How to spec Division 25

How to spec division 25 integration automation smart buildings
What’s Div. 25 and why should we be aware of it?

The consulting specifying engineer of today is venturing into totally new territory: Division 25. While the MSI is familiar with the need for a Building IoT platform and a way to integrate all the systems in a building, the consulting engineer is only just starting to engage on this level.

We hosted a webinar with Greg Fitzpatrick from Cochrane Supply to dig into what Div. 25 is, why we should be aware of it, and how we should begin to spec it. Watch our webinar recording, or read on for a recap!

What is Division 25? 

Division 25 is “Integration automation.” So that’s where all your technology — all the hardware and software, roles and responsibilities of the contractors, as well as the standards — is going to be specified to build an IoT integration platform. It’s not just saying “Hey, I want this company in my building.” You want to draw a definitive line of demarcation between the traditional controls contractor and the systems integrator. Div. 23 is where you’ll specify all your equipment controls and edge devices. Div. 25 is that platform you build to bring in and integrate all those building technologies. 

Why should we care about Division 25? 

There’s been a shift in our industry, ever since our devices and systems started being integrated and connected through the Internet. This integration requires a new type of contractor with a different set of skills. Div. 25 is going to be more and more prevalent as smart building adoption grows. So we have MSIs and consulting specifying engineers who are learning about and coming to understand Division 25 better. 

How does a company evolve from an integrator to an MSI?

The shift requires an investment. It’s no longer about being the master of one or two controls vendors and a handful of integration products. Now it’s about being the master of an entire building. 

You have to go get training, learn about all of the different vendors and all of the integration products. Because that’s what you’re going to be tasked with in the field. You can’t control what’s going to be integrated on these sites, and you have to understand how it will all work together. Even more than that, you’ll probably have to pick up a product line that you can use on your own, or establish a development team to create some of these custom integrations that might not exist off the shelf. 

You have to elevate your game. You have to be up to date on the technology, because there’s no one else left to ask; you are the top of that technology chain. To succeed as an MSI, you have to know it all and have answers to whatever might come up. 

How do I find an MSI? 

Cochrane Supply has trained more than 400 MSIs over the years, and they can help you get in touch with the right MSI for your needs. Our own Optigo website has a list of MSIs to help you get started, and we have a list of questions that you should be asking any MSI when you’re looking to hire. Between all those resources, you’re well-equipped to begin finding the right MSI for you. 

How do I qualify an MSI? 

You really need to know how knowledgeable that MSI is. Where is their expertise? What sort of training and certification have they gone through? They’ll be very knowledgeable about any questions you have in general. When you ask what the pieces of a smart building are and how they work together, they should have an answer. If they can’t answer that question, they’re probably not in a position to deliver that smart building system. Check out our list of questions that you should ask any MSI, for more conversations you should be having with a potential MSI. 

Cochrane Supply has also developed a sample Div. 25 spec, that outlines the roles and responsibilities of a Master Systems Integrator. That will give you the sort of language that you should use when talking to and qualifying an MSI. 

As MSIs and Building-IoT grow in prevalence, why might we want to separate the IT and OT networks? 

The main reasons we want to separate IT and OT is because of the cybersecurity risks, liability, control, and comfort and safety. There are just such drastic differences in setup, behaviour, and needs between IT and OT, and there are gaps in understanding and knowledge. IT and OT teams can work together, but they need to be empowered to own their systems, and they need to understand their differences. Risk management is huge, and you have to be aware of the interplay between cybersecurity and liability. 

What does the process look like for specing Div. 25?

Cochrane Supply has come up with a concept that they call “the brain and the spine,” that encapsulates their process for approaching Div. 25. It includes:

  1. Appoint a technology coordinator
  2. Develop a topology of the IoT platform and integrated systems
  3. Develop an integration matrix for the drawings
  4. Complete the Div. 25 specification
  5. Technology coordinates plan and spec review

The process for specifying Division 25

What should the system topology look like? 

The section in the red dotted line here represents the brain, while the blue circle represents the spine of the OT network. That’s your integrated platform. You integrate everything from there, through utilities, life safety, security, lighting, HVAC, and all the rest. 

The system topology centred around the "brain and spine," Div. 25

What are the different roles involved with getting this topology? 

From a consulting engineering standpoint, the mechanical engineering group will likely be the department driving this entire Division 25 process. Or, if you have a large enough firm with a director of technology or a technology department, they might be the ones to drive it forward. Looking at the above topology, you’d have the electrical and mechanical contractors closely involved with laying out and specifying a project like this. It’s really a matter of making sure that each and every one of those specification divisions has the proper language to point them back to Division 25 and the appropriate mechanical drawing that shows that integration matrix in addition to this topology. 

Keep in mind, this is a new concept to the consulting engineering world, though not to the MSIs. Now the issue is to roll this out to the consulting engineers, to grow that understanding and engage them on Div. 25 even more.  

How does everything integrate? 

This integration matrix lays out all the different systems, where they are spec’d, and other pertinent information you need to be aware of. 

The Div. 25 integration matrix

What are the best consultants and engineers doing?

They’re on the edge of technology. They’re researching and learning and bringing people in. They want to understand what’s out there now and where the industry’s going. 

The good ones are really concerned about forming technology departments. You need someone, even if it’s one person as a director of technology, to keep up with the technology for building systems. It’s not as complicated as you might think, but you have to put the time in to understand and learn so that you have the answers when people come to you. 

How can you establish security standards when IoT has no standards yet? 

It’s more process than product. That’s how you’re going to win every time. The more layers of security you have the better off you’ll be, of course. But it’s the processes you put in place, the education you provide for every member of your team, that will help you keep the building secure. And again, separating your IT and OT networks can help a great deal, as well. Learn more about addressing cybersecurity concerns in your building automation systems

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