The school that thinks for itself

2015-06-02 - A middle school in Sweden saves up to 30 percent in energy costs with a smart KNX system.

Daylight controls the indoor lighting (LED lamps). When sunlight becomes intense, the awnings automatically descend. And when the last person leaves the classroom, the lights are automatically switched off. They don't waste electricity here. It's all thanks to a system where all of the electrically-driven devices talk to each other. ABB’s KNX system monitors the school’s environment, (e.g. both indoor and outdoor temperatures) and it's light-sensitive.  
ABB's KNX system has artificial intelligence that adapts to people. At the Nyköping's Alpha middle school, 700 students and their teachers study and work in a high-tech environment that is invisible, yet very prevalent.

“Well, sort of anyway,” says Lennart Johansson at ABB. He is the one who customized the system for the installer, Elajo El & Energiteknik in Nyköping.

“The KNX system is installed and quietly doing its job. It's been in place for one semester now at Alpha School and it works perfectly. You don't need to think about it at all. It's fully integrated and has become a natural part of the environment here,” says Johansson.

Better environment, better planet

Alpha School saves up to 30 percent energy and everyone agrees: the air quality will improve, we'll have a cleaner environment and a better planet if we start here and now. Every small detail matters.

“We've divided the students into six teams that compete with each other on how much energy can be saved,” says Principal Harke Steenbergen. “We're hoping that students will develop an environmental awareness that will last throughout their lives. The KNX system provides the foundation and I'm very satisfied with it. Truth be told, it fascinates me every single day,” he says.

At Alpha School, there are two "copper wires", as Lennart Johannson describes them. Signals are picked up by smart relays, which turn on and off lights, or adjust the strength using dimmers, operate the awnings, close the fire doors or lower the lighting in the parking lot as soon as the last car departs. These aren't ordinary circuit breakers. Nyköping municipality had visions of a new technology that could meet new energy requirements and it gave Elajo the challenge.

“This is an exciting, excellent solution for technical functions,” says Jan Westman.

Attention to every detail

We're on a guided tour with Tom Norgren, Project Manager at Elajo, in charge of the KNX installation at Alpha. He tells us how every last detail was considered. “We did more than what we had originally planned. But a traditional electrical installation would have taken more time, more complicated and most important of all – it would have cost more.”

We take a seat close to the entrance on this sunny winter day. It's around noon and the sensors have reacted to the strong sunlight. The LED lights gradually begin to dim.

“This is what we call daylight compensation,” says Tom, with a smile.
Tom Norgren, Project Manager at Elajo

KNX at Alpha

KNX is what's referred to as an open ISO standard. Just after the millennium it became valid as a standard worldwide when the following three European standards were merged: EIB, EHS and BatiBUS. All KNX-marked products work the same, regardless of the manufacturer.

The system consists of a number of sensors that register things in the environment, such as the number of people in a room, the outdoor or indoor temperature or wind strength.

When a burglar alarm and alarm zones are activated, signals are sent to the fire exits, which quickly lock up. Daylight optimization at Alpha means that the daylight strength is what controls indoor lighting. The sensors register the daylight strength outdoors and send a signal that makes the awnings descend. In this system, room vacancy control turns out the lights once everyone has left the classroom. The KNX system is also connected to, and coordinated with the sound system in auditoriums, where light, sound and image scenarios can be selected.

In the reception area, the KNX display can also be used to control various functions inside the building, such as temperature, and Lux values. It also indicates alarms from various places in the building, such as the lavatories.


ABB's involvement

Elajo El & Energiteknik installed an i-bus KNX-system at Alpha High School in Nyköping. They chose ABB as project engineering partner and main components supplier. 18 centers were connected in two twisted pair cables where sensors and actuators communicate to optimize lighting, blinds and ventilation.

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