Achieving complete integration

As companies respond to the pressures of increasing fuel prices and tightening legislation regarding energy efficiency, the need to source cost-effective investments for building services moves further up the agenda. Integrated control solutions are increasingly emerging as a measurable and simple solution, helping clients to invest in cutting-edge technology that works on a practical level for the end-user. 

Achieving complete integration involves synergising all of your separate control systems for the building’s services, from heating and ventilation to blinds and lighting, through a central management system. Successful delivery relies on effectively integrating products from a wide range of manufacturers which all communicate on a common platform to achieve a complete open protocol interoperable solution. The benefits of using a single solution include reduced cabling costs, increased capability to respond to changes in occupancy, and significant savings on energy costs.

As master integrators specialising in lighting control, Andromeda recognise the value of complete integration, and aim to help clients receive the potential paybacks. One particular area of integration that has yet to be fully utilised in the UK is dynamic façade management. In response to this, Andromeda has developed a strong working relationship with Somfy, the world-leading manufacturer of motor and control solutions for automated solar shading in commercial buildings.

Changing worlds

Just like a membrane, the façade of a building separates two distinct and continuously changing worlds: externally the façade should respond to changes in climate conditions whilst internally responding to the varying day-to-day activities of building occupants. Dynamic façade management takes full advantage of the relationship between the natural and built environment by optimising the use of natural resources through the control of natural and artificial light, along with temperature exchanges. This is achieved by controlling automated solar shading intelligently to optimise building performance, ensuring that the building is kept cool during hot periods by shading the building, and using natural ventilation and night cooling to cool the fabric of the building down. It also utilises solar heat gain during colder periods to warm the building, consequently reducing the need for additional heating. Only when control of these elements is integrated can the optimally efficient façade be achieved. 

Solar shading can either be internal, external, integrated within the facade or a combination. Internal shading is generally provided by venetian blinds, roller blinds or curtains while external shading can involve awnings, roller blinds, shutters or external louvers. All of these options have the capability for motorisation and programmable automated control, which utilises sensors to raise and lower shades according to sun intensity (sun orientation) and changing conditions. The benefits of such control are the increased comfort of the internal working environment (in a commercial office space for example) in regards to temperature levels and natural light levels. Windows without solar shading will absorb 80% of the heat generated by the sunlight that passes through them. Internal shading reduces this to 35% while external shading lowers it to just 14%. Furthermore, solar shading lets natural light in but reduces glare and harmful UV rays thereby enhancing visual comfort.

Natural ventilation is created through the controlled opening and closing of windows or vents. This acts to improve air circulation in a building, and cools the building at night by taking advantage of the cool night air to evacuate the heat which accumulates during the day. Furthermore, studies have shown that when CO? levels go beyond 1800ppm productivity levels decrease, particularly in learning environments such as schools. Incorporating CO? sensors will further enhance the air quality over conventionally controlled systems, preventing this.

Effective control

Somfy’s animeo control solution can help clients achieve effective facade management by combining solar shading and natural ventilation. This control technology helps clients receive all of the benefits offered by effective dynamic façade management. These include better control of ambient temperatures and local natural light levels, increasing comfort for the end users and even raising productivity levels within a working environment. However, the most tangible benefit is the saving in energy costs. By preventing heat gain and by allowing controlled natural ventilation, façade management can cut energy costs by up to 60% by reducing the use of air conditioning. Therefore, an investment in dynamic façade technologies is transformed into a direct financial gain after only a few years. For an additional 1-2% of the overall cost of the building, it is possible to receive significant energy paybacks, as well as meeting the requirements of key legislation, investing in innovations which help reduce the impact of your building on the environment, and creating an outstanding workplace.

Andromeda can enhance Somfy’s control technology, in a step towards achieving complete integration, by utilising the KNX open protocol to integrate other building services such as lighting. KNX is a worldwide standard for intelligent building control and automation. The KNX protocol is an open standard, independent from any one manufacturer and regulated by the KNX Association of Brussels. KNX is totally interoperable between different manufacturers and products, which means only one bus network is required for your intelligent building control.

This worldwide open standard has been approved by the CENELEC as the European Standard for building electronic systems as part of the EN50090 series, as well as being approved as a world standard (ISO/IEC 14543-3). With over 100 manufacturers supplying components, all approved by the governing body, complete interoperability as well as forward and backward compatibility is guaranteed on all approved KNX products, allowing for greater choice and flexibility when upgrading an existing system or creating a highly specified solution.

Energy saving benefits

There are numerous benefits both for the integrator and end user when utilising the KNX standard. Firstly, the KNX open protocol significantly reduces the cabling in the system, up to as much as 30%. This lowers the impact of the process of installation, and makes the system more transparent. Furthermore, this contributes to making the installation future-proof, as both the cabling and the software are easily reconfigured, making them adaptable to the changing demands of the building. KNX systems are also both cost effective and energy efficient as, in most cases, the components do not need additional power to function, it offers unprecedented durability and flexibility, and the levels of control that the system and its specific products offers establishes a general energy-saving trend.

There are many well-established façade control strategies focused around the KNX technology protocol that can be complemented with weather stations, dynamic blind positioning, solar radiation sensing and external LUX intensity monitoring. KNX integrated control solutions therefore offer dynamic off-the-shelf tried and tested solutions, as opposed to conventional modes of control which often fall short.

Using the KNX protocol, the façade management system can also be extended to include lighting control. This complements dynamic façade management as the system will dim lighting against natural daylight levels, maintaining the design level of illumination at the working plane. This strategy of constant light control, which also utilises intelligent movement sensors, has achieved around 60% energy saving
s on typical office areas, along with payback periods as short as 2-3 years. With payback periods so short, the longer term investment should be considered over and above upfront capital cost.

Taking the holistic approach to building services, utilising the KNX open protocol offers both financial and practical benefits, and allows systems such as lighting control and dynamic façade management, often regarded as separate solutions, to be used as part of a larger solution; optimising the benefits of each and allowing a more sustainable solution to be achieved. 

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