Intelligent buildings - All round advantages in building control

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The rising cost of energy and the focus on "green issues" has put great responsibility on every commercial building manager and owner. The pressure is on to make continuous energy savings and this must be achieved through effective building management. Systems that track the energy performance of a building in real time can identify all areas where there is need for improvement, allowing the owner or occupier to take steps to further improve energy efficiency. Finding the best building management system and the most effective long-term solution to controlling energy usage is the challenge

The KNX Standard is the world's only open standard for building control and automation. The KNX standard is approved as: 
- European Standard (Cenelec EN 50090 and CEN EN 13321-1)
- International Standard (ISO/IEC 14543-3)
- Chinese Standard (GB/Z 20965) 
- US Standard ( ANSI/ASHRAE 135)

The standard has been adopted by many international manufacturers, who together provide a vast array of KNX certified products for a range of building control applications. The installation of KNX products can make major energy savings of up to 60%, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of a building. This is truly green sustainable technology that can be applied to small and large buildings alike.

An ever growing number of building owners are accepting KNX as a technology to achieve maximum energy efficiency. It has a number of advantages over alternative solutions including the ability for it to be integrated with any type of BMS thanks to its open protocol OPC Gateway. Once this integration has been achieved, KNX brings local and zonal control to every area of a building.

The over-riding advantage of KNX is it provides a holistic approach to efficient energy usage and is not limited to individual control of lighting/ HVAC/ intruder alarms/ audio visual systems/ household appliances/ blinds/solar control and automatic window control, façade management/ metering and monitoring applications. The KNX platform has been adopted by many and highly respected major manufacturers with their vast choice of products covering all these product lines. This is important to building owners in the longer term, as any installation is future proofed. Contractors, consultants, specifiers and end users looking for an open solution for building control applications are increasingly heralding KNX and recognising the drawbacks of proprietary solutions or various hardware-based controls. Were they to choose a proprietary protocol from a single manufacturer or integrator, then they would be beholden to that company and its technology. This could be problematic during the life cycle of a development. With KNX, in the event of a certain product no longer being available, there will be an alternative to replace it.

As KNX covers such a diversity of applications using one standard, it means cabling networks can be much simpler. A single twisted pair cable can often suffice, with multiple elements all operating together on a single network. KNX controlled devices are generally based around the standard green KNX bus cable (i.e. twisted pair) but can be run across radio bus (wireless), ethernet (structured cabling), fibre optic and occasionally power line.

A number of manufacturers have also developed ‘gateways' to other control protocols, such as DALI (digital addressable lighting intelligence). These simple devices are used to expand the capability of KNX control systems to provide the complete solution for a building. KNX has also worked closely with management-level protocols such as BACnet to enable a close co-operation between these two standards when the project requires additional integration.
What also helps to maintain KNX's superiority is that every KNX-compliant piece of equipment has been fully tested and certified to this highly stringent standard by an independent regulatory body. It is only at this point that it can carry the KNX logo, as controlled by the international KNX Association of Brussels. Therefore there is total confidence in reliability and interoperability, whatever KNX devices are chosen.

Another advantage of KNX is the ability to seamlessly add functions that work away in the background and go largely unnoticed. What is more, KNX is distributed technology so in the event of failure of one element of building services, the rest carries on regardless.
With the pressure on energy management, it is vitally important to make the most effective use of energy. For instance, a lighting control system can be simply configured to only put the lights on when someone is present in the room, and can monitor natural daylight levels to dim or turn the lights off when enough ambient light is present. A drive through any town centre or industrial estate at night will reveal there is much energy for lighting being wasted and this could be preserved by employing simple measures. Effective use of lighting control alone can result in highly significant energy savings and when integrated with shutter and blind controls, solar panels, façade management and effective monitoring, there are potentially massive savings.

Indeed, climate control is a critical area within office buildings and a KNX system will know when the blinds are closed as an inherent feature. At the same time, heating and ventilation can be regulated separately in each room via temperature sensors. During the winter, when warmth and light make an even greater contribution to the comfort that a building provides, KNX technology regulates climate and lighting for each room in accordance with the outdoor temperature and prevailing daylight levels. Investment return on each KNX device is highly geared as each product on the bus, such as a movement detector, can not only switch lighting as in conventional installations, but can also set back heating when a room is empty.
Another growth area is building security. In any property at night, for example, the KNX system can act as an "electronic watchdog" deterring crime. Motion detectors, glass break sensors and electronic shutter control can be connected to an alarm system or emergency call circuit. If there are suspicious noises, a panic button can be pressed and the lights go on and the shutters open. Should any alarm conditions occur, they can be conveyed by email or SMS and to a mobile phone.

Thus a KNX based intelligent building system offers benefits in terms of energy savings, comfort, lifestyle and security - as well as some more unexpected advantages. A growing application is in the area of assisted living where KNX can help in the execution of daily household tasks which otherwise may not be accomplished.

With the continued development of new KNX products from various manufacturers, the ability to record energy consumption data and to process this data for accounting and billing software products is now readily available.

Connection of the metering devices to the KNX bus system and coupling to IP allows the display and processing of the data on a touch panel. The visualisation can display the recorded and current data of every metering point. The conversion of the data with export functionality to Excel can be achieved with the push of a button and allows post-processing for the various accounting and billing software products currently available.

KNX metering products can record data such as heat consumption using heat meters; power consumption (different energy meters, flexible with IR interface); water consumption (water meter with KNX connection); fill level meter for tank content (oil, water, liquids).
The development of a worldwide standardised system to meter electronically the consumption of different commodities and to convert data for external post processing offers a number of advantages.  For example, customers can get an overview of the current consumption data at a push of a button and can identify irregularities faster and therefore save time, money and energy. A number of KNX manufacturers are involved in on-going development of meters.

There is a growing network of integrators who have joined KNX UK to share their experiences, to help to promote the KNX standard and assist consultants as well as building owners in achieving the optimum solution for their building. They can get involved at the drawing stage of any project, liaise with the client and install a KNX infrastructure that can be developed as the building itself develops or its use and occupants change.