KNX creates a contemporary twist

Reputedly home to more millionaires per square mile than any other county in the UK, Cheshire is no stranger to impressive executive homes. However, when David Edwards decided to commission a multi-million pound property that would become his new family home, he was keen to use the most advanced technology to create a house that would not only have the wow factor but one that would offer exceptional comfort, convenience and energy efficiency.

The result is Bank Hall House. But it is no folly of gadgets, gizmos and technological flashes in the pan, in fact it is an extremely functional home that uses technology to complement the way in which David and his family use their space. More importantly, the KNX systems used allow the family members to set scenes and re-programme the controls to adapt the way the house functions for different times of the day, different times of the year or simply differing moods, social occasions and family activities.

More impressive still is that the house will be able to move with technology and with the family’s changing needs. With more than a hundred manufacturers worldwide now supplying thousands of KNX-compatible building control products there is an unparalleled choice of controls and functions that can be integrated quickly and easily into the existing system. What’s more, with the KNX protocol celebrating its 20-year anniversary this year, this now well-established technology is set to grow still further with more manufacturers and specialist integrators getting on board.

Lifestyle choices

From the outset, David was keen that his new family home should make use of the most advanced technology and construction methods available in order to meet his comfort and energy efficiency goals. As a result, in addition to its impressive use of KNX technology, BankHall House is actually the UK’s largest polystyrene home using a construction method known as ICF (Insulated Concrete Formwork), which was pioneered in the USA and both speeds up the construction process and provides excellent levels of insulation throughout the building. This construction method involves the erection of a lightweight steel frame and the polystyrene structure is built around this in two parallel layers. Once the polystyrene structure has been created a layer of concrete is poured between the two polystyrene walls creating a polystyrene sandwich. The whole structure is then rendered and looks just like a traditional build.

In fact, BankHall House couldn’t be more traditional in appearance. Architecturally it is Georgian in style and it has been conceived on a grand scale with six bedrooms, five bathrooms, Orangeries forming both a drawing room and elegant dining room, a swimming pool, a games room, a sauna, a home cinema and a gym. Garage space sufficient to accommodate nine cars has also been cleverly incorporated into the building below ground, with landscape terracing above to disguise it.

This blend of traditional style and advanced technology was central to David’s vision from the outset: “We wanted a traditional home,” he said, “but we didn’t want the creaky floorboards, draughty bedrooms and dodgy electrics that are often part of the ‘charm’ of a period house. Using KNX technology allowed us to incorporate the most advanced and functional technology in a subtle way. Yes, it’s impressive, but more than anything it is practical and energy efficient. After all, this is not a show home it is a place to live for my family and it has to function as that.”

Integrated functionality

Specialist KNX integrator, Discovery Systems, was brought in to take a brief for the specification of the building controls and the company was able to recommend suitable solutions to answer the family’s requirements for functionality and energy efficiency.

Mike Collins from Discovery Systems says: “Bank Hall House is a very large property with more than 900 light fittings so it was important to think about how different services would work together and about how to ensure ease of operation and monitoring by the end user. Jung systems are our preferred choice of KNX controls and by using the Jung Facility Pilot we were able to create a user-friendly and adaptable control system that would give the end user centralised, real time information and allow him to alter settings using an easy-to-operate, wall-mounted touch screen panel.”

Designed to allow co-ordinated monitoring and visualisation of all the building control elements within a building across a range of protocols, the Jung Facility Pilot system enables the end user to pre-programme, visualise and control everything from a single touch screen panel, or multiple panels located in different parts of the building if the end user prefers. As with all KNX controls, the software used to provide this functionality is complex but the user interface has been developed with simplicity in mind. As a result, the Edwards family can check the status of any of the house’s 900 light fittings, adjust the settings on the heating or select from a number of pre-programmed settings as easily as they would navigate their mobile phone menu.

The Jung Facility Pilot ensures that the Edwards family has much more than instant visualisation, monitoring and centralised control of their KNX systems as it actively helps them manage the controls to optimise energy efficiency. Thanks to the integration of Bank Hall House’s lighting, heating, cooling, audio-visual and security systems, the Jung Facility Pilot can trigger linked events and automatically switch controls on or off under specific, pre-programmed conditions. For example, if the lighting control sensors in the home cinema detect that there is no longer anyone in the room, the system will automatically power down the audio-visual equipment and turn down the heating, preventing any power from being wasted. However, if the family would prefer to keep the room warm for further use later in the day, they can override this synchronised event using the touch screen panel.

The Jung Facility Pilot system also provides useful security functionality by linking the lighting and audio-visual controls to the security system. This means that the KNX controls can be set so that all lights are switched on when the security alarms are triggered, making it much more difficult for an intruder to escape undetected.

The monitoring feature of the Jung Facility Pilot can also be used to record normal usage of the house’s lighting, audio-visual, heating and cooling systems over a two-week period and the system can then use this data to simulate occupancy when the family is away, replaying the previous two weeks’ activity. What’s more, when they return home, they can set the Facility Pilot to run a ‘welcome’ scene, ensuring that the heating or cooling are activated and the relevant lights switched on to ensure that the house is light and just the right temperature.

Future flexibility

Bank Hall House is far from an average home but the KNX technology used here can be reduced in scale for more simple applications or scaled up for more complex environments such as apartment blocks, hotels or even hospital campuses. Certainly the KNX installation at this home is luxurious but it has been designed to offer luxury without waste through smart integration and genuinely intelligent controls. For the Edwards family that means a home that they can tailor to their needs on a room by room, day to day basis and one that they can continue to adapt as their requirements change and KNX technology continues to develop.

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