Q&A with Bryan Cantrell, BMS Specialist, Lead Mechanical Engineer
Senior engineer and recent hiree Bryan Cantrell is Lilker’s resident expert in Building Management Systems (BMS), a once revolutionary and evolving intelligent building technology that allows facility managers to easily connect, monitor and operate their mechanical and electrical systems through digitized automation and control systems. His work encompasses all of the firm’s engineering practices—mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection—and his involvement on projects ranges from major global airport hubs to commercial buildings, from hospital and healthcare facilities to K-12 school construction.
Below is an interview with Bryan where we learn more about his role, the projects he has worked on, and how he got into the Building Management Systems arena.
Hi Bryan – Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be a BMS controls expert?
My academic degree is in mechanical engineering, but prior to joining Lilker I spent most of my career on the BMS contractor/builder side at Siemens, a global leader in building management system technology. Our role at Siemens was to ensure our engineering clients’ requirements were effectively translated into real-world BMS that met the needs of the owner and the project. Over the six years I was with Siemens, I learned how BMS are developed—including what information and inputs are required and how to create a controls diagram and sequence of operations. I worked with the team to develop the BMS for LaGuardia Terminal B, as well as for healthcare facilities, schools and government buildings.
How does your background on the BMS contractor side translate to your work at Lilker?
My main role is to act as the link between Lilker’s engineers and the BMS contractor—to specify the requirements for the BMS design in language the contractor will understand. My work at Lilker begins once the engineering designs from the disparate practices—mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection—are about 60% complete. I then sit down with each of the engineering disciplines to understand what they are trying to accomplish, what type and quantity of equipment is being specified, what type of controls are needed, and how the units will communicate with the BMS, i.e., hardwire signal or internet protocol. With this information, I create a system of controls and sequencing operations that comprises all of the systems and functions the BMS will be responsible for controlling. I develop a controls design, coordinating the devices (on the HVAC side, for example, air handlers, exhaust, fans, dampers, etc.) that will be sending signals to the BMS and determining how the systems should work in every scenario. I also work directly with equipment supply companies, like Trane for example, to make sure any prepackaged control systems meet the requirements of the BMS.
Once the controls design requirements are finalized, the BMS contractor—a company such as Siemens or another supplier—will take those requirements and build the system as well as write the program that follows the specific sequencing.
What are the challenges of your role?
There are several challenges in BMS design, starting with a kind of language barrier. BMS has a specialized vocabulary, which is unfamiliar to most people who are untrained in the discipline. What makes sense to me may not make sense to the engineers, so I need to be sensitive to that. Another particularly challenging aspect of my role is that I need to have a basic understanding of all the various MEP engineering practices—mechanical, electrical, fire protection, plumbing, energy, even security—as well as the BMS’ communications systems, whether they’re hardwired or IP. If the BMS is monitoring and controlling the plumbing system, for example, I need to understand the scope and various devices specified. With fire/life safety, I get involved with how the alarm signals are sent out, what kinds of sensors and controls we’re using, and whether the system should shut down or purge. With electrical, I need to ensure that the BMS is receiving the power it needs to run the system, as well as to understanding metering and other requirements, such as automation of emergency generators. And of course, as a technology-based discipline, new systems and software are continuously emerging, so it’s a constant process of continuing education.
What projects are you currently working on with the Lilker team?
The largest project I’m currently working on is JFK Terminal 6. Lilker is providing engineering design for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems for the 1.2 million square-foot terminal for JFK Millennium Partners and JetBlue Airway. The terminal’s sophisticated BMS system will control the HVAC systems, gas monitoring and life safety systems, including smoke control/purge and equipment shutdown. In addition to specifying BMS controls design and sequencing, Other recent projects include replacement of the existing pneumatic control system with a new BACNET Networked BMS for Cypress Hills Collegiate High School in Brooklyn, BMS/Fire Alarm System upgrades for Innovation Diploma Plus, and BMS services for 32,000 square feet of office renovations in the Grace Building for ANTIN Infrastructure Partners. Since I’ve been at Lilker, I’ve also been involved in mechanical design for OR and CT rooms for some of the city’s largest healthcare systems, including Mount Sinai and New York Presbyterian.