Interfacing with Building Management Protocols for Intelligent Lighting and Shade Control

In the new era of MDUs, or multi dwelling units, possibilities with lighting and façade treatment specifications are enormous.

In fact, if you were to catalogue the range, style and final choice for lighting, you would need a light year to do so. From the traditional architectural strips of yesteryear to the uber-modern flat panel RGBW organic LED light sources of tomorrow, all have their place and their moment. Whilst this gives the end user/owner the best of technologies for illumination, something has to control it.

Add to this the very well reported variation in dimming curves, lowest strike voltages, colour temperatures, and possibly still poor colour binning, the possibility for a problem with poor control and rendition is ever-present.

If you look at the range of dimming available today, starting at the humble lagging / leading / trailing / falling edge dimmers we all think we know about, to the modern equivalent which can actually work out its load wattage and type and adjust its dimming characteristics accordingly, the choice is bewildering. Add the industry standard DALI, older systems using 0-10volt, 1-10volt, DSI and then the theatres' favourite DMX, you have a mélange of possible options all clambering for their own bespoke (albeit simple) solution to control.

So how to best to deal with this? Request one dimming type across the range. Whilst this is possible, the cost of retro-fitting a compatible dimmer to a hand blown piece of ornate glass from Italy or a 5,000 Swarovski crystals decorated chandelier, the options based on design start to get limited.

The same is true for façade treatments—blinds, curtains and window openers. The variety of solutions, the operating voltages and how they are triggered all vary and to the mere mortal can seem confusing and complex. There are actually fewer options here than with the control of lighting. They are mains voltage, low voltage, trigger movement and reverse polarity and SMI. Again, all have their own control strategies, and most suppliers of such treatments will happily supply the controls to get you in operation.

The common alternate is to use a system that can talk to all other systems and provide far more as a result too. KNX is one system that has its feet in all camps for lighting, façades and wider building control. All of the mentioned lighting and façade protocols are easily connected and furthermore, allow the user the option of common sensors for activation, buttons for scene access, virtual APP-based control and detailed adjustment.

We worked on such a project in Mayfair on the ever-artful Abermarle Street. From DALI to 1-10, switched only and regular dimming, we were able to take control of all types of lighting, using fluorescent, LED, halogen and incandescent lamps. The same was true for the façade treatments, which used both mains voltage with trigger for action for opening windows, along with both mains and low voltage reverse polarity for individual blinds or curtains.

The use of KNX at The Mellier, Mayfair was indeed fortunate as the client’s specification changed a few times during the project. This is perhaps to be expected on real estate that sells for £5-40 million. However, no expensive controls needing changing, just some artful re-programming of the installed equipment was undertaken to accommodate all of the changes made in the pursuance of securing sale of all of the properties.

Whilst the challenges never cease, in bringing together many vendor-led solutions for lighting and façade treatment, having a solid platform to work from in the outset can ensure that holes can either be filled or in fact never appear. And in all reality choice is expanding every day of where the consumer can go for a particular solution, but their own personal experience may be dashed if they are poorly prepared from the beginning.

KNX is the worldwide standard for home and building control and is supported by more 400 international manufactures who all bring their skill sets to the protocol and enable KNX to be the all-round solution.

Iain Gordon is company owner of GES Digital LTD, a board member for KNX UK and an independent author and speaker on building controls and technology.

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