Intelligent Buildings are generally regarded as those where the owners and managers have complete control over the working or living environment. This can include heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting as well as the operation of blinds & shutters, electrical appliances, windows, security systems, metering and many other functions. The control of these is achieved seamlessly through the use of KNX technology, a simple and time proven system for intelligent electrical installation networking that offers significant advantages over other alternative approaches to building automation and control.
Hundreds of manufacturers worldwide produce products to take advantage of KNX technology – and they are all compatible. This effectively makes a KNX based solution future proof because if one particular product becomes obsolete, another one will almost certainly have been developed perhaps by another manufacturer to do the same job and offer the same compatibility, functionality and ease of installation. As every KNX product works on the same principle, there are also no integration issues or extra engineering costs.
Today, the emphasis is very much on green buildings and KNX technology can make an important contribution to energy savings. An example would be to control lighting dependent on necessity by turning lights down or off when no occupancy is detected, in addition to carrying out constant light level control utilising natural daylight and adding powered light only when necessary. KNX installations can switch on power-hungry devices automatically when electricity rates are at the lowest. Heating, cooling and ventilation can be regulated separately in each room or area via KNX temperature sensors and it can also prevent unnecessary environmental adjustment when a room is empty. During the winter, when warmth and lighting make an even greater contribution to the comfort that a building provides, KNX can regulate the climate and lighting in individual rooms in accordance with the outdoor temperature, prevailing daylight levels and solar gain.
Apart from the energy savings of KNX, the technology also offers a number of other advantages such as increased building security. In any building during the night for example, a KNX system can act as an electronic watchdog to deter crime. Motion detectors, glass break sensors and electronic shutter control can be connected to an alarm system or emergency call circuit. If there are suspicious noises; a panic button can be pressed, the lights go on and the shutters open. Should any alarm conditions occur, they can be conveyed by email or SMS to a mobile phone.
In unoccupied buildings, at weekends or during holidays, occupation can be simulated by specific learning devices that mimic previous use of the systems in different rooms. KNX can even automatically open the blinds in the morning – every day at a different time, if desired – and close them at night automatically dependent on measured dusk levels.
How does it work?
A KNX bus cable combines building services devices and systems within a building. Sensors, such as motion detectors and thermostats, send impulses over a transmission medium to socalled actuators which then activate or deactivate the lights or the heating system, for example. These sensors and actuators can be programmed and linked as desired. It is easy for occupants to manipulate the functions of the KNX system using familiar switches, the telephone or a remote computer.
As KNX covers such a diversity of applications using one standard, it means the cabling network can be much simpler. A single twisted pair cable can often suffice, with multiple elements all operating together on a single network. KNX controlled devices are generally based around the standard green KNX bus cable (twisted pair) but can be run across radio bus (wireless), ethernet (structured cabling), fibre optics, and occasionally power lines.
New functions can easily be added to the KNX system when the needs of occupants change or extra functionality is required or the building finds another use. KNX gateways have also been developed so that it can be linked to other control protocols, such as DALI. These simple devices are used to expand the capability of KNX and provide the complete solution for a building. KNX has also worked closely with management-level protocols such as BACnet to enable a close cooperation between these standards when a project requires additional integration.
KNX is being heralded by consultants, specifiers and end users as a highly desirable open solution for any building control application. The drawbacks of proprietary solutions or various hardware-based controls are now being recognised. What maintains KNX’s superiority is that every KNX-compliant piece of equipment has been fully tested and certified to this highly stringent standard by an independent regulatory body. It is only at this point that it can carry the KNX logo, as controlled by the international KNX Association of Brussels. Therefore consultants, specifiers and building owners can have total confidence in the reliability and interoperability of all KNX devices.
The standard and the organisation
KNX is the world’s first open end platform independent standard for home and building control, approved as a European Standard EN 50090 and worldwide standard ISO/ IEC 14543. The suppliers of KNX systems are able to offer competitively priced solutions with guaranteed interoperability without the need for costly gateways.
In the UK, KNX systems are designed and installed by recognised systems integrators, who are members of the KNX UK Association along with manufacturers, distributors, training organisations and end-users.
KNX UK is part of a network of national associations who are all members of the international KNX Association, which is based in Brussels and has a vast worldwide membership from the United States to China and Europe to Australia. So KNX is accepted on a worldwide basis and is at the forefront of the building intelligence revolution that is no longer just the plaything of the rich but is also contributing to the effective and energy efficient operation of many of today’s landmark buildings.
Full details of KNX technology and the vast range of KNX products available, which fully comply with EN 50090 the European Standard for Home and Building Electronic Systems are available from:
KNX UK, PO Box 4082
Bracknell, Berkshire, RG42 9EQ