Edmonton integrator solves smart building puzzle
Integrator of the Year 2020 Fibertel Communications collaborates with project partners, owners and tenants to deliver a complex security infrastructure for the newly renovated HSBC Bank Place building
Almost any successful security integration project could rightly be called the solution to a puzzle. The task before Fibertel was taking pieces from different puzzles and placing them together such that they appeared to all come from the same box and form the same picture.
Edmonton-based Fibertel Communications Canada is SP&T News’ Integrator of the Year 2020, an annual award sponsored by Anixter Canada. Fibertel was named for the award by SP&T News’ editorial advisory board based on a nomination that detailed an integration project for client the Alberta Investment Management Corp. (AIMCo), specifically, HSBC Bank Place in downtown Edmonton.
The 18-storey HSBC building, owned by AIMCo and run by property management firm Epic Investment Services, was stripped down to its concrete bones and rebuilt a-new as a smart building. Multiple contractors, including general contractor PCL Construction, Western Electrical, engineering consultant Smith + Andersen, and HVAC specialist Automatic Controls, came on to handle the project. Fibertel was brought on board by Western Electrical to fulfill the security component.
Fibertel was responsible for installing a variety of systems including an access control system from Gallagher, 120 Bluetooth-enabled HID Global card readers, 120 Hanwha Techwin video surveillance cameras, a video management system from Pelco, an intercom and mass notification system from Commend and a ThyssenKrupp Destination Dispatch elevator system. The install also included network and structured cabling, and more than 200 intrusion devices and 18 intrusion panels. The solution was spread across 18 communication rooms, one per floor; the building-wide intercom system was also integrated with the elevator dispatch system.
One of the major challenges ahead of Fibertel was integrating the entire security system through a Building Management System (BMS) supplied by Schneider and installed by Automatic Controls. Coaxing these systems into talking to one another is where Fibertel truly earned its stripes, according to special project manager Tyson McCann.
“There’s nothing typical about this project,” he says. “When you start to get into what we did with the building automation, the BMS…it’s truly a unified system. Not only do you have the typical things that a building automation system is managing, like the lighting and the heating, etc., but now you’ve folded in the access control, the cameras,
the scheduling of the doors — who has access to what floors at what times. It’s all being done through the BMS. In my experience, I don’t know of any other building that has something of this magnitude in place.”
“Typically the BMS, and various other components — the ThyssenKrupp, the access control, the video surveillance — they work best typically on their own,” adds lead project manager Eddison Sambury. “So we had to take various manufacturers
that may not necessarily be aligned and have the various components mesh. We had to be that contractor, that expert, to figure out solutions to make those manufacturers align.” Sambury, who coined the aforementioned puzzle pieces from different boxes analogy, says, “We had to make different pieces … fit and look as one.”
For McCann, it became an exercise in machine linguistics — like trying to get a fax machine to talk to a computer via a scanner, he says.
“There’s very many companies that can install access control or install cameras. The real work begins when you try to have these different software platforms communicate with each other when they don’t natively do it already and having it work seamlessly.”
The HSBC building’s owner, AIMCo, is also its largest single tenant, occupying floors nine through 16 with an option to also move in to the eighth, should their expansion require it. Epic, as the property management company, is responsible for the day-to-day operations on site. Security had to be satisfied to the wishes of both companies, which essentially resulted in two end users, two sets of requirements and two timelines.
“We had to coordinate with AIMCo, but at the same time, we had the property management team, which is Epic, which took
ownership of the rest of the building — the parkade, the main floor and various other tenant floors up to the eighth,” explains Sambury. “We had to ensure that their requirements were met, so that when the tenants moved in, there aren’t any difficulties for the tenants to mesh into the system that we installed.”
Serving two clients created some pressure, notes McCann, especially when one tenant needed the elevators to be available by a particular date. That deadline required a complex integration linking the access control system to the elevator system. “The way the access control system wanted to communicate to the elevator control system, they weren’t even able to talk to the same communication protocol, so we needed to put translation in there, which ended up resulting in a third-party system to have that translation occur between the two platforms,” he says.
But tight timelines are not unusual for projects of this scope, he adds. “Ultimately the client has their requirements, and they’re shifting requirements. That can occur. It’s our job to make sure we hit those targets that are set for us.”
The complexity of the integration, combined with the flexibility required to meet multiple customer demands meant a high degree of collaboration formed between all of the contractors engaged with the project, says Sambury.
“To make things work, and make them work according to the customer’s requests, we had to spend a lot of time talking with the engineer, talking with Automatic Controls, ThyssenKrupp, even down to the door hardware contractor,” he says. “There were a lot of components that, on a typical project, we may not be as involved as we were, but with this HSBC job, we were in and amongst every discussion that was happening on that site.”
The bulk of the project was completed by November 2019 — at which point tenants were able to move into the building on an ongoing basis. An unforeseen complication, and one that affected construction projects and office buildings globally, was the pandemic.
By the time COVID-19 began to disrupt Canadian organizations, Fibertel was fortunate to be at the tail end of the HSBC project, but there were still a few issues to contend with.
“One of the larger things I’ve seen happen since COVID is there’s been some sporadic challenges with the supply chain,” says McCann. “We would have unknown lead times, but it wouldn’t be across the board. Sometimes things are showing up right on time and other times there’s a random shortage of different materials.
“It didn’t really affect this project too much, because at this point, we already had the materials in place. It was just making sure that we have the right people, that we are able to maintain contact and continue to talk to them and collaborate with them to make sure that we’re finishing it off properly.”
Sambury says the unusual situation created by COVID-19 required some shifts be rescheduled, so workers on-site could operate in isolation or socially distanced from one another. Likewise, collaboration with project partners had to move online and the teams embraced Zoom calls rather than face-to-face meetings to continue to communicate.
The building system, as developed and installed, also allows technicians to work on systems remotely, enabling quick diagnoses and faster troubleshooting.
“I always recommend providing us the ability to remote in, because that’s your first line of defence,” says McCann. “When anything goes wrong on a system, the first thing I want to see happen is have an analyst go in and see what they can see. Because very often, that’s going to help you get to the root cause of what’s going wrong on site.”
Both major stakeholders in this endeavor came away satisfied with the work as well as the dedication the Fibertel team demonstrated.
“They were willing to work with us and spend so much time making sure that everything was just the way it needed to be so that it worked with our IT group and facilities group and with the building group,” says Lisette Goyette, facilities coordinator, AIMCo, and one of the building’s regular tenants. “There were just a lot of moving pieces. In my opinion, they stick-handled it really well.”
“They were excellent communicators,” adds Kevin Humphrys, general manager, Epic. “The team that they had here on the ground knew how to manage the project, but what was very useful to the property management group was their ability to communicate in layman’s terms what was happening… so we can communicate that to our stakeholders.”
Goyette says that Fibertel senior security technician Andrew Mathiesen was particularly attentive to AIMCo’s needs. “We would not have gotten this job done without his expertise.”
She recalls a recent situation when she had an issue with a card reader. “Andrew called me back right away and walked me through it. They’re very customer service focused.”
The Fibertel team had to be flexible throughout the process, says Sambury, serving the building’s stakeholders while translating their vision of a smart building into reality.
“I always credit the team we have here. I was very happy that we were able to bring the team members together to come up with a design that could mesh the various systems together. It was truthfully and honestly a full team endeavor.”