Guest post by C. Webster Marsh, a lighting design controls specialist at HLB Lighting Design in Boston, MA. His views do not necessarily reflect those of HLB.
Whether it be an office building with a smart Building Management System (BMS), a dynamic color changing bridge, or a lobby with an interactive multimedia experience, architectural lighting controls systems need integration. A lighting controls systems integrator provides a unique service for lighting controls by identifying and overseeing the devices necessary for the unique needs of the project’s design. Some projects don’t use a dedicated lighting controls integrator and some projects experience challenges without the aid of a dedicated integrator. For project success, a lighting controls designer should know when to onboard and specify an integrator.
What is Integration
Integrators are people who make sure that interconnected devices and systems communicate effectively. The services they provide have become a catch-all term for lighting controls installation services and they can refer to many things. Integration services emerged out of the need for merging everything under a single control station. Modern control stations may control multiple spaces or even an entire building and an integrator helps bid and install the systems specified. With the help of integration, control stations may also be used for different systems, such as a conference room with an AV system that also controls the lights. In such a project the lighting designer would specify the luminaires, the AV designer would specify the controls system, and the integrator would make sure that the luminaires and controls are compatible and communicate with each other. The need for integration services has only grown since and there are now integrators that fit different niches, and depending on the project, may become instrumental in its success.
How Does Integration Work?
There are two main categories that integrators fall into:
1. Design Consultant
2. Installer and Programmer
Design consultant integrators work in the design phase to help create a robust bid package, so that contractors can accurately bid on and install projects. In this capacity, integrators can be the lighting consultant or work closely with the lighting consultant. Sometimes, the manufacturer’s representative can be the integrator when helping a consultant to create a basis of design and sequence of operations specification. Design consultant integrators may oversee the programming and installation of the system, but commonly do not work in lieu of contractors or manufacturer personnel. On simple projects this type of integration service is hard to distinguish from a lighting controls designer, but with more complex projects and controls systems the service supports the increased documentation required for a thorough and complete specification.
Installer and programmer integrators are often retained by the electrical contractor and function as an additional contractor. There are two common types within this category: A Lighting Controls Systems Integrator (LCSI) or a Manufacturer Provided Technician (MPT). A LCSI often refers to a 3rd party integrator that is either in addition to an MPT or in lieu of an MPT. An LCSI is used on complex lighting designs in which multiple manufacturers are working together on the same system, such as in a DMX512 color changing system. The other type is a Manufacturer Provided Technician (MPT), which refers to an integrator that is provided by a manufacturer and included in the bid as part of the overall lighting control system cost. Typically, an MPT will not work on devices that are not manufacturer provided, which means an MPT is limited in scope if some of the devices on your controls system come from a different manufacturer or distributor. A LCSI is often specified on a DMX512 system, because DMX512 is an open protocol in which a handful of different manufacturers provided components may need to be tied together.
Either way, an installer and programmer integrator will support the project’s design by working on and/or coordinating the purchasing, installing, programming, and commissioning needs. The integrator will also pay close attention to the Owners Project Requirements (OPR) and the Basis of Design (BOD) which includes operational intent (aka sequence of operations). Furthermore, they will ensure controls and luminaires are compatible, coordinate how and when the system programming takes place (at one time or phased start up), and most importantly they will ensure owners are well trained in operating their lighting control system.
How to Specify an Integrator
Identifying who pays for integration services is an important part of the specification. If the integrator is a part of the design team, then they would collect consulting fees from the team that hired them and would not need specifications. Specifications are for the LCSI or MPT and may vary from project to project, but the contractor typically pays for the integration and so it should be included in the bid.
As mentioned above specifying an MPT is often part of the manufacturer’s provided services and may not need a separate bid document from the controls specifications. A lighting controls designer should consult with the luminaire and controls manufacturer during the design phase to decide how best to specify any services and to identify if any 3rd parties are recommended in addition to the MPT to achieve the design intent. Sometimes on complex designs the manufacturer will recommend an LCSI in addition to the MPT.
Specifying an LCSI can be the most challenging as each project has different needs, but at minimum it is recommended to have a written prescriptive specification document that outlines the capabilities, skills, and responsibilities of the LCSI. Clarifying the scope that an LCSI is responsible for can provide contractors with important information during the bid process and can help avoid scope conflicts or missing scope during the construction process.