The synergy of integrated controls
Published: 02 February, 2012
Not only are integrated control systems very effective at reducing energy consumption, but they can readily exploit emerging technologies. Iain Gordon argues the case for integrated controls.
One of the first considerations with an energy-conservation project is how long it will take to pay for itself. It has been frequently proven that intelligent building controls have a much shorter payback than many other energy-based installations. This is partly due to the high capital costs that some of these installations involve, but also because building controls can have instant benefits.
University research has shown that the energy used for a building’s services can be more than halved when using a KNX intelligent building-controls system in comparison to conventional multi-platform systems that are not connected. Payback can be considered in years, not decades.
In addition to these savings are ongoing energy savings that will be achieved as new technologies are implemented that can be supported on the existing controls network. Smart metering is an example of a new requirement that can be supported on an existing infrastructure such as KNX without the need for expensive re-wiring.
Generally, an ‘intelligent building’ is one where owners, occupiers or managers have full and integrated control over their everyday working or living environment. This means that all or some of the building's services (including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security, metering, blinds, windows, façades and audio-visual systems) can all be controlled to the requirements of the user and interact with one another accordingly. The interaction within such systems can make a significant contribution to energy conservation and also offer a sustainable solution. They will not become obsolete and can be adapted as a building ages and new technologies are introduced or new tenants take over with different requirements.
For consultants, the nature of projects is continually evolving. Smart metering, photo-voltaics, power-factor correction and many other types of energy management and production are some of the current market leading technologies. For the future, these and other more radical technologies are going to be available on the KNX platform, providing more benefits for businesses prepared to use them.
The KNX standard and KNX technology provides the optimum solution for applications as wide apart as the large office complex and the single-family house. With KNX, the demand for the efficient use of energy can be coupled with the provision of comfort and versatility through intelligent control and the monitoring of all the products involved. In the past this has meant more wiring running from the sensors and actuators to the control and monitoring centres — with resultant higher design and installation costs.
KNX does away with the problems of isolated devices by ensuring that all components communicate in one common language. Via the KNX medium (twisted pair, radio frequency, IP/Ethernet or power line), to which all bus devices are connected, they are able to exchange information. Bus devices can be sensors or actuators needed for the control of building management equipment. KNX can also be coupled to other systems, with several KNX manufacturers offering gateways to most other types of network and building management systems, telephone networks, multimedia networks, IP networks and so on. KNX systems can also be mapped to BACnet objects and also offer the possibility of interfacing with DALI technology.
The continuing and growing acceptance of KNX is underlined by high-profile commercial projects such as Central St Giles in London, MediaCityUK in Salford, T5 at Heathrow Airport, the O2 in Dublin and Delhi International Airport.
In the residential sector, KNX has always provided lifestyle choices, but the specification of KNX is increasingly in response to a demand for a versatile, intelligent home-automation system with the ability to control everything from lighting, heating, automated blinds/curtains, entrance gates and garage doors through to heated towel rails and the secondary circulation of a hot-water system. Consultants are continually impressed with its capabilities compared with other control systems.
The adaptability of the system and the ability to add extra functionality or upgrades of KNX products at a later date are important. There are over a hundred different manufacturers supplying equipment to the KNX standard and a vast choice of switch designs, control panels and other products to choose from to suit the high-specification interior design of any type of property.
Iain Gordon is president of the KNX UK Association and the owner of systems integrator GES Digital.
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