KNX Group of New Zealand President, Colin Price, shares
Where KNX Came From
How KNX Fits into Technology
What’s in-store for 2018
The “Movement” for Better Homes & Commercial Buildings
Colin Price was sold on the idea for KNX in the early 2000s because “well, buildings aren’t getting any dumber” and it started him out on a path to now being President of KNX Group of New Zealand.
He was inspired by the story of how five companies back in 1990 realised the importance of a global language for building control devices and grew into a “movement” to help create better homes and commercial buildings.
“It is now without question the largest open protocol system for controlling buildings in the world and it’s been adopted and regionalised with local standards in Europe, the Middle East, China, North America and, hopefully, here in Australasia shortly,” Colin says.
“It’s genuinely a huge movement and there are now many thousands of projects from homes and hotels, to airports, schools, sports stadiums. Almost any type of commercial or residential buildings have been improved by using KNX as the control system for some or part of those buldings.
“There are now 250 million devices which have been delivered during KNX’s lifetime and because it’s open standard and backwards compatible, if the first goes wrong then a new one would work – thereby proving the future-proofness of this standard.
“I’m absolutely convinced that it’s a move towards designing and building better buildings – if you put KNX into a building right now, it will make for a better building in 20 years’ time.”
That message – that using the KNX global standard for wiring new-build homes and commerical buildings in New Zealand will safeguard the buildings against the growth in smart technology – is key to KNX New Zealand’s strategy in 2018.
Some electrical apprentices are graduating with KNX knowledge, (although the country is way behind leaders such as Germany), and there are plenty of completed and in-the-pipeline New Zealand-based projects (for example, PPP schools, Christchurch art gallery, Nelson airport), but Colin says there still needs to be more work around selling the best practice both to the end-user (the home or building owner) and the architects, developers and electrical engineers responsible for specifying building controls.
This is certainly in line with the KNX international association, which has determined that what’s now needed is a push towards getting more recognition for the brand.
Worldwide Standard for Home and Building Control
“The KNX Association governs the national groups all over the world and looks after the evolution of the standard as technology develops as well as being responsible for training courses for new engineers,” he says. “But KNX has always presented itself as very technology-focused and, unless you’re into it, it can be a bit nerdy and inaccessible. But from March the KNX Association are going through a rebranding of their corporate identity whereby they will still do all the technological aspects but that will become part of the operations section – their face to market will be instead be based on customer groups such as architects, developers, electrical engineers and those who own, live in and use their services.
“And that’s what needs to happen to close the circle and get KNX inside the industry – we need more of the general population to have a trusting relationship with KNX.”
Colin says that in the commercial sector, the job is almost already complete in that most projects have some element of control, but because KNX is relevant across all residential constructions from multi-use dwellings to superhomes – specifically where we’re likely to experience a huge growth in automation systems – New Zealand’s building boom is the perfect storm in which to cement KNX’s global dominance as a standard.
And that’s against a report on smart homes and light commercial buildings from the Building Services Research and Information Association last year that predicted the sector to spike from a global $15.8 billion market in 2017 to a $29.8 billion market by 2021.
“The BSRIA report shows the dominance of KNX in the international controls market in the Middle East, China and Europe – for example 56% of residential and small commercial buildings in Germany use KNX and that’s dramatic,” he says.
“There are other proprietary systems but KNX is dominant and I can only see that growing. Domestically, I do expect it to catch on and grow fast but that will depend on the energy of the KNX community to promote itself and the openness of the specifying and design community to adopt best practice over commercial interests.
“Often developers may look for the cheapest option now rather than the lifetime costs for a building and those decisions affect uptake. But there are two things which will counter that: firstly, people’s levels of expectation and comfort with technology in their lives is changing and the idea that buildings aren’t going to use interfaces that change is inconceivable, and secondly, from a more commercial point of view, there’s a growing understanding that if you design and build the cheapest possible building now, you can’t realise the best lease rates going forwards.”
The Way Forward for KNX
The most important thing Colin and KNX Group of New Zealand wants to achieve for 2018 is to raise awareness of KNX as the only best practice solution for wiring and control of a building and to build trust around the brand based on its strong international credentials, it’s longevity and its successful use in huge numbers of buildings worldwide.
“If people know that it’s the right thing to do, then they can make an informed choice,” Colin says. “There will always be other options and in many ways you don’t have to understand the smarts behind how it works, it really comes down to the fact that using KNX in a building should become a de facto decision.
“What’s interesting is that in some countries the architects are tasked with designing the electrical system as part of their design package but that’s not the case here in New Zealand and therefore they can be left to the last minute. What we want to achieve is for those architects and designers to understand the electrical systems of a building are just as important as the foundations of the building in terms of the present day and future success of the building for owners, occupiers and the communities around it.”
KNX is a protocol that allows the interoperability of devices that perform functions for environmental control of buildings such as lighting, HVAC, air quality, monitoring and shading control. The KNX Association has represented the protocol since 1990 and has 426 manufacturer member with 8000+ compatible products and 75000+ register installers.