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Controls integration - UK market trendsJune 2009

Controls integration in the UK is still lagging behind mainland Europe, but new products should lead to swift growth, says Jeremy Towler.

As energy costs continue to fluctuate wildly, it is increasingly important for all organisations to monitor and improve their energy consumption. Along with tougher energy legislation, the cost of energy is creating a carrot and stick environment that is driving improvements in energy efficiency. Consequently, the non-residential intelligent building control market is forecast by BSRIA Proplan to continue its growth at a healthy rate despite the difficult current economic climate.

Collectively, the non-residential building controls market in the largest seven economies in Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands) reached €2.7 billion in 2007. The UK market is valued at £428 million and is forecast by BSRIA Proplan to reach at least £441 million by 2012. This represents a growth of approximately 3 per cent (in real terms).

How intelligent control systems separate out over three levels

Defining intelligence

An intelligent building control (IBC) system can be defined as a combination of computerised / microprocessor-based control and monitoring products, installed as a single system. Such systems control and monitor energy consuming equipment such as heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and lighting. These systems comprise a central user interface, communications network and data acquisition / direct digital control (ddc) controllers. In general terms intelligent control systems are divided into three levels as shown in Figure 1.

A key issue with IBC systems has always centred on the communication protocols between the different communication components. The trend in the UK market is towards the adoption of open communications protocols, with BACnet leading the way.

However, the UK market still has considerable potential: 75 per cent of control systems in the UK are still classified as proprietary, with BACnet representing 21 per cent of the market and LonWorks just four per cent.

Despite the relatively low penetration levels of BACnet in the UK market compared to other European countries (in Germany it accounts for some 34 per cent), it is expected to grow swiftly as BACnet products are launched by major manufacturers. In turn, this should improve the integration of different manufacturers' equipment, resulting in a wider product choice for the end user.

One further development that should have a positive effect on integration is the increasing number of multi-protocol controllers that are available in the market. These controllers can provide plug-and-play functionality to accommodate several different protocols, including BACnet, LONWorks, modbus and DALI.

More lighting controls suppliers are using the DALI protocol and full system integration is becoming more common, including the integration of lighting, security and fire detection. More and more suppliers of this type of equipment are offering BACnet communication protocol with their products.

Market share by project, 2007

In the UK, less than 20 per cent of all intelligent building controls systems can be considered integrated. However, this share is likely to rise because energy efficiency is a key driver of this market, and will drive, in particular, the integration of lighting and electricity distribution. Various HVAC equipment such as chillers, pumping stations and variable-speed equipment is already integrated in the majority of buildings.

There are other strong reasons for systems integration. For example, fire detection systems have been integrated with ventilation control systems for many years. The nature of some building types also dictates the use of integrated systems. The critical performance of data centres may, for example, require the close control of environmental conditions and the overall monitoring of building performance.

Integrated controls in offices

With such a large installed base of floor space, and an on-going upgrading and refurbishment of such premises, it's no surprise that the office sector - particularly large sites - represents one of the largest spends on intelligent building controls.

Since 2000 there has been a significant change in the spend measured by end-user segmentation, with education now being the largest spending market, growing from about £20 million per annum to £80 million per annum in just seven years. Other areas that have also experienced significant growth are retail, hotels, catering and health markets.

An effective and efficient control system must be taken into account when designing a new building, so it is no surprise that, in 2007, 53 per cent of all intelligent control systems were installed in new buildings. However, the retrofit market has also grown strongly due to the drive for energy efficiency and for more controlled environments.

In 2007 the retrofit market accounted for a market share of 32 per cent with a value of £137 million. BSRIA Proplan believes this will continue to grow, probably capturing an even bigger market share as the construction of new commercial properties (in particular office buildings) slows due to over-capacity. Meanwhile, energy efficiency and legislation will demand improvements in the performance from existing buildings.

Market share by building sector in 2004 and 2007

Having said that, in line with the downturn in new buildings, the number of full building refurbishments is also expected to reduce due to the difficult economic climate.

As intelligent building controls have become more complex, the value of each individual contract has risen significantly so that contracts valued between £100 000 - £350,000 represent the largest share by value.

Perhaps not surprisingly, London and the south east account for the largest regional expenditure on intelligent building controls and for 32 per cent of the total UK expenditure. This is clearly down to the large number of non-residential properties within the region.

Future prospects

Although society's attitude to energy usage is changing and there is an increasing awareness of the need to reduce the consumption of natural resources, this alone will not drive the demand for intelligent building controls. Nevertheless, the importance of corporate social responsibility on companies' growth strategies should not be underestimated; an organisation that displays its green credentials is more likely to be favoured by the public.

While the need to reduce energy largely drives the specification and installation of intelligent building systems, building services are made up of many other systems, such as heat pumps, solar thermal and combined heat and power. Packaged systems like these will only be energy efficient if their controls are integrated.

Companies are also more conscious of their energy expenditure. End-users of IBC systems have become more aware of the need to obtain information about their buildings. The information can subsequently be used to develop performance indicators and to identify ways in which energy expenditure can be reduced. As a result, end-users are becoming more willing to invest in IBC systems.

Legislation is another main driver for the increased use of intelligent building controls. Part L of the 2006 UK Building Regulations was heavily influenced by the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), notably the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates.

All new buildings have to pass through the Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM) calculation (or equivalent). Achieving this increases the requirement for a better control of HVAC systems and also sets a requirement for energy monitoring. This increases the scope of building controls because the energy metering system is usually linked to the IBC system.

The latest revision of the EPBD began at the end of 2007 and is likely to increase the emphasis on the controls requirement of HVAC systems in order to increase the energy efficiency of buildings. The IBC market can therefore look forward to further growth, despite the current economic climate.

BSRIA Proplan is a global market research specialist in the building environmental controls, fire protection and security sector. BSRIA Proplan is led by BSRIA senior researcher Jeremy Towler.