Planning for obsolescence to be obsolete

KNX UK, BEG, building management systems, controls
Accommodating change — Stephen Payne.

Dealing with obsolescence is a major concern for any industrial sector — and building controls is no exception. Stephen Payne, of BEG Ltd and KNX UK Vice President, discusses the key considerations when identifying technology for today’s building-services projects.

Looking out on to the London skyline, it’s exciting to see the huge number of commercial buildings being built or refurbished at the moment. Whether they are public buildings, or traditional office blocks, the opportunity for those of us working in the building-services industry is huge.

There is now more appetite than ever for commercial buildings to feature a level of automation, and functionality and efficiency can be greatly improved with the right system. There are many aspects to be taken into consideration when building-services engineers are planning and implementing a building-wide control system.

Longevity of the system

A commercial building can go through several occupants and change purpose many times, and modifying the technology in a building as the requirements change can be costly. The technology inside a building needs to remain relevant and keep up with the changes for potentially decades to come, without drastic overhauls that could result in costly downtime periods. Recent CIOB research (1) estimates that 80% of commercial buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. This shows that building-services engineers must be prepared to work with an existing BMS and be ready to adapt it to the varying needs of the client.

In this respect, A KNX system offers landlords and property developers the opportunity to constantly upgrade the building-management technology within their properties, without the cost of replacing the entire bus system. KNX’s flexible ecosystem ensures that products can be replaced with ease and integrated back into the system for total control of the building services.

Exploiting KNX technology, the offices of Hughes Electra, a specialist design consultancy and integrator of KNX building automation and audio visual systems for prime residential and hotel projects.(Both pictures)


Over the lifespan of a commercial property, many technological advances can be expected. Arguably the biggest technological advance that we are seeing in the building-services sector is the advent of the Internet of Things. It has the potential to influence almost every aspect of technology but is still very much in its infancy, with few market-ready solutions that genuinely offer the inter-connected control and data-gathering functionality that we have been told to expect from industry. However, as the technology advances and property owners come to expect their building services to gather data and interact seamlessly, engineers and installers need to ensure that the systems they specify today are ready to cope with whatever may be coming down the road in the future.

It’s also important to consider the products chosen to use in conjunction with a controls system. Presence detectors (PIR) are now commonplace in commercial properties and are often used to turn lights on in meeting rooms, corridors and toilets. This technology is no longer new so the price point for certain products has, dropped creating a gulf in quality available in the market. A poor-quality presence detector will result in a poor service, reducing the overall quality of the building automation. Therefore a system should be compatible with a variety of products.


The Climate Change Act (2008) commits the UK to a 57% cut in emissions by 2032 and a massive 80% reduction by 2050, based on 1990 levels. The Government aims to accelerate the pace of the reduction of the UK’s emissions by targeting energy efficiencies across all sectors, including buildings. With a rapid increase in urbanisation projected over the next 25 years, alongside an increase of building stock, it is more important than ever for those who manage the energy consumption of our buildings to be proactive and forward-looking with their approach to technology and how it can save energy.

For these considerations, a KNX system provides longevity, flexibility, and efficiency based on more than 25 years of being a worldwide standard for building control. KNX is a truly open world-wide protocol system endorsed by worldwide standards. It is approved to International Standard ISO/IEC 14543-3, European Standard CENELEC EN 50090, European Standard CEN (EN 13321-1 and EN1332.2), Chinese Standard SAC GB/Z 20965 and US Standard ANSI/ASHRAE 135-2010.

Regulated by the KNX Association of Brussels and supported by world leading manufacturers within the industry, there is a choice of over 7000 approved KNX products from more than 400 manufacturers covering all aspects of building control and automation.

Immune to refurbishments and changes of ownership, adapting a KNX system to accommodate new technologies is cost and time effective. The vast choice of KNX-certified products and technological skills enables the system to work within any commercial installation and will continue to do so into the future, thus preventing costly system replacement.

KNX meets the requirements of the top energy-performance class for building automation as per EN 15232 (‘Energy performance of buildings — impact of building automation, controls and building management’). This enables KNX to be ideally suited to fulfilling the tightened energy-consumption requirements for buildings, with a KNX system allowing up to 50% energy savings.

As well as reducing energy usage, a KNX system can help to reduce installation costs over other options. Other alternatives would require separate systems for the lighting control, blind control, and heating and cooling, in addition to the BMS. However, a KNX system relies on only one contractor, minimising installation and wiring costs. There is just one system to learn and maintain, and the BMS now only has to take its data off one KNX system.

Stephen Payne is vice president of KNX UK and systems sales manager for BEG (UK) Ltd.


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