- New Zealand’s three KNX training centres hold regular courses throughout the North and South Islands to help a range of Kiwis become a certified KNX Partner and able to install the worldwide standard for home and commercial building controls.
- Becoming certified requires a five-day, 30-hour course in which participants learn both practical and theoretical requirements of KNX.
- The benefits of becoming certified include gaining a full understanding of the ETS software, valuable tips and tricks, and becoming a KNX Partner (which involves having your name and business listed online as a KNX expert).
As KNX moves from gaining a foothold in the Kiwi home and building control market to an accepted integral factor in building management systems, so the requirement for trained KNX professionals has also increased.
And just as Standards New Zealand’s adoption of regional technical specifications has marked a watershed in how Kiwi integrators and engineers can now trust products and services from multiple suppliers knowing they are backed by guaranteed interoperability between products from more than 400 manufacturers worldwide, so those wishing to “future-wire” their buildings with KNX can now trust New Zealand’s KNX training centres to supply the certified technicians required.
Although the three certified training centres SmartBT, Ivory Egg and The Electrical Training Company (ETCO) are primarily based in the North Island, courses are run throughout the country to ensure total coverage for individuals and businesses wanting to upskill.
Ivory Egg’s Operations Manager and KNX trainer Stephen Tankard understands the value of training first-hand – while working as an AV integrator in London, the company he worked for encountered KNX on a job they’d taken over and sent him for the basic course so they could complete the project. Just a few years later, and with the advanced and tutor training courses under his belt, he moved to New Zealand.
“It’s pretty amazing what the association and the manufacturers have managed to achieve with KNX – now it’s a matter of training enough professionals to ensure the skills exist throughout the country.”
Stephen has run courses as far afield as Auckland, Nelson, Queenstown and – of course – Christchurch, where there’s a huge demand for skills in amidst the rebuild.
So, what are the main benefits of going through the basic training course – after all, as Stephen says, anyone can download KNX’s Engineering Tool Software (ETS) for free and go it alone.
- Very few professionals already have the proficiency to get going on KNX without training. Electricians, for example, will be familiar with wiring but not necessarily controls, while installers may be familiar with programming but not so familiar with the electrical side of things.
- The ETS is “quite a technical piece of software” and training not only lets you understand the basics but also “some of the tricks you can do with it”.
- As well as the practical side, training highlights the importance of the theoretical reasoning behind how KNX works. “The theory outlines the importance of the key rules – and if you do things incorrectly, especially for example in the way the wiring is constructed, how to diagnose and fault find a system.”
- Certification marks you out as having committed time to learning about KNX – and that is an important part of advertising your skills to those who want to install the system in their homes or commercial buildings. “Part of the reward for completing the course is having your name and your company name on the online database, which is the likely first port of call for someone looking for a KNX professional to help set up a system.”
- The growth in knowledge about KNX means that more and more engineering consultants or those designing the electrical part of installations are either stipulating KNX or recommending it as one of control systems to consider. At that important part of a project, having your name or company name on a searchable database sets you apart from other companies.
- More companies are looking to have KNX-proficient employees as part of their set-up. Stephen says that just as he was enrolled for a basic training course through his company, so he’s finding company bosses or owners are attending a course and then deciding to send more of their employees.
- Although the majority of people Stephen trains are installers, he has seen the occasional individual who is simply into cutting edge technology and is looking for the skills to automate their own home. He also expects he’ll start to see electrical engineers looking to take the basic course as it becomes more important for them to understand how the technology works. “Maybe not the programming side, but knowing how the wiring works can be valuable to an electrical engineer as KNX becomes more prevalent in New Zealand.”
The steps to becoming certified are relatively straightforward – Stephen runs 30-hour courses over five-days. There’s some online training required in advance of the course which helps those who aren’t used to programming up to speed, and then the “classroom” work is split between practical and theory, both of which are tested and both of which need to be passed to gain certification.
The practical training involves the core elements of what an installer is likely to do in terms of programming and installation such as lighting, heating and blind controls and using sensors. There’s also “lots of hands-on” work with KNX equipment and laptops and the ETS “so people get really familiar with the ways you can set up the system”.
The theoretical side of training looks at how electrical signals are transmitted from one device to another, the structure of the “telegram” – the means by which the devices speak to each other across the network, and why the wiring should be laid out in a specific way.
Stephen also says that elements of what is considered internationally as part of the advanced course is also included in Ivory Egg’s basic training “as it helps professionals to become more effective, more quickly”.
Although he is looking to run advanced courses in the near future.
“There is some really good material in the advanced course, which is why we include some of it in our basic course too,” he says. “I think for the average installer a lot of the theory and more in-depth information about how the devices talk to one another won’t be that relevant to a huge number of jobs that they are going to do. But we do get asked for advanced courses so we will be fitting some in.”
In the meantime, Stephen says his feedback is that around 95% of those who go through the KNX basic training course would recommend it and that, in a growing sector of the building market, many companies are seeing immediate returns on their investment.
“We have a lot of fun on the courses but it’s also clear that people see the value in them and consider it time well spent.”