The future of room automation

The industry is constantly under pressure to provide more efficient, automated  buildings which produce less waste and higher energy savings; but as costs continue to soar this is increasingly proving to be more of a challenge. Here Mark Redfern of Wieland Electric looks at how the use of components which are quick to install and easy to handle are making a real contribution to sustainable building automation.


Over the last few years the industry has been through a fairly turbulent period which has seen cuts to budgets and soaring energy costs – all of which have contributed to uncertainty in many markets. But the one thing which has remained constant is the need to increase the energy efficiency of our commercial building stock.


Although in principle this should be an easy task because there are now plenty of products on the market which promise huge energy savings, the fact remains that the task of balancing the budget is still the number one priority. What this therefore means for the industry is that although there is a genuine desire to install energy saving products and systems, quite often the budget just isn’t available.


Building automation has perhaps been one of the main winners in this equation because it provides a long term solution to the issue of energy saving rather than a short term fix. That said it doesn’t come without its cost, but the emergence of KNX technology has shown that building automation can provide real savings, not just today but throughout the lifetime of the building.


Budget for the future


KNX is the world’s only open Standard for home and commercial building control with applications ranging from lighting and blind control to systems for heating, ventilating, air conditioning, monitoring, alarms, water control and energy management.


To date the Standard has been adopted by many international manufacturers who together provide a vast array of KNX certified products which can be used in new and refurbishment applications. What this means for the industry is that integrators and contractors are able to choose from a pool of interoperable technology, bringing together a variety of ‘off the shelf’ KNX components to build an entire control solution. These products will then operate seamlessly across the KNX network using one common software tool.


As far as the technology goes, KNX has already proved itself time and time again in numerous European applications and although the initial uptake in the UK was slow, we are now beginning to see a notable increase in installations.


Plug and play


One of the key reasons for the rise in popularity is that it is a future proof solution, but of equal importance is the speed of installation – a key factor in any project manager’s plan.


The issue of speed of installation cannot be underestimated in these times of austerity with contractors looking to make budget savings through spending less time on site. But there is a very important balance here because there is an equally important need to ensure that spending less time on site does not result in call backs due to mistakes having been made during the initial installation. This is where plug and play technology such as Wieland’s gesisFlex is proving to be an unbeatable solution.


Based on the KNX system, gesisFlex is a modular solution which was originally conceived with fast, secure and more importantly error-free installation in mind. But these are just a few of the benefits because it is also a decentralised system and as far as building automation is concerned, decentralised systems are now widely accepted as setting the standard.


The rapid evolution of decentralised systems has been as a result of a very real need in the industry to reduce costs and through the ability to position components in the exact location in which the function is used these cost reductions can be numerous. One of the obvious savings comes from the reduction in the amount of cabling needed, and with the cost of copper remaining at a high level this is something which is of paramount importance.


But another major benefit is the time savings involved as a result of the fact that the entire system can be manufactured off site in a controlled environment. What this means is that it arrives on site in a format which simply requires plugging together so not only does it reduce the installation time for the contractors, it also significantly reduces the margin for error.


Future proof solution


Nobody can accurately predict what the future holds other than to say that technology will evolve and that there will be change – which isn’t very helpful if you are investing significant sums of money in new buildings and technology. The need for a solution such as gesisFlex which will evolve over time and be able to adapt to the changes within the building is therefore imperative.


What it gives you is the ability to be prepared for change whether that is a small adjustment or extension of room functions or a complete change of building use, because any changes to the initial installation are easy to perform and modifications over the lifecycle of the building are greatly simplified.


The current needs of the industry are complex as we strive to cut costs; meet our energy efficiency targets; improve our commercial building stock and provide buildings which are fit for the future – all on a greatly reduced budget. But this is a challenge which we need to face head on if we are to succeed and therefore we need to ensure that we are utilising the very latest technology which provides the most cost effective solution.

With KNX control at the heart of your building you are taking a huge step in the right direction because its open protocol and manufacturer independent systems guarantee a higher level of flexibility for many years to come.


This, together with a decentralised, modular solution ultimately translates into greater cost efficiencies both at the installation stage and throughout the life cycle of the building – a fact which you cannot afford to ignore.

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