Everything’s under control...

BEMS, BMS, controls, lighting, Siteco
Taking control — Hugh Whalley

The demand for building-control solutions continues to thrive, with average year-on-year growth in excess of 35% for the past four years. But despite recent progress there is still a significant knowledge gap on the part of some end-users, says Hugh Whalley of Siteco.

How far we have travelled — and in so little time! As recently as four or five years ago, it was by no means uncommon to walk into a major commercial building and discover that the operator’s conception of lighting control did not extend beyond turning the lights on at the start of the day and turning them all off at home time. At best, the idea of an intuitive lighting system able to respond to usage patterns and levels of daylight was regarded as a concern for the future. At worst, many companies were simply unaware of the existence of such technology.

During the last half-decade, the ‘double-whammy’ of carbon-reduction policy and the need to tackle rising energy costs has contributed to a profound change in attitude. The potentially significant cost-savings that can be achieved from integrated building controls no longer seem pie in the sky. Indeed, it is increasingly regarded as a default choice for new builds and retro-fits alike.

The rise of open-standard technologies such as KNX and DALI has helped to power the controls market into its current, exciting phase. Untied to any one manufacturer’s products, these technologies are destined to make the upgrading and expanding of systems considerably easier.

Although the interest in controls has matured, not everyone is ‘on-board’ just yet. Far too many companies are still missing out on massive long-term savings because they are unprepared to make relatively modest short-term investments. Addressing this misperception is the greatest single hurdle to be overcome if the controls market is to realise its full potential in the next decade.

Lincoln University has future proofed its lighting-control strategy using an open communication protocol.

My experiences during a project at Lincoln University sum up the massive transition that we in the controls business have witnessed over the last half decade. For more than a dozen years, the university had laboured under a closed-protocol system that was expensive and impractical to upgrade. In short, it did not allow the university to reap the cost-saving benefits afforded by more recent solutions.

Acknowledging that something had to be done, site technical managers began to contemplate a comprehensive upgrade based around technologies that would be more adaptable to future needs. For their lighting requirements, they determined that solutions based on the DALI protocol constituted the best way forward.

With a DALI system, users can send and receive information to/from the ballast within the light. This data allows site managers and technical staff to monitor — and make decisions about — lighting consumption, quickly and effectively. Moreover, as an open-standard, DALI implementation is not limited by brand or product.

Completing this ambitious transition, Lincoln University complemented its DALI conversion with full-scale deployment of the KNX standard. KNX guarantees future-proofing by offering full forward and backward compatibility. It also ensures minimal disruption to infrastructure through its ability to integrate with other building services on one single network or an existing TCP/IP infrastructure.

Buoyed by estimates of significant annual energy savings, Lincoln University will derive significant long-term benefits from its short-term investment.

As two of the lighting industry’s foremost innovators, Siteco and its parent company Osram has embraced the opportunities arising from KNX and DALI and possesses one of the most comprehensive and compatible control product ranges available on the market.

Solutions can be found at most price tiers. At the lower end of the market, SiFlex is a fully functional lighting-control system designed for buildings with a fixed layout, such as schools, universities, healthcare and public sector facilities. Presence detectors make it possible to communicate directly with up to 20 ballasts, either DSI or DALI, while the modular design guarantees ease of installation.

Functionality grows as one moves up the range. The extensive EnOcean series offers the chance to deploy a wireless, open system that reduces energy — not only through better control but also for its own construction and operation. These energy-harvesting products use of energy created from slight changes in motion, pressure, light, temperature or vibration. Self-powered wireless sensors help to make buildings smarter, safer and more comfortable.

Employing an open, inter-operable protocol with interfaces to LON, KNX, TCP/IP, among other established solutions, EnOcean is featured in more than 100 000 installations across North America and Europe, with many others on the horizon. For flexible and fully functional control solutions, EnOcean is the state of the art.

Despite the example of Lincoln University and the availability of numerous solutions, not everyone is ready for the new era of control. Too often in project consultations, I still encounter reluctance from customers to look beyond short-term reservations about investment. These can be understood in light of the current financial uncertainties, but properly implemented control solutions could be making a vital difference to companies’ outgoings at every stage of the economic cycle.

With the carbon-focused CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme now in full force, the impulse to review every aspect of a company’s energy usage will only intensify. Integrated building- and lighting-control systems offer a straightforward and relatively inexpensive pathway towards dramatic reductions that carry both environmental and financial benefits.

So if you have not yet got things under control at your business ... well, what are you waiting for?

Hugh Whalley is divisional sales director within projects and solutions at Siteco.

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