Why the New Regionalised Standard Gives KNX the “Clout” To Become the Norm for Building Automation in New Zealand

  • Standards New Zealand adopts systems integration standard SA/SNZ IEC/ISO 14543.3.1-6:2018 (Parts 1-6) Communication layers – Network-based control – the “backbone” of KNX.
  • The ISO/IEC Standard is the most popular in Europe and other parts of the world in fields such as energy efficiency, room automation, lighting controls, shutter and blind control, heating, cooling and security.
  • Impacts of regional technical standard range from giving integrators and engineers a choice of technical features and competitive products and services from multiple vendors, with guaranteed inter-operability between products from more than 400 manufacturers worldwide, to providing a level playing field for the training of apprentice electricians.

It’s been a long time coming and a tough process to get it across the line, but the announcement that Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand have now adopted SA/SNZ IEC/ISO 14543.3.1-6:2018 (Parts 1-6) Communication layers – Network-based control regional technical specifications is a landmark in the growth of KNX throughout Australasia.

As the regionalised version of a 2006 ISO/IEC International Standard and the next generation of an industry standard that dates back to the early 90s, ISO/IEC 14543.3 is at the core of KNX’s global strength in the building automation market.

And its adoption in New Zealand means that Kiwi integrators and engineers now have a choice of competitive products and services from multiple suppliers knowing they are backed by guaranteed interoperability between products from more than 400 manufacturers worldwide.

So, what are the practical impacts of this regional standardisation? Is it merely rubber-stamping a protocol that many have come to realise is a perfect way to “future-wire” homes and commercial buildings, or are there broader implications?

Luke Boustridge wears three “hats” in the electrical industry and so is well-placed to see the broad picture when it comes to the adoption of a regional standard for KNX: as vice president of the KNX National Group of New Zealand he is evangelical about its role in the county’s building industry, as national recruitment manager for The Electrical Training Company (ETCO) he understands its importance in the training of future industry leaders, and as world chief expert for the electrical sector of the World Skills trades skills competition he has first-hand experience of watching the growing impact of global standardisation.

Primarily, Luke says, the benefit of having a regional technical standard is that engineers can trust they are following best practice and designing buildings that will remain current for their lifetime while still choosing brands and products for the features, aesthetic appeal, capacity and price to suit the desired outcome of the project.

“KNX signifies a huge leap forward in the building automation market purely because it’s non-proprietary so we can move to a world where it does not matter about the brand of what you install, you just expect it to sync with everything else,” Luke says.

“It’s about selling the benefits of what KNX can do now but also the benefits of what’s going to happen in 5 or 10 years when you want to upgrade something – and to get that message across has been quite difficult but regional standardisation means that people are starting to understand that there’s a shift in our perception of what home automation can be and a broad spectrum of where it can go.”

He also emphasizes the importance that the regional adoption of the international standard shows the longevity and trustworthiness of KNX.

“It’s tried and tested,” he says. “It’s not some other technologies where New Zealand has been used as a guinea pig – instead, this standard has been in place in a lot of countries and is proven to work successfully. All we’re doing is raising our standards and saying we’re ready to get on board.”

Standardisation also has the benefit of meaning apprentices can learn a globally recognised skillset – something that Luke has overseen at ETCO with the first two annual graduations of their “future leaders”.

The programme sees their 12 top apprentice electricians trained up to install KNX in the expectation that over the next decade more and more building owners will expect automation as the norm.

“We can’t have an environment where there’s an awesome product like KNX that we all agree is really good and that now has a regional technical specification meaning more people can specify it in their projects, if you can’t then find the people who can install it,” Luke says. “So we need to be growing both the education about the protocol and the training of the installers at the same rate otherwise it won’t work.”

Luke’s involvement with KNX stems back to 2012 when, in his role with the global Wold Skills trade competition, he looked to raise the calibre of the competition by including elements around building automation.

It quickly became clear that only KNX – as a truly global standard – provided the level playing field which allowed electricians from around the world to be trained and then to work at the required level of proficiency.

“The first competition we launched it at was in 2013, and at that stage there were a number of countries that still didn’t use KNX as a regional standard but over the past four or five years the majority of countries have now adopted KNX in their own country as the standard for building automation – New Zealand is just the most recent. Everyone in the workspace now knows what KNX is, what it does, and how it is installed – and everyone has the resources available to make it happen where they live.”

At a grassroots level, the adoption in New Zealand of SA/SNZ IEC/ISO 14543.3.1-6:2018 is already seeing electricians see the benefits of a system that is non-proprietary, perfectly backwards compatible and has the resilience to last the lifetime of a building.

And the perfect example of the power of that standard for Luke is extremely close to home: ETCO’s new state-of-the-art training facility in Hamilton which opened in early March.

“We had master electricians from a lot of companies to help wire it up, and when they sat down in October last year all the usual names like C-Bus and Control 4 came up,” he says. “But when the president of the master electricians branch said KNX was to become the technical specification behind automation, all the heads of the companies turned around and said that it makes sense to use that. So these regional technical specifications do give KNX that clout for us to say that’s the way the industry should be moving forward.

 

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.
The KNX National Group of New Zealand encourages the use of KNX in buildings in New Zealand through its professional members.

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