Lighting the way to more control
Dave Lister of Beckhoff Automation explains how lighting control and the BMS can work in harmony to provide buildings that are more energy efficient and easier to operate in the long-term.
One of the challenges for large-scale estates is that the building controls can, over time, become disjointed. Installations and upgrades over the years can mean that different parts of the building end up being controlled separately from others. This not only leads to energy inefficiencies, but also makes maintenance unwieldy, with maintenance teams struggling to pull everything together.
It is a cumulative problem that creates a real challenge for estate managers. There is an increasing focus on building energy efficiency from legislation such as the Minimum Energy Performance Standards coming into effect in April 2018 and the Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme also affecting larger corporations. The need to optimise building operation is more pressing than ever.
It can be tempting to solve energy problems by upgrading individual building-services components such as chillers or lighting, for example. However, in a situation where wider control is the key issue this is a short-term approach. Changing light bulbs for LEDs will only get you so far.
The long-term approach takes an integrated view of the challenge of building control. The engineering team at Gatwick Airport took this approach, upgrading lighting controls and opening the door to wider integration with the building's entire building management system (BMS).
The Gatwick engineering team realised that its estate was operating many different lighting-control solutions, each working in isolation, with little real-time condition monitoring and reporting. The team was therefore focused on finding a solution that would not only improve control of lighting and allow the team to make alterations to the system as they required, but also work with the BMS, rather than separately to it.
Gatwick therefore decided to work with Beckhoff Automation and its delivery partner Interior Automation (IA). They deployed IA’s BuildingSight software, using the existing DALI or DSI cabling and, where possible, network infrastructure to provide control and real-time monitoring of the connected lighting.
The system displays and records its associated energy usage directly to the airport’s BMS for analysis. Each control node throughout the estate also gives the engineering team seamless connectivity to the whole range of additional Beckhoff fieldbus components. This makes future developments in BMS quick, infinitely flexible and cost effective to deploy.
The solution is rooted in industrial PC (IPC) technology, so the control system has the capacity to be scaled from a stand-alone single application device — such as lighting — through to multi-core devices capable of full building control. The IPC is also capable of vast data processing and reporting in real time. This is the key characteristic that makes it open and adaptable to future needs.
The system can now monitor energy usage directly at the electrical panels or provide virtual metering when needed. Changes can be made when required by the in-house team, allowing it full control of the solution.
Better lighting controls mean that the engineering team now has access to a broad range of capabilities including setting lux levels, time scheduling, daylight dimming, complex zoning, and motion-detection activation. The team has full visibility of energy (predicted and consumed combined) to offer significant benefits and savings.
But this lighting control upgrade has not just enhanced control of that one discipline. The Gatwick buildings are now populated with IoT-ready (Internet of things) devices primed for connectivity to future on-site, off-site and cloud-based IT requirements.
The project at Gatwick is an innovative approach to lighting control with progressive ideas and practical solutions that support the work of the in-house engineering team, while vastly increasing its ability to identify problems and save energy. Rather than trawling the site to find faults, the new system places that information at the fingertips of the engineers, enabling better maintenance planning and highly accurate predictions about energy usage.
This solution was never conceived simply to be a lighting-control solution. Lighting control was identified as an area for improvement by a proactive client team seeking to bring innovation and change to the estate. The project has also empowered Gatwick’s own engineering team to maintain, develop and modify the systems in-house, thus reducing the dependency on external contractors, expensive maintenance contracts and software engineers for relatively minor changes.
The multi-faceted nature of the project demonstrates the importance of lighting controls to work in-step with controls for HVAC, rather than against them, for greater energy efficiency.
Dave Lister is divisional manager — building automation at Beckhoff Automation.