Last month, we interviewed Chris Thorne and Steven Crocombe, both directors at Imperium Systems.
We wanted to find out what makes Imperium Systems such a successful company especially as they are undertaking both residential and commercial projects.
Innon: What motivated you and your business partners to start Imperium Building Systems?
Chris: One of the things we regularly saw in our industry were challenges around technology integration. BMS technology has evolved significantly in our sector over the last decade. Yet, despite this, we still see very common issues due to the way people are trying to integrate systems.
Open Protocol technology has simplified many integration issues from a technical standpoint, but we believe successful integration starts right at the beginning of the design phase. Addressing integration as a whole and delivering the best-integrated technologies motivates us and is the driving force in our business.
Innon: Can you tell us what sets Imperium Systems apart?
Chris: I think there are a couple of main differences. Firstly, integration is our genuine core strength. Most businesses in our industry provide integration solutions, and many do it well, but we really are masters at integrating tech, and many clients seek us out for this reason.
Next, we take a very holistic approach to our projects and work extremely hard to coordinate with the other specialist trades from day zero, so that lines of integration are clear, can be designed at the start, and managed appropriately throughout the delivery phase.
When we design a system, we always start with the clients’ goals and the project scope and choose the most appropriate technologies to suit. It’s a cliché for sure, but our goal is always to provide the best solution.
Innon: When you started the company, did you use Niagara or transition from another BMS? Can you tell us a few words about Niagara and Imperium?
Steven: We were all Niagara trained before, so when we founded the business one of the first things we did was to become a Niagara certified organisation.
We believe that Niagara fits into our brand agnostic approach because it is such an open protocol framework and provides us with the versatility and power to deliver on our core principles.
These days Niagara will work with pretty much every system you can throw at it. It might take some engineering magic, but generally, you can get anything to work with Niagara.
For example, we might use Niagara combined with Crestron in our residential projects because the two platforms provide a comprehensive end-to-end solution for the client with Crestron providing a clean user interface and Niagara Tridium managing the less glamourous aspects with the heating and cooling controls.
Innon: When it comes to using Niagara, would you like to have any additional features?
Steven: Yes, there are always little things you come across as an engineer that you think might make a particular job easier. But the best thing about Niagara is, there's usually someone out there who has tried to do that thing beforehand.
Innon: Agreed, hence we started our Niagara 4 Engineers Facebook Group.
Innon: Do you prefer to use Tridium Niagara or any other Niagara flavours?
Steven: Mostly, we use Tridium Niagara on probably for 99% of the jobs.
I tend to prefer to use the standard Tridium version of Niagara, just because you are usually more up to date. And sometimes, it can take the other suppliers a little while to make their great thing versions of the latest Niagara release when it comes out.
Innon: How do you see the future of the buildings and houses in terms of BMS / BAS technology?
Chris: When it comes to the residential market, especially with prime and super-prime
property, we are usually at the mercy of the interior designers and architects in terms of what we can install. Space is at a premium, and so we need to fit our technologies into very small spaces.
Furthermore, the demand for technology and fully integrated smart homes will only continue growing rapidly, so we need to be able to create powerful, reliable, and user-friendly solutions that don’t take up expensive real estate. Ultimately they have to merge seamlessly into the background, there when a client needs to interact with it, but almost invisible when they don’t. This is largely true for any building, be it residential or commercial.
Innon: To what extent do you educate your clients around the best technology choice, and how much do you comply with the specs?
Chris: We are a solution provider first and foremost, and it is our core philosophy that we offer the most appropriate solution for the project.
We never try to shoe-horn in a platform that isn’t right for the job. If we feel there is a better option than what a client is considering, or if we can enhance a spec with our expertise and knowledge of technology integration we will always work with the client and their professional team to explore options.
Innon: What are the steps you take when designing a solution for your clients?
Chris: We want clients to be thrilled with their new system. What we do is very special
and takes a considerable amount of time, in the beginning, helping the client to understand the different options and how these compare from a price vs functionality perspective.
Once we have carried out the initial client scoping discussions, we will often work through many iterations of a design with the client before we arrive at the final solution.
Innon: How important is freedom of choice, using open protocols and the ability to use
different options from different providers.?
Steven: As Chris has previously discussed, our ultimate goal as a business is to find the right products for the jobs we are doing. Having the ability to work with open protocol technologies from different vendors means we really can provide the best solution at a price point that is within budget, without sacrificing functionality or reliability.
Innon: What is the best, and what is the most painful part of a project? How do you overcome the most difficult challenges?
Steven: I guess the best part of any project is when we are at the handover stage, demonstrating the system and showing the customer what their new building can do. It is extremely rewarding seeing a client start to see how their dream and vision has come to life because of our efforts. Overcoming challenges starts with patience and relies on experience.
We often see how clients or other contractors can quickly become unnecessarily stressed when problems arise. As a business that has to coordinate with many different parties, we have learned to keep a cool head and look at things objectively and without too much emotion. We’re engineers at the end of the day… all problems have a solution.
Innon: If you had a magic wand, what would you wish from Tridium?
Steven: I guess t's just to keep improving the way it has done. So from the release of AX to Niagara 4, there were lots of great improvements. Just keep that up and still be around. Don't go anywhere :)
Innon: What are the key elements you feel Innon has helped you deliver your vision, and what would you want us to improve?
Steven: We like using the iSMA Sedona controllers, such as the AAC20. These are very
helpful for some of our residential projects as they provide the functionality we need in a
small footprint. Another good thing is the learning platform. The learning platform has been well received, and most of our engineers have signed up so far and benefit from using it.
We wish the team at Imperium Systems many new exciting projects ahead. We are sure that their passion for integration, combined with their holistic approach to creating solutions, will continue to bring them lots of success and maybe even change the world for the better.
Thank you for reading,
The Innon Team :)