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HVAC/R Jun 29, 2023

Health care building automation model shifts

At a glance

  • Hospitals and health care facilities and related medical buildings require integration and interoperability provided by building automation and controls.
  • Interconnectivity via automation and controls can make a huge difference in the patient experience.

As hospitals and health care facilities evolve, the building automation and controls within them must change, according to an MEP Roundtable panel in this article first published in Consulting Specifying Engineer.


  • Tanner Burke, PE, senior fire protection engineer, ACS Group, Austin, Texas
  • Derek Cornell, senior associate, Certus Consulting Engineers, Dallas, Texas
  • Beth Gorney, PE, assistant project manager, Dewberry, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Sierra Spitulski, PE, LEED AP BD+C, associate principal, studio leader, mechanical engineer, and project manager, P2S Inc., Long Beach, California
  • Kristie Tiller, PE, LEED AP, associate, team leader, Lockwood, Andrews, & Newnam Inc., Dallas, Texas.





From your experience, what systems within hospitals, health care facilities, and medical campus projects are benefiting from automation that previously might not have been?


Derek Cornell: Automated real-time location systems and their integration into something as simple as the light fixtures in the space are proving to be beneficial to health care facilities. It is important for health care facilities to be flexible, adaptable buildings, and a robust-asset tracking system is crucial to effective facility operation.

Sierra Spitulski: The future of automation in hospitals is a bright one. From wayfinding to interfacing patients with the hospital directly by leveraging the patient experience with technology and increasing equipment interconnectivity, which enables even the lowest-level coil to interface with these more sophisticated central controls systems to give or take commands according to programmed sequences, this a big direction for the future.


What types of system integration and/or interoperability issues have you overcome for these projects, and how did you do so?


Sierra Spitulski: The biggest hurdle for hospitals on the systems integration and interoperability front has been proprietary versus nonproprietary control systems. For nonproprietary systems, the best model we’ve used involves a cloud-based server to ensure standardized sequences and programming to allow for normalized bids, reduction of licensing fees, and better control of contractor installations. By removing proprietary controls, hospitals aren’t forced to sacrifice quality and can hold contractors accountable when necessary.



Derek Cornell: Hospitals contain a vast amount of secure data, including information that is required to be protected from fraud and theft by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (known as HIPAA). This is one of the reasons why security is a real concern with any wireless system in health care facilities and why hospital information technology leads are very hesitant to allow this technology onto their campuses. One way to prevent cyberattacks on these secure systems is to ensure any wireless technology that is implemented in a facility does not operate on a standard Wi-Fi signal but rather uses an IEEE 802.15.4 protocol such as ZigBee. This type of protocol and the standards put in place are designed to prevent the interference.

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This content was previously published by Consulting Specifying Engineer