Architects and designers use automated technologies in their projects to create smart buildings that can complete tasks as varied as controlling the temperature or directing traffic. But technology moves fast and international standards need to keep up with developments. Katrin Foerster, international key account manager at ABB, which sponsored this year's LEAF Awards, discusses the changes in the field.
How has the issue of building automation developed in recent years?
Feelings about it have changed remarkably, which is due to wider knowledge about what building automation can do for us. It helps that the controllers we use nowadays can also be our smartphones and tablets. We download apps for all sorts of services, such as booking taxis or finding the nearest shoe store; these devices are our buddies and it seems a matter of course to also use them to control the house and its functions.
What are the key applications of automated technologies?
This depends on the building we are talking about. For example, functions in offices have to be driven by energy reduction, but still enhance employees' work conditions with a good climate and professional light.
In a home, functions such as scene settings, the master switch and integrating the intercom are key. In a hotel, the professional control of the conference areas is an example of how to improve services. Each building profits from automation in multiple ways.
How can architects and designers balance aesthetics with practicality and usability when using these technologies?
The answer is easy. ABB controllers and switches vary in design, from conventional to high-tech. They range from beautifully modern, clean and sharp-edged aesthetics to ornamental.
They are made from plastic, glass, metal and corian. There are rocker and rotary switches, and diverse controllers with a display or intuitive touch controls that include the option to use smart devices.
The challenge for architects and interior designers is to interpret clients' needs. Building automation must be intuitive, simple and fun to use. Questions to ask are: who uses the system in the end, does everybody involved know what building automation is, what are the advantages, and will everybody be happy with the chosen controllers and what they control?
How do you think an international standard can be developed? How does ABB's position as a global company influence your perspective on this?
KNX bus technology is an international standard for building automation that emerged from the EIB (European installation bus technology) years ago. ABB helped establish this.
The KNX Society is an independent institute in Brussels, and every manufacturer who wants to produce KNX devices has to send them there to be tested. Only with the best results will a product be accepted.
More than 360 manufacturers produce KNX products and the community is growing. ABB sells KNX building automation solutions globally, it is present in 100 countries and is a strong, successful and reliable KNX partner.