Ontario.
Scheduled to open this September at a cost of about $175 million, George Brown College is aiming for gold certification under leadership in energy and environmental design, or LEED, which is one requirement for developers building in Waterfront Toronto precincts. The building is on former port land next door to the Corus Entertainment building. Comeau said the college is installing building sensors and a probe system designed to get data such as wind speed, temperature and humidity. The data will be used by the college’s construction technology department to determine the most responsive curtainwall, she said, adding it will be connected to the computer systems using Internet Protocol, or IP.
IP is the electronic communications protocol originally designed for data communication among computing devices, but in recent years it has been expanded to other electronic devices, including phones, video devices and building automation systems.
“The buildings that we’re building are full of systems and devices that make the building work, from elevators to light switches to light fixtures to air conditioning to heating to security cameras,” said Rick Huijbregts, vice-president for smart connected communities and real estate at Cisco Systems Canada Co. of Toronto. “In the traditional work, all of these systems came with their own infrastructure and speak their own protocols.” He made his remarks in a presentation before the waterfront campus tour.
Founded in 1984, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco’s traditional core business is switches and routers for large computer networks and telecommunications carriers, but the firm has since started working on projects that combine HVAC, lighting and other building systems on to IP.
“We have 17 or 18 projects where we are actively involved” in Canada, Huijbregts said.
For example, with EllisDon, Cisco worked on PwC Tower at 18 York Street in Toronto, developed by Great West Life Realty Advisors. In that office tower, the building automation, security and lighting control systems are combined on one fibre optic backbone. It also worked with Tridel on the Reve King West condominiums on Front and Bathurst Streets, where in one unit the owner can program the behaviour of the lighting and HVAC systems.
The George Brown College Centre for Health Sciences will house students in nursing dental and other health programs. It’s designed to emphasize collaboration between the professions and less on formal lectures, with multimedia screens plus simulation rooms designed to emulate a critical care unit, operating room and a home setting.
The construction project required a detailed review of the cable risers and different networked systems, said Michael Wolf, EllisDon’s senior information and communications technology project manager.
“We were really pushing on this converged network so we would have one path for all this information to follow,” he said. “We realized very quickly that we would have to have a very detailed bill of material, we would have to design our (local-area network) rooms and we would have to work closely with Cisco in terms of understanding exactly what the equipment was … (that) we had the proper rack size, the proper racking layouts and appropriate infrastructure in place.”
Wolf added the design of the network was a factor in the overall construction schedule and with building automation systems on one IP network, contractors need to consider how the network affects the overall commissioning plan for the building.
“You really see the evolution of construction and how IT has become a big part of that build process.”
Comeau said the technology is brand new, so college officials had to discuss the design of the software with EllisDon, Cisco and other vendors, including Honeywell International Inc. and Fifth Light Technology of Oavkille, Ontario, which makes hardware and software to control lighting.
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