Priva facilitates unique learning experience

Technology from Priva Building Intelligence Ltd has played the lead role in a fully-functioning interactive energy learning and awareness experience at a new education facility in north London.

An innovative front end display and bespoke software mean students can discover more about energy use and the benefits of energy reduction initiatives in a highly enjoyable and creative way. As a whole, the new facility is anticipating a 60% reduction in CO2 using the School Carbon Calculator defined by the Department for Education. What’s more, energy savings are projected of 10% per pupil, per square metre.

£18m project

Commissioned by Haringey Council, the Broadwater Farm Inclusive Learning Campus (ILC) in Tottenham is a first-of-its-kind £18 million development comprising a 5925sq m complex over two storeys. In total, the two schools (The Brook and The Willow) will accommodate 420 mainstream children and a further 100 with special educational needs and backgrounds.

Priva partner, Norwich-based Electrical & Mechanical Controls Ltd (EMC), was selected by M&E consultant NPS from a list of four bidders to install the Building Management System (BMS) and associated electrical control panels. The company was also required to create the bespoke programmes that would enable interactive learning.

NPS had not specified Priva technology before on any project. The decision to break the mould was based on a presentation given by Priva that Head of Engineering, David Buxton, describes as “refreshing”. He concluded that factors such as web-compatibility, change accountability and impressive sensor and alarm capability would provide the edge on this ground breaking project.

“The design team as a whole were keen to ensure that the children and staff of the new school would benefit from a simple approach to environmental control, and one that could be monitored by business managers and site managers alike,” comments David Buxton. “It was equally essential that the proposals were affordable, interactive and would allow the school to demonstrate the everyday built environment as an integrated element to the children’s education.”

Displaying the benefits

Adrian Fiddy, Controls & IT Engineer at EMC, was the man responsible for developing the interactive and intuitive learning capability. This was achieved via a fully interactive wall mounted LCD touch-screen display, featuring bespoke software, which also allows students to learn about the benefits of energy reduction in a creative way. This uses XML integration with the Priva system to display fully animated, child-friendly graphics.

“Before starting the design, we met with the teachers to present the Priva technology and discuss requirements,” explains Mr Fiddy. “They thought it was really innovative, but wanted something tailored specifically to their students, who exhibit an enormous range of abilities and include some with both learning and physical disabilities.”

Among the main requests were large buttons on the display and the need for graphics and animations that were visually engaging. Interestingly, the inspiration for turning this idea into a reality came from curious symbols on the wall that caught Mr Fiddy’s eye.

“We used a recognised standard used by those involved in teaching and supporting children with complex needs, called Widget Symbols,” he says. “With permission to download the Widgit Software I started playing around with the graphics, using Widgit Symbols to build illustrations under each thumbnail. The front-end display was constructed using Adobe Flash, for which I wrote all of the associated source code.”

Back to nature

For the purposes of engagement, the display’s front page plays familiar ‘nature’ sounds in the background, such as the wind, birdsong and waves from the sea. Today’s date is also displayed, in both words and Widgit Symbols. Mr Fiddy even recorded and dissected his own voice phonetics, which are used to read out the external temperature. The software grabs the data via an XML file and, when prompted via the touch-screen, speaks the temperature. The voice even adds a humorous “brrrrr” or “phew” in the appropriate climatic conditions.

Beyond the front page there are two options; a page offering Widgit Symbols or another that is more descriptive. Here there are videos from the Energy Saving Trust which play features about energy reduction. There are also Widgit Symbols that explain how some of the plant operates, such as controls for the heating system and the hydrotherapy pool temperature. Other modules included the planets and the water cycle – all of which are aspects of the school’s current syllabus.

Specialist technology

Priva technology is at the heart of this entire initiative, overseeing 32 class bases, a multi-purpose hall and a hydrotherapy pool. Each class base has a Priva Comset HX touch-screen display which allows the user to monitor and control the underfloor heating and the CO2 level within the space. In effect, it allows settings in the BMS to be changed quickly and easily without a PC.

CO2 control is achieved by integrating with BACnet via Modbus to adjust window position on a PID control loop. Alternatively, in larger areas, CO2 is regulated by controlling a Monodraught passive stack actuator. Red, amber and green LEDs give a quick visual representation of existing CO2 levels, and the Comset HX display can be used to override window positions in a high CO2 situation. Around 10 Modbus sensors and half a dozen Comset HX displays are networked back to one Priva Compri HX4 base module, although there is a separate Modbus link for the window control.

“Careful consideration was given to teaching and learning spaces to ensure that the room devices were manageable and understood by school management, support and teaching staff,” says David Buxton.

“The Priva room-display units and supporting combined CO2 and temperature sensors have, on the whole, been well received when the staff have been given the proper training and time to familiarise themselves with the equipment. During our last visit to the school, it was refreshing to note that the school management team were confident and using the BEMS facilities on a daily basis.”

Shining example

Constructed to a Very Good BREEAM rating, the Broadwater Farm ILC is cited as a beacon of environmental sustainability. Innovative design ensures energy use is minimised by incorporating automatic switch-off of all devices within the software. There are also dedicated M-Bus meters to help improve the visibility and control of energy used. These factors combine with best practice at the school, as supported by the interactive energy learning.

The Broadwater Farm ILC provides the opportunity to create new opportunities for young people creating an aspirational environment where the needs of every child are met. The final phase of the project, exterior landscaping, is expected to be complete in the summer of 2013.

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