A project at the University of Leicester by Entech won both Best Commercial Project and Best Public Sector Project in the recent KNX UK Awards. Covering 12,836m², it is UK's largest non-residential project built to the ultra-energy efficient Passivhaus standard and is designed to be up to ten times more energy efficient than a normal building of the same size.

Home to the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology departments, the university’s new Centre for Medicine will replace an existing structure on the same site and has been designed to reduce annual energy bills by 80%. Passivhaus buildings provide a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating. This requires very precise control algorithms to ensure maximum efficiency.
KNX enabled the building to be controlled to Passivhaus standards. To reach Passivhaus levels of energy efficiency, the building’s heating and lighting control, solar radiation, CO2 and natural ventilation all need to be controlled in relation to one another. KNX allows every element of the building control to be integrated, building wide control decisions to be taken, and local control decisions to be made that focus on maximum energy efficiency gains. KNX also feeds back all the integrated data to permit plant control decisions.
An exceptional reduction in install complexity and costs was achieved through our use of KNX. Instead of multiple services and cable types being wired back to an outstation, there was simply the requirement for data, KNX and power into each room. This reduced not only cabling but also other infrastructure costs like basket, tray and conduit. Full and simple integration into a BACnet BMS front end was also much simpler to achieve using KNX rather than multiple sub systems and protocols that using separate systems across the building would have required. The building comprises complete DALI LED control, shutter control, HVAC, security and energy management. The lighting and shutter control works alongside occupancy signals from a PIR to set different modes dependant on weather station data of sun position, height and intensity. Integrated with room temperature feedback from KNX room controller, the system is used to utilise solar gain if room below temperature or to reduce solar gain if over temperature. Scheduling is used to determine building wide operational mode of solar/blind controllers. The alarm systems are linked to engage lighting to 100% output in event of activation.
Zoned underfloor heating control, fan coil heating/cooling and radiator valve control is based on room occupancy, temperature, building mode and the room controller set point. Variable air volume (VAV) control provides fresh air based on C02 levels, occupancy and room temperature.
As part of the Passivhaus system, a specialist slab cooling/night purge routine is employed. This monitors the building’s concrete slabs for humidity and temperature within the slab and at its surface. This works alongside room temperatures, external air temperatures and the temperature of the water running within the concrete slab. They can exchange heat from the water to the slab if heating is required within rooms, or remove heat from a room by running cold water through the slab. Humidity sensors are then used to ensure water formation does not occur due to differential in moisture content and air temperature.
KNX forms the entire field level control and data provision for the building wide building energy management system (BEMS). All control data on occupancy, lighting levels, internal room temperature, C02 levels, solar levels, external lighting levels, wind speed, rain and frost alarms, blind position, ventilation actuator position and airflow, slab temperatures and humidity are all integrated with one another and the BEMS.
“We programmed off site for all the field services, which allowed for a very quick commissioning process to meet the tight program deadlines,” commented Jon Payne, business development and management at Entech. “Being able to bench test with the BMS provider to prove all operations prior to on site delivery, and then being able to program the vast majority of the building off site, allows time on site to be spent fault finding rather than programming. The whole project was commissioned in just three months. The client was very pleasantly surprised at the speed of commissioning, taking into account the sheer amount of devices controlled.”