At the beginning of the new millennium, my company, GES Digital went looking for new opportunities and came across KNX (at that time known as EIB).
The requirement for the company was to find a control system that would provide us with a solid foundation of work for the foreseeable future, with the benefit of not being manufacturer specific and a fly by night solution.
Like any new business direction, having the ability to do the work is not the only pre-requisite to being able to make money from it. For almost 18 months, we had no KNX work of any magnitude, but then it all started to change. Advertising in the normal way was one method to put the skill out there; the other method was to join KNX UK (the national association for KNX in the UK) and try to help change the markets awareness of the system.
The company’s turnover is now represented by over 50% of it being made up with work directly related to KNX installations.
We have now been involved with KNX for over six years and while we enjoy a busy order book, we are constantly surprised by the lack of knowledge and the slow take up of this protocol by industry decision makers.
One noticeable reason for the slow response within the UK market to a new protocol is our historic expectation that we do things the best way anyway, why change? This is evident in our electrical infrastructure where our European neighbours all use the Schuko style plug and socket arrangement, whilst we stick to our 3 square pin method. Whilst on the outside it would seem a trivial comment to expect harmonisation across Europe, it does encapsulate the attitude to change on our shores. We have harmonised our electrical wiring colours, we have harmonised our European supply voltages and BS numbers are rapidly becoming their EN equivalents. This is progress. However, we are potentially being held back by the reluctance of building services engineers and specifiers to embrace the technology.
The new generation of engineer is aware and up-to-date, but his senior colleague, who has been in the industry for 30 plus years, may not be as keen to change his preferences and it is they who we are struggling to influence. The perception of KNX being a new technology or even a foreign system is not a sound argument. KNX has an established 15+ year history and in addition, the number of manufacturers of KNX products within the UK has risen by 20% in the last year alone. In our view, the decision makers should be specifying energy control solutions with a more complete approach.
In order for engineers to feel confident that their specification is capable, they need to know they can rely on the chosen solution. This is regularly based on previous experience, so it does become difficult to try an alternative. In KNX’s favour, there are a large quantity of UK based KNX installations, within all classifications of sectors.
This should satisfy the credentials, but there is also the knowledge of capability and issues of design. In most current projects, KNX integrators supply specialist design knowledge to the consulting practice and any required drawings and technical data. In order to ensure engineers and specifiers are at least fully aware, KNX UK have just finalised a CIBSE accredited CPD to present to the building services fraternity. There will also be a RIBA style CPD to ensure the architectural practices are informed as to the potential of a KNX system.
There will come a time when a control system is a pre-requisite and you will not have an option of conventional control. When this happens, there is likely to be a myriad of choice of systems, all pertaining to provide the required solution and in reality, over time, some will and some will not. KNX can and already does control all electrical and environmental elements within projects and as a building evolves; their KNX system can adapt and grow with it. It has the benefit of long term experience which gives it the lead on product development, aided by the 152 very forward thinking manufacturers that produce KNX certified devices (6300 + at the last count).
By specifying KNX, an engineer is stating that he is up to date and aware of what is available.
It is not right to say KNX is one of many control solutions. It is correct to say KNX is the best platform and the only solution recognised as a fully international standard.
The benefits for GES Digital in specialising in KNX are simple. It is all about the future. The growth of demand and the growth of the business in relation to that is very exciting.