The building control perspective


Developing major sporting and infrastructure projects are set to provide an ideal opportunity for the building controls industry to showcase the benefits of good building control. Dramatic increases in energy costs have created real challenges for the operators of major sporting venues and addressing these issues with creative energy saving building management solutions will certainly increase the profile of the building controls industry.

Achieving an A rated building in terms of energy use involves much more than improved building fabric. Facilities managers need full building control at their fingertips in order to be able to cater for a wide variety of events. The net result will be a raising of the bar in terms of the expectation from the building controls industry and, hopefully, buildings that are more cost effective to run in the long term.

The significance of the 2012 Olympics for the industry cannot be underestimated and one that should accelerate some of the more exciting technological advances. Major landmark sports facilities require highly integrated systems to function effectively. The development of such a large number of major infrastructure projects in so compressed a time period will lead to a greater use of Open Systems. BACnet is now gaining ground as the open standard for building system integration in the UK and the 2012 Olympics will certainly accelerate its adoption.

Up until recently, the focus from building controls had been on managing the building environment and related plant. With the dramatic rise in energy prices, the focus from end-users has turned towards energy control – and building control suppliers can provide fully integrated energy management systems. This trend will be accelerated by the Olympics and the implementation of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD).

Reports of energy usage alone are not sufficient, building users need to be able to easily manage their control systems to reduce energy use. With major sports facilities, usage patterns vary so greatly that advanced energy management will be required and you can be sure that the solutions developed for the sports arena will be adopted across the industry.

Major sports venues are massive structures with vastly different control challenges across the buildings; there is a greater need for distributed control. The latest building management systems offer full web browser based supervisors. This allows selected supervisor functions to be delegated to staff responsible for selected zones. It also means that supervisors with the correct access privileges can interrogate the system from anywhere, using mobile devices such as PDAs for example. New facilities now include Wi-Fi access as standard throughout the building, allowing the supervisor to receive and manage alarms anytime no matter where they are.

Wireless technology

London, unlike other Olympic cities, already has significant sports and visitor infrastructure, which means that much of the construction activity will be retrofit rather than new-build. This presents significant challenges for the industry in terms of the additional labour required, resulting in building owners and designers looking more closely at wireless solutions. The UK controls industry is thus presented with an opportunity to take the lead in the adoption of ZigBee, the next generation of wireless mesh technology. ZigBee provides a cost-effective, standards-based wireless networking solution that supports low data rates, low power consumption, security and reliability. It is unique in that it has been designed specifically for the needs of remote monitoring and control.

The use of wireless technologies, where possible, will dramatically reduce the cost, time and disruption caused by retrofit projects. An additional benefit will be the flexibility of building use as wireless devices can be easily moved in the future. For example, building use during the Games will be very different from the usage profile after the Games. Wireless technologies present the possibility of significantly changing the internal layout and usage profile without the cost of rewiring controls. The timing of projects for 2012 together with the emergence of support for Zigbee provides an opportunity for the industry to take a quantum leap forward to a wireless world.

In parallel, some remarkable changes are also taking place in the nature of the building controls industry. Driven by the requirements of larger projects with more complex integration there has been a series of major mergers and acquisitions. Four multinational manufacturers now supply 92% of the market and the largest independent has 4% market share. This consolidation will allow the multi-national providers to offer turnkey contracts for the largest of stadium projects, while the significant number of retrofit projects will be accessible to independent providers and the vibrant system integrator sector.

John Fallon is Product Marketing Manager for Cylon Controls UK Ltd.

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