Introducing the Master System Integrators and WHY you need them for your next Smart Buildings

by Sep 11, 2020

Traditional Building Systems vs Smart Building Systems

Isn’t that the job of the System Integrator (SI)?

Yes, a System Integrator can be called upon to integrate all these various systems. However, there are limitations on what they can achieve. System Integrators are usually brought in during the construction phase. Buildings in the past were just structures with segregated systems for plumbing and electricity. As building system became more complicated, the role of system integrators came about to help the systems talk.

However, as building systems become more sophisticated, this may be too late. The energy management system may have sub-systems that may not work with the elevator management system etc. Or the fire alarm system may not run with the security subsystems. Such situations can also lead to variation orders and change requests that can prove costly. Imagine the building owner has already paid for a million dollars’ worth of video walls, yet they are unable to communicate with the audio-visual systems.

So why not bring in the SI earlier?

Unfortunately, SI’s don’t work that way. SI’s need instructions and scope to integrate all these systems. They are usually vendors themselves and would-be dealers for certain products etc. Since they are not consultants, they also lack the high-level design qualifications or ability to develop tender documents.

The MSI is part of the design and consultancy team and would enter earlier in the project. The SI is part of the build team and enters typically during the construction phase.

Master System Integrators (MSI)? Sounds familiar.

If you’ve been in airport construction projects, then you’ve definitely heard of the term MSI. Airports are a complex network of structures and systems that have to run like clockwork due to their requirements. Some airports may have a few terminals, runways and a control tower with people movers in between all of them. Airports could be easily defined as the original Smart Buildings due to their complex nature of integrated systems.

MSI is responsible for a myriad of systems such as passenger bridges, airport lights etc. Below is just a simple illustration of some (not all) of their responsibilities. Imagine if just the MEP consultant would handle all of these responsibilities? They’d be overwhelmed. They would have to manage mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and be able to grasp all these specialized systems too.


Above is a simple illustration of the responsibilities of an MSI with regards to an Airport design and construction project.

So what would be the responsibilities under an MSI for a Smart Building?

A very valid question. To best utilize an MSIs expertise for a Smart Building, the following systems (and not limited to) should come under their responsibility.

  • Safety and Security, e.g. Fire Safety, CCTVs, Access Control, Intrusion etc
  • Telecommunications such as Wireless/Local Area Network, Unified Telecommunications Systems, Telecommunication Distribution Systems etc
  • Building and Facilities such as HVAC, Energy Management Systems, Lighting control, Elevator & Escalator control etc
  • Audio & Visual such as Digital Signages and information kiosks, Parking Information systems, Public Address systems, Video walls etc

Of course, the MSI should not only limited to these systems and should also adapt to including systems for other industries. E.g. for transport terminals they should be able to include transport information systems, queue management, and ticketing, etc. For hospitals, they should be able to include patient tracking systems and visitor management systems.

smart building
warehouse Robots

MSI is future-ready

Soon, we should be able to see the increase in automation use and inclusion of robotics in buildings and terminals. MSIs would be able to introduce such systems such as robotic cleaners, automated hotel check-ins and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in management. This would greatly aid in lowering building maintenance and operations costs whilst improving operational efficiency and effectiveness.

MSI can benefit Smart Building Architects and Owners

It’s clear that with more requirements from Smart Buildings, the MSI will eventually become a mainstay in the industry. They’ll be armed with building system expertise and a good grasp of the available future-ready technology. Coupled with a strong understanding of design and management fundamentals, the MSI will be able to assist the architect and the building owners in turning their vision into a reality.

Contact us for more information on Master System Integrators and how they work.