Putting the intelligence into MediaCityUK

MediaCityUK is being developed by a partnership of the Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company, Peel Holdings and Salford City Council. This is a major development for the North of England, for the UK as a whole and will be of global importance as the project will revolutionise the media and creative industries in the North.

Peel Media’s vision is to make MediaCityUK the largest purpose-built media community in the UK and Europe. Located on a 200-acre site at Salford Quays on Manchester’s waterfront, MediaCityUK will enable creative and digital businesses to thrive in a unique, collaborative environment.  The project is being developed and managed by Peel Media, and the initial 36-acre site represents a £500m investment.

It’s not surprising then that cutting edge open protocol KNX technology, the world wide standard for building control, has been placed at the heart of this development’s intelligent control for applications.

The KNX solution

This cutting edge technology enables the control and monitoring of all building functions including lighting, heating, air conditioning, ventilation and security to name but a few and delivers massive energy savings. Through KNX all of these functions are able to respond in real time to the occupants’ needs and usage patterns

Designers, developers, owners and managers of commercial buildings are now turning away from traditional building management systems. They are looking towards intelligent building control technologies to provide the solution to energy management challenges. But what is an intelligent building? Today it is widely accepted as a space where all elements are able to respond in real time to the occupants’ needs and building occupancy patterns (Integrated Building Technology). For example, the technology can regulate the lighting in an office to balance the amount of day light and artificial light to provide the optimum working environment. The intelligent system can also detect when people are present in a room and regulate lighting and/or heating appropriately.

The potential benefits and return on investment from an integrated building are highly tangible and include lower install costs, lower energy costs, security, and enhanced facilities management. To achieve this level of intelligence, systems are required to talk a common language on a common platform. Central to this is an open network, which consists of devices from multiple manufacturers that conform to uniform industry standards – just as the computer industry saw the development of open-based standards.

The intelligent answer lies in a system like the KNX solution being provided by EnTech at MediaCity. KNX enables the integration and programming of all KNX products from a range of manufacturers with complete interoperability, there is also a range of KNX gateways to integrate into other building management systems to allow complete communication between the mechanical and electrical elements within the built environment

KNX at MediaCityUK

In total MediaCityUK will create seven million sq ft of new and refurbished floor space for business, retail and residential property, and employment for over 15,000 people. KNX technology is being installed in the three commercial buildings at the development – Buildings A, B and C.

The main features of the KNX system include cross linking of 10,900 lights over KNX-Dali gateways, cross linking of more than 150 lines over 60 IP gateways and the local LAN and integration of emergency lights into the same KNX-Dali gateway. Feedback of error messages and defects from the lighting to the building management system is an additional feature which proved to be important to the project.

Efficient lighting control

The most economic solution for the lighting control system was the implementation of Dali (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) standard for the digital lighting fixture network technology. 50 Dali ballasts are connected to a single KNX-Dali gateway. Dimming and switching is provided through light sensors, occupancy sensors and the management system. The light fittings report defects to the management system for rational maintenance. All emergency lights are also integrated into the KNX-Dali network which allows for automated testing and reporting.  

Benefits of KNX

KNX brought a number of benefits to this project including energy savings of around 40% when compared against standard switching. There is also a benefit of interoperability thanks to the standards and certifications which are required by KNX from all manufacturers.

But what is possibly one of the main benefits is the KNX-DALI interface which offers an economic and energy efficient solution which will ultimately help to keep the ongoing costs to a minimum.

Overcoming the distance

Early on Peel Holdings decided to use an IP backbone for the KNX system and to use wide area network for the communication over long distances. This combination allows a reliable KNX network throughout.

A category 6 IP network which offers double redundancy and additional backup strategies for a reliable and secure network was installed for all three BBC office buildings. In addition the entire system was split up into so-called ‘IP worlds’ and each world connects a certain number of KNX lines. This project includes a total of 60 KNX IP gateways which are connected to more than 150 lines; this prevents an overload on the bus and offers 20% extra capacity for future expansion. All the KNX components were delivered on pre-wired control panels for rational installation.

One of Peel Holdings’ demands was the monitoring and operating of all sub systems from a single head end for each of the three buildings, ultimately it is envisaged that all three buildings will be connected via a fibre backbone to a single management system which will be achieved via an OPC server (process control software for window based automation systems).

Breaking down the barriers

For those that are yet to be convinced of the benefits of Intelligent Building Control, it is likely that their reticence to adopt KNX technology is influenced largely by ill-informed debate in the sector. In addition, the reality of a ‘mishmash’ of different systems that operate in today’s commercial buildings – (lighting, HVAC), all of which operate separately serve only to put barriers in place between the customer and the inevitable savings.

One of the most popular misconceptions about open networks like KNX is that it will result in higher costs for the buildings’ owners and operators. This is incorrect: open networks and the integration of services provide significant cost savings in capital terms and throughout the life cycle of the building.

What’s more, it’s a lot easier to offer existing stand alone solutions than to educate the end-user on the integrated approach and the benefits.

We have seen a noticeable shift in the construction market when it comes to the adoption of intelligent building controls.  Our business has grown significantly over the last 18 months and this is largely in response to the market’s increasing awareness of the potential of KNX technology. The MediaCityUK project is no exception.  In many respects, we see this project as the dawning of a new age in the market’s acceptance of the KNX protocol: all of those involved in the specification process have included KNX because they know that it provides a building’s owners and tenants with efficiency, sustainability and future-proofing.

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