Our new technology, ARGOHub provides building managers with robust monitoring, management and fault reporting of emergency lighting systems across one or more sites.
In response to an urgent market need for secure, robust emergency lighting reporting solutions, Abtec Building Technologies (Abtec BT) is introducing its new software as a service (SaaS) offering powerful functionality for the control, management and fault reporting of emergency lighting systems.
Maintaining effective control and monitoring of emergency lighting systems is a matter of the utmost importance for building managers and service companies throughout the public and private sectors. The Grenfell Tower tragedy and the safety-related closure of multiple schools in Scotland are among the incidents to have prompted a comprehensive review of building management systems (BMS), of which emergency lighting is an integral component.
To offer maximum reassurance in the event of a fire or other building-compromising event, on-premise management of data is reinforced by storage in Abtec’s own cloud platform, which is part of the London-based Telehouse North and East data centres. Since this network is private and is not hosted on the internet, it is fully protected against the ever-increasing number of cyber security threats.
The flexible ARGOHub software means that building managers and other end-users can activate, deactivate and display different HVAC, metering and lighting control layers as additions to the software if required. There is also the opportunity to streamline overall building system control as ARGOHub can reduce the need for multiple head-ends by interfacing with other building systems using open protocols such as KNX and BACnet.
Designed for maximum operational flexibility, ARGOHub employs the KNX open standard communications protocol. Individual groups are monitored and controlled via DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface), with KNX/IP routers enabling the lighting systems to be connected to the overall building emergency lighting system in different operational ‘lines’. The infrastructure can be easily expanded or amended given that each new line is able to communicate with the other lines in the building.
Fully supportive of the current industry standards, ARGOHub can be tested in accordance with BS EN 50172:2004/BS 5266-1:2016, which specify the minimum provision and testing of emergency lighting for different premises. The system will be made available both as an OEM product and a standalone solution.
“From schools and colleges to global corporations there is a need for building managers to be able to control, monitor and test their emergency lighting systems with ease and confidence,” says Dave Watkins, Director of Abtec Building Technologies. “Easy to use, control and test, ARGOHub will enhance overall building safety and bring peace of mind to building owners, operators and users everywhere.”
Abtec Building Technologies (Abtec BT) has been crowned Contractor of the Year at the 2019 Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) Awards.
The prestigious event celebrated achievements in the electrotechnical and engineering services industry, during a ceremony held in London on Friday 7 June.
Abtec BT, a company within Abtec Group, scooped the award in the sub £1 million turnover category for electrical services. The company was lauded for its development of game-changing building technologies and a commitment to exceptional customer service.
Abtec’s award-winning Hydra energy management software was highlighted as it enables clients to easily monitor their energy use without the complexity of a traditional BMS. It is now deployed at sites all over the UK and is trusted by big-name brands including Siemens and Ibstock.
Abtec was also commended for its strong culture of professional development and commitment to open standards for flexibility, including KNX and the Niagara framework. This provides clients with an opportunity to automate more of their building, and future-proof their infrastructure.
Dave Watkins, Director of Abtec BT comments: “We are delighted to have been recognised by such a respected industry body such as the ECA, and this award is testament to the commitment and skills of our team. We’d like to thank the ECA, as the support we’ve received through our membership has allowed us to strive further and reach a wide client base with innovative solutions to energy challenges.”
Abtec Building Technologies (Abtec BT) has upgraded the environmental controls in various buildings at Arthur Mellows Village College, a sixth form secondary school located near Peterborough. As well as reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the new controls have provided the school with greater ease of use and operational efficiencies.
Serving pupils aged from 11 to 18, Arthur Mellows Village College is a secondary school in Glinton, around 8km north of Peterborough. Although Olympic medal-winning gymnast Louis Smith and footballer Luke Steele (goalkeeper at Nottingham Forest) are among notable alumni, the school is an academy with a specialism in technology. As such, facilities like its Science Department require regular investment.
Arthur Mellows Village College relocated its Science Department to a new build in 2009, leaving its previous building to become disused and unfit for purpose. However, the school recently wanted to breathe new life into the old Science Department building and, with a combination of funds from DfE grants, The Wolfson Foundation and its own financial resources, Arthur Mellows Village College set about creating a vision that would be called the McLaren Building. The upgraded facility would house art, science and media studies classrooms.
A major aspect of the refurbishment would focus on the upgrading of environmental controls, with Abtec appointed by the project consultant to undertake this work.
“In the old science block we were tasked with providing integrated lighting controls, mechanical vents and a BMS plant room based on Tridium technology – totally replacing the old systems,” explains Phil Peer, Project Manager at Abtec.
Upon completion of the work, it was clear to see that the McLaren Building, which opened in 2016, had been refurbished to a very high standard. Indeed, the facility exceeds current thermal insulation levels. Housed within the revamped building are five dedicated art classrooms, a kiln room, screen-printing room, two science laboratories, a science preparation room, two media rooms, a media studio, a computer room and two further classrooms. The total cost of refurbishment works and fit out was approximately £1.5 million.
Due to the success of the McLaren Building, Abtec has since completed several additional projects at Arthur Mellows Village College, including the introduction of: a BMS in the humanities block; lighting controls in the newly constructed site office block; and lighting controls and BMS in the sports hall.
“We also performed BMS works in the main plant room, which was originally served by another system,” says Mr Peer. “Equipment has been installed that interfaces with other plant rooms – it’s all in one place. The college sublets spaces for events, so the BMS had to offer easy adjustment.”
Another area that leveraged the expertise of Abtec was the refectory, where extra space was constructed on to the existing block. Abtec provided a solution for controlling the underfloor heating, CO2 mechanical vent, lighting control and plant room controls – all of which were fed from the main plant room.
“Throughout the various projects we adopted an agnostic approach, using DALI, which is industry-recognised open technology,” says Mr Peer. “It was important to avoid reliance on any one manufacturer, so if something needs to be replaced, it can be.”
The systems installed by Abtec also facilitate the automatic testing of emergency lighting on a monthly basis, a function that saves on labour costs and time – boosting operational efficiency in the process.
A common head end sits on a virtual school server, so all data is aggregated back to one place. In addition, a single set of graphics is deployed across all plant rooms to provide the same look and feel.
All of the newly introduced lighting is based on LED technology, which in combination with the Abtec control systems means a better learning environment for pupils. Furthermore, new heating plant is helping to drive energy efficiency and CO2 reductions in line with Part L of the Building Regulations.
“The temperature and lighting is a lot easier to control now, whereas before it was difficult to say the least,” states Gary Wentworth, Site Manager at Arthur Mellows Village College. “We had to go down to the boiler room and locate the right switch, which was not necessarily obvious. Now it’s all centralised on one computer, so we can alter time zones and schedules, and respond to issues quickly; it only takes a couple of minutes. The lighting has daylight harvesting control, which is saving energy as well as ensuring the right light levels for students and staff.”
Abtec Building Technologies (Abtec BT) has provided the control system for the main and emergency lighting systems at a new Siemens facility in Lincoln, rated by BREEAM as ‘Very Good’. The HYDRA integrated building energy management system (BEMS) from Abtec provides the foundation for the solution, ensuring comfortable lighting levels for staff and the testing of emergency lighting in line with the highest safety standards. Moreover, Siemens is achieving energy savings of up to 60% when compared with a traditional installation, delivering an almost immediate return on its investment.
When Abtec won the Siemens contract it immediately began to assess the task in hand. The new-build storage facility was set to feature a large quantity of racking between which lighting fixtures would be required. It was clear from the outset that the choice and setting of such lighting would have to be optimised to deliver the correct lux levels. While the lighting was supplied by another company, Abtec’s remit was to provide the necessary controls, for both the main and emergency lighting provisions, and deliver system integration to the central battery system in the warehouse.
A further task was to provide a solution for the office block, which takes up around one-third of the new site at Lincoln. Again, the objective was to provide the controls for main and emergency lighting. Daylight, presence and manual dimming control were among client requirements in the office block.
“We installed HYDRA, which could not only control the lighting, but also report on the lighting levels being used and any associated cost savings,” explains Russell Downing, Building Controls Engineer at Abtec. “HYDRA advocates open systems and, in this instance, is working with three different networks: IP, KNX and Dali. We needed to ensure that all three systems worked in unison.”
At the Siemens facility, the IP-based network communicates with a two-wire bus system (KNX) for local control, and subsequently with a DALI system. Key to this is the Siemens Gamma N141 DALI/KNX gateway, which enables communication with DALI devices over KNX. A Tridium JACE® 8000 controller and server platform ‘hosts’ the Hydra graphics and facilitates the scheduling of the emergency lighting tests and timeclock functions on the system.
Full control is provided at the new Siemens facility, where lights can be programmed to come on at target lux levels that are defined by the user. Having this system in place means Siemens can capitalise on daylight saving hours whereby lighting comes on at a lower level during the summer months due to the brighter days. In turn, significant savings can be achieved.
“It is important to point out the maintenance capability of HYDRA,” explains Mr Downing. “For example, if a light doesn’t come on, it could be because the lamp needs replacing – HYDRA will tell you what’s wrong. If it’s a ballast failure, then the need to replace and recommission the ballast will be indicated. Ultimately, the client’s engineering team and their representatives now have the capability to maintain the system themselves, quickly, and without calling someone out, thus achieving further savings.”
Emergency lighting was also an important part of the Siemens project. The system that Abtec has installed means that the testing of emergency lighting is performed by a scheduler within HYDRA. The scheduler ensures that maintenance is in-line with the BS5266-1 code of practice.
“Emergency lighting at the facility has a duration test annually and a function test on a monthly basis,” says Mr Downing. “This allows for savings to be made by Siemens as they don’t have to call out an engineer to undertake the tests. By adhering to this code of practice they are also future-proofing against any new legislation that might come into play moving forwards.”
The warehouse at the Lincoln site features a central battery system based on the use of normal luminaires. Here, the Abtec solution not only includes battery system testing, but full system integration. Final circuit monitoring also forms part of the system functionality. When a circuit failure is detected, not only is an alarm raised, but the illumination levels of the remaining lighting circuits are raised to 100%, thus compensating for the loss of illumination from the failed circuit.
Logic functions are used to switch on central battery-supplied lighting over DALI, which ensures 100% maximum load on the central battery system during test periods. Across the site, the system created by Abtec is able to provide the status of PIR presence detectors over BACnet so they can be utilised by the zonal HVAC control system without any requirement for additional sensors.
Abtec also devised a test solution for the self-contained battery system installed within the office block. Here, the luminaires feature integral batteries.
Crucially, the ability of Abtec to pre-program the HYDRA system offsite meant that disruption to the construction process could be minimised. Any late amendment requests were completed during final on-site commissioning.
“Siemens will already be experiencing a highly energy-efficient building, with lower energy bills,” concludes Mr Downing. “What’s more, expenditure on maintenance tasks will be minimal.”
Abtec’s involvement in the new-build project lasted six months. The facility went fully operational in the spring of 2018.
Abtec Building Technologies (Abtec BT) is helping one of the UK’s leading independent schools to save around 42% a year on its annual gas consumption for heating. Importantly, the use of Abtec’s integrated building energy management system, HYDRA, is allowing the school to easily navigate and visualise logged events. Built on the latest vector graphics platform, HYDRA enables staff to zoom in to the information they need, whether on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
The Stamford Endowed Schools (SES) are three independent schools in Lincolnshire working together to provide a first-class education to pupils aged 3 to 18. Structured as a ‘diamond’, boys and girls are taught together at the co-educational nursery and junior school before splitting to the respective boys and girls senior schools until the age of 16. This allows for a more tailored and personalised education at every level, either as day pupils or as boarders, before coming back together in a joint sixth form. SES turned to Abtec after the company successfully completed a small lighting control project in a newly constructed chemistry laboratory.
“The project went well and we were invited back to discuss some wider issues with the management of the estate facilities,” explains Dave Watkins, director of Abtec BT, which specialises in bringing cost-saving intelligence to buildings. “We were asked to assess the BMS systems currently installed and the mechanical controls within the plant rooms. In addition, we looked at the various field-based sensors around the site to check their functionality and operational effectiveness.”
With origins dating back to 1532, SES has built or absorbed many different buildings from different eras. This has led to the accumulation of an eclectic mix of plant rooms, equipment and control systems, all of which have different passwords and operational protocols.
“As a first step I delivered to the client a demonstration of HYDRA, which has Google Maps as the front page,” says Mr Watkins. “This allows easy navigation of expansive sites such as SES, permitting the user to zoom in on specific buildings and access information instantly, such as live classroom temperatures.”
The HYDRA system, with its supervisor control and data acquisition functions, is a window into the heart of a facility, as well as a proactive tool giving information to managers so they can make informed business decisions. HYDRA supports OPC, ModBus and BACnet, and allows integration with third-party systems. Data aggregation pulls information from many different sources, while historical analysis gives side-by-side trend comparisons.
“When we attended the site to look at the plant rooms across the estate, we noted a mixture of systems ranging in ages and technology, while some buildings appeared to have very little control at all,” says Mr Watkins.
Due to the age and disparity of the existing systems, obvious climate control issues were immediately visible to the Abtec team, with cold classrooms and roasting dormitories all too common.
“We were initially tasked with upgrading the Browne House building, a purpose-built boarding house accommodating boys studying for GCSE and A-level examinations,” explains Mr Watkins. “We set about standardising the kit that was controlling the plant. As climate control would be the biggest driver of savings, we installed a wireless sensor on every window, a wireless thermostatic valve on every radiator and temperature controllers in every corridor – all linked to the boiler controller. Over three floors of dormitories we estimate that SES will save 42% on its annual gas usage thanks to the upgrade.”
Across the SES estate Abtec is now delivering new outstations with standardisation and vender agnostic controls. This strategy requires the use of a standard panel in the six plant rooms with the capacity to accommodate the majority of scenarios. Here, a Tridium BMS outstation with a 34 point I/O controller is deployed. HYDRA operates on the Tridium Niagra4 Framework, and is displayed to users in web HTML5.
Tridium was chosen as it provides the ability to integrate with existing field controls should a protocol driver for the system be available,” explains Mr Watkins. “Moreover, we can normalise data points, such as Mbus, MODBUS, BACnet and KNX. It should also be noted that each controller is IP-based and uses open-based architecture, while remote maintenance is easily achieved.”
For the Stamford Endowed Schools, the total floorplan can be displayed on one page with the ability to scroll in and out as required. In addition, Tridium outstations can be brought online after each plant room has been completed, giving the client an overreaching BMS and a single point of access.
Through Abtec’s expertise in the BMS industry, the company can deliver modern systems tailored to give maximum energy savings through open-based controls. Abtec’s completely impartial approach to the controls means that it offers vendor-agnostic based solutions; in effect approaching each project with a view to giving clients the very best solution for their properties, enabling the largest possible reduction in annual running costs and the shortest possible ROI.
Following the success with Browne House, Abtec is currently undertaking a similar process in the Middle School at Stamford Endowed Schools. In addition, all six plant rooms on site will one-by-one be brought online (on HYDRA).
Abtec Building Technologies (Abtec BT) has recently completed a project to install a connected lighting system at a newly constructed brick factory in the East Midlands. Ibstock Brick, an Ibstock PLC company, has built a new factory capable of producing 100 million bricks a year, helping to address the UK’s housing shortage. With lighting such a fundamental part of any manufacturing facility, the company wanted to install the latest technologies to help save on costs, energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
Ibstock Brick is the UK’s market leader in brick manufacture with 20 factories across the country and a total annual capacity in excess of 750 million bricks. In addition, the firm employs almost 1400 people, with a substantial number in the local Ibstock and Ellistown areas in Leicestershire.
Despite the impressive output figures, the UK as a whole is suffering from a housing shortage that is not helped by a lack of bricks. To address the shortfall, it is estimated that a further 400 million bricks will be required annually; a demand that is currently met by imports from continental Europe.
In response, Ibstock Brick is increasing its output by constructing one of the most modern brick factories in the world. In fact, the company estimates that the new £54 million facility will increase its production capacity by a further 100 million bricks per annum.
All modern factories call for connectivity, and this includes services such as lighting, for which the company was keen to ensure the latest technologies were utilised.
“We were introduced to the project by Siemens as we are a solutions partner for their building technologies division,” explains Dave Watkins, director of Abtec BT, a specialist in bringing cost-saving intelligence to buildings. “After an initial chat with Ibstock, at which we had the opportunity to put forward our ideas, we were asked to tender formally for the project, which we duly won.”
The solution proposed by Abtec BT was based on a number of class-leading technologies, including LED sources, open platform functionality, sustainability and, of course, connectivity. This proposal contrasted notably to the original brief, which was based on fluorescent lighting.
“We had to justify the technology and why Ibstock should go for it,” states Mr Watkins. “However, the advantages of the proposal were pretty apparent and the company soon placed the order.”
Abtec BT’s alternative to traditional lighting and controls facilitated the potential to build an energy-efficient building management system. Significant payback on the proposed solution was demonstrated, along with CO2 savings to match.
In terms of the actual choice of lighting, the nature of the environment within the factory made this task especially challenging. Specialist conditions meant that the system not only had to be energy efficient, but had to be installed to a very specific standard, a factor that called for careful thought in the design of the concept, as well as consideration for future maintenance requirements.
“We proposed DALi light fittings, which were rated to a high IP (ingress protection) with no metal exposed,” explains Mr Watkins. “This is important as a combination of brick dust and moisture in the atmosphere can cause incorrectly specified light fittings to corrode. In addition to their suitability for the operating environment, the use of DALi lighting would also provide the control and feedback needed at the management graphics end of the system.”
In total, Abtec BT calculated the need for 300 light fittings above the 295 x 86m factory floor in order to maintain the necessary lux levels. Contamination from the brickmaking process will of course affect lux levels over time, but the nature of the connected lighting solution proposed by Abtec BT means it is possible to account for this eventuality.
“At installation, new lights can be dimmed to counter the fact that they will probably emit lux levels that are too high,” says Mr Watkins. “However, as time passes and the lights get contaminated from factory production processes, so we can dim up accordingly. Having a high understanding of issues such as these helped us to secure the Ibstock contract.”
The installation undertaken by Abtec of the electrical elements such as the busbar also had to be carefully selected and installed. Due to the challenging height of the building (over 17m), the sensors used and the location required close scrutiny.
Abtec BT’s system has all the elements necessary to provide effective energy management, including presence detection from sensors mounted throughout the factory, automated function and duration testing of emergency lighting, constant daylight control and some scene setting.
“Constant light control means that we monitor natural light levels across the whole factory and adjust the DALi lighting accordingly,” says Mr Watkins. “For instance, if the sun comes out and natural light levels improve we can slowly dim the lights [not noticeable by the naked eye], thus generating savings.”
In total, energy savings of around 50% are anticipated in comparison with a traditional lighting install, along with an annual CO2 reduction of 170,041 kg. When coupled with the automated emergency testing, further savings are expected, leading to an estimated project payback of less than two years.
“The system installed is open in its approach to technology; KNX has been used for the field based sensors, BACnet for integration to heating and ventilation, and MODBUS to bring in the metering data,” explains Mr Watkins.
Importantly, the entire system links to Abtec’s integrated building energy management system, HYDRA, which allows users to easily navigate and visualise logged events. Built on the latest vector graphics platform (HTML5), HYDRA helps users zoom in to the information they need, whether on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
The HYDRA system, with its supervisor control and data acquisition functions, is a window into the heart of a building, as well as a proactive tool giving information to managers so they can make informed business decisions.
HYDRA supports OPC, ModBus and BACnet, and allows integration with third-party systems. Data aggregation pulls information from many different sources, while historical analysis gives side-by-side trend comparisons.
In the next phase of the project at Ibstock, the Abtec-designed system will link to further services such as heating, cooling and process water, making it an exemplar of intelligent building management.
“When finished, our sister company Abtec Network Systems will continue acting as a bureau moving forward, in effect offering lighting as a service,” concludes Mr Watkins.
The connected lighting project at Ibstock was bestowed with a Highly Commended accolade by the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) at its recent annual awards.
Abtec Building Technologies has scooped an honour at this year’s ECA Industry Awards, held on Friday 8 June at the London Hilton Bankside Hotel.
The ECA Industry Awards recognise key achievements of the finest talent in the sector, providing a great opportunity for contractors and wider industry associates to showcase exceptional work.
Abtec’s team won a highly commended award in the Best Energy Solutions Project, for a recent project with Ibstock Brick. The project, which delivers energy efficient and intelligent lighting for Ibstock Brick’s new factory, will save 170,000kg of CO2 per year.
The ECA Industry Awards judges were impressed with Abtec’s demonstration of significant CO2 savings, anticipated energy savings of 50% and a project payback time of less than two years.
Commenting on the commendation by the ECA, Site Engineering Manager John Grew said:
“What we have achieved with the team from Abtec BT is the coming-together of the key elements of energy management. This includes lighting that is controlled by presence detection, automated emergency lighting testing, constant daylight control, as well as scene-setting. All of this is integrated within a wider, site-wide building management solution. The result is a 50% saving when it is compared with the cost of a traditional lighting solution – thus saving 170,041 kg CO2 per year, when coupled with the automated emergency testing further savings that are expected. These numbers are very significant indeed make a major contribution to our overall energy efficiency goals.”
Ibstock Brick’s engineering team is now working with Abtec to fully integrate the building services on the new site and the wider estate to provide even greater energy management.
Safecontractor is a leading third party accreditation scheme which recognises very high standards in health and safety management amongst UK contractors.
Abtec is principally involved in the building services sector, specialising in reducing the energy used by large buildings with the implementation of ‘smart’ building technology. Last year saw a record turnover for the company with a number of high profile projects, including; Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, F1’s Red Bull Racing factory, and Damien Hirst’s new London gallery.
Dave Watkins, commercial director at Abtec Building Technologies, comments; “We are continuing to see lots of growth and this accreditation will enable us to deliver that growth safely.”
John Kinge, technical director of Safecontractor said, “More companies need to understand the importance of adopting good risk management in the way that Abtec has done. The firm’s high standard has set an example which hopefully will be followed by other companies within the sector.”
Under the Safecontractor scheme, businesses undergo a vetting process which examines health and safety procedures and their track record for safe practice. Those companies meeting the high standard are included on a database, which is accessible to registered users only via a website.
Abtec designed, configured and deployed the hospital’s extensive KNX and DALI networks. As well as controlling standard devices, such as heating and cooling, there are novel uses for the protocol too. Theatre anaesthetic gas volumes are monitored, with alarms triggered if they breech set points. Critical blood bank refrigerators’ temperatures are monitored to ensure the safe storage of bloods. Water temperatures are kept to a rigid monitoring regime too, to mitigate the threat of legionella.
The hospital’s entire lighting uses DALI over KNX to deliver sophisticated, interactive lighting control. The lighting design complies with CIBSE Lighting Design Guide L2 specification, and emergency lighting testing and reporting is now a scheduled automated process.
Abtec’s KNX engineers created several areas of integration with other building control protocols. The building’s third party access control system now integrates with lighting and climate control. Access cards no longer just open doors they also trigger lighting and heating in certain rooms.
Dave Watkins, Commercial Director Abtec Building Technologies, notes “This is another great example of KNX going beyond room and building control. The open standard is now being used to monitor critical resources in the building”.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital opened on 16th June 2015 and is the first purpose-built hospital in England to have emergency care consultants in a broad range of conditions on site 24/7. The new emergency care hospital will treat seriously ill and injured patients from across Northumberland and North Tyneside and is part of Northumbria Healthcare’s new model of emergency care which will help save more lives and improve clinical outcomes for more patients.
Over the last two years we’ve seen an increase in the number of attacks against automated buildings. Many of these attacks, including the ones that have made the headlines, have occurred because of the lack of security added to the BMS when installed.
Knowing what security measures to take and, more importantly, how to implement them is a challenge. This is where we can help. Our sister organisation, Abtec Network Systems, has specialist knowledge to help secure BMS and head ends. It has helped many BMS and energy specialists harden their network connections and add appropriate security to projects.
It’s worth talking to the client about security from the early stages of the project as this will help identify what kind of security is appropriate. Most of the BMS security measures we discuss in the article are low cost and fairly simple to implement. Some of your larger projects will warrant additional security measures, for example if the project includes building access control, and again we can help here too. We can work on your behalf, identifying the best security measures to take, with your client.
Call us on 01858 438 550 to discuss how we’ve helped other specialists like you secure their clients’ projects.
Don’t forget we’ve also created a free training session that looks at securing building automation projects. You can book onto this here:
Also, our white paper looking at the best way to provide remote connections to BMS can be found here, it’s well worth a read.