Friday, December 15, 2023
In this segment, Walt Zerbe, Senior Director of Technology & Standards at CEDIA, engages in a conversation with Chris Thorne, Director of Imperium Build Systems based in the UK. They delve into the intricacies of HVAC control systems, exploring how these systems interface with components, user interfaces, sensors, interior designers, and the instances where seeking external expertise becomes necessary.
Imperium Build Systems: imperium.uk
Unknown Speaker 0:01
I am CEDIA, I am CEDIA, I am CEDIA, this is the CEDIA CEDIA Podcast. The point is, once our control systems in let's say we're interfacing with a Crestron home control or AV system, it is the Christian keypad and the question on display the client is touching. So if you don't get the technical integration between the BMS and the AV, right, then that can lead to problems when the client is setting a temperature in a particular room or trying to turn on the AC. And what they're expecting to happen afterwards doesn't happen. So they're going, I want to set the temperature of my living room to 22. And then two hours later, they're going still feels very cold. And so it is the process of managing the complexity between what our system is controlling, and what the AV system thinks our system is controlling, and making sure that all of the interface and all the complexity behind the scenes marries up perfectly when the homeowner moves in and goes to make start making adjustments within their property.
Unknown Speaker 0:55
Allow and welcome to another CD, a podcast. I'm Walt Zerby, Senior Director of Technology and Standards, and your host for the CD, a podcast. And today, we're going to be talking about something that we don't typically talk a lot about, but it's extremely important. It's something in every single one of our places where we live and work. And something that affects absolutely everybody. And something that also I'd venture to say as we get into this is also extremely important, not just from a comfort standpoint, but also from an energy standpoint, as we move in the world, of everything becoming electrified and trying to become a you know, a little more efficient with everything and more sustainable with everything. So we're going to be talking about BMS control, which is building management systems for those that don't know what BMS is. And this has control of HVAC systems if I have to. Okay, if I have to, say HVAC, I will, heating, vent ventilation and air conditioning systems. Is that right? Because I hope I got that right. I haven't actually said those letters out for a long, long time. So I'm going to bring in my guest, Chris Thorne, who is going to talk to us and talk with me about this subject, Chris, is it director of Imperium building systems? Or also no?
Unknown Speaker 2:19
It's how are you?
Unknown Speaker 2:22
Yeah, so did I get HVAC? Right? Because I actually haven't said those letters out for a long time.
Unknown Speaker 2:30
Yes. All right. It's a good way to start my day. We're doing this podcast first thing in the morning. So it's cool that I got that right. So So Chris, you and I had a chat, a couple chats, just talking about this whole area. I've always kind of been.
Unknown Speaker 2:45
So this is one of these areas that it's important and it's necessary, but there's also probably a lot of curiosities. I would venture to say most people listening or most integrators listening to this cast dabble in this area, and or avoid this area, they probably focus more on networking and audio, video and lighting and shades and all those other things. This this area seems to be kind of a specialty because there's, there's it's different. And there's so many other things to consider. Plus, I think, I always get worried about what if I blow something up? You know, there's, there's, I'm sure a lot of do's and don'ts, you know, asking a system to do something it wasn't designed to do. Right? You know, you've always heard this, Hey, if you replace this thermostat with the other one, you know, that's now you're off warranty, me we can talk about all this, all this stuff, but how would you like to start this discussion and why we got on this topic and and for full discretion. Chris sent me an email and said, Hey, I think this would be you know, he listens to the cast. And I think this would be interesting to talk about. And I said, Yes, and it's something that we don't talk about a lot. So I'm gonna hand it over to you to kick us off. Yeah, indeed, you you've hit a plethora of very interesting points there related to this subject. And it's kind of tricky to understand where to start, really, but I think, as you rightly say, H back and the MS control in buildings and certainly in the buildings that we as integrators in the luxury residential space, used to work in it is a very critical topic. But ironically, it's it's arguably one of the least interesting topics, particularly when we're talking around the end clients interest.
Unknown Speaker 4:32
So, and they're in creates quite
Unknown Speaker 4:37
an interesting challenge that we have in our industry in terms of how we go about
Unknown Speaker 4:42
designing and consulting when we think about trying to create a BMS and H back control solution for people and then more importantly, how we then go on to deliver that through the kind of contractual chain.
Unknown Speaker 4:53
And so, one of the things things that particular topic is very crucial to the success of the build
Unknown Speaker 5:00
thing as a whole. Because when you think about all of the different systems and the infrastructure that goes into a building this, you know, this, this applies to any building doesn't matter if it's a residential property or a commercial office or a school.
Unknown Speaker 5:12
Fundamentally, the heating systems are, are the most critical item of the system to ensure that the occupants are comfortable, and to ensure that they can be productive, and to ensure they remain healthy. You know, it's you can take somebody's television away, when we think about broader systems in a home. But if you took somebody's ability to heat their home, and to stay warm, particularly in cold climates, like we have in the UK, at times, you're starting to affect people's well being. So it's, it's a critical system that kind of slipped under the radar, in some respects,
Unknown Speaker 5:51
I want to be fair in the in the statement, really, because obviously, people know that there, they're going to have a heating system, and they know it's there. And they know they want it to work. But I guess they don't perhaps understand the complexity of the infrastructure that goes behind ensuring that the heating throughout their building is going to work and deliver sufficiently for the building that it is.
Unknown Speaker 6:13
And so, certainly, from an end clients perspective, and ultimately, the person who is pulling the purse strings in the Oval budgets with the project, you know, there is perhaps sometimes a mindset that it's just a boiler right?
Unknown Speaker 6:25
Now, I'm very interested in if you talk to me about all my fancy lighting design, because that's very visual, it's very tangible. And it plays into the everyday aesthetic aspects of my beautiful home that I'm trying to create. It's something that I can show to my visitors and my friends and family when they come around. But no one really cares too much about heating, as long as it's warm, or as long as it's hot when I needed to, hey, check out these pipes, actually, that.
Unknown Speaker 6:49
So So Chris, let's back up a quick second. Let's talk a little bit about where you stand like, like, what does Imperium specialize in? Are you an HVAC contractor? I mean, what what is your role in this? So we're a whole home technology integration provider. So we we design, consult, install, and maintain whole home technology solution. So it's, it's very much the end to end package, which can and does include, you know, the audio visual stuff that everybody knows and loves, the more traditional,
Unknown Speaker 7:27
you know, kind of systems that that play into the certainly into the CDO, world,
Unknown Speaker 7:31
lighting systems, shading systems. But I guess the our niche is that we, we didn't come from an audio visual background, we didn't come from an electrical install background, which is the more traditional route for a typical AV integrator. So we started life as a BMS integrator. So we were being used on projects, and we were winning work where we are delivering the control system. That is that is primarily there to control the heating and the cooling within the building. And we have organically progressed into the other aspects of the home technology infrastructure, as we develop the skills to be able to do so.
Unknown Speaker 8:13
Okay, so you don't physically do you physically specify and or install the HVAC stuff? So it's a great question. And we don't physically design and install the the core HVAC infrastructure. So when when I say HVAC, what I'm thinking about, just to clarify for the audience, I guess, is the boilers, the pumps, the air conditioning system in the ceiling,
Unknown Speaker 8:37
what we do is design and install the control system that is managing all of the HVAC infrastructure. Okay, there's a reason that was a loaded question. And the reason why I asked that question is, in my mind, one of the things we definitely need to talk about is how you work with an HVAC contractor. I would imagine a lot of them. Either be standoffish and say, Yeah, I don't know what you're what you're doing here. But
Unknown Speaker 9:09
you know, this is gonna void warranties, or I don't feel like working with you, and or do you also get involved in any design suggestions? And how are they accepting those like you, I'm sure when you said to health, a wellness side of this, I'm sure you probably try to work in humidification, and maybe better filters than then then might normally be had and all that stuff. So how does that whole conversation go? And do you have any suggestions for the audience of how to do this? You know, with less pain? Absolutely. So I think,
Unknown Speaker 9:46
in particularly if we're, if we're talking about a residential environment, where the property becomes of a size that it has sufficient HVAC infrastructure to require a BMS system that is, that is the point of
Unknown Speaker 10:00
Which we're engaged and we're engaged at a very much at a base level design perspective. So typically and very much talking for, you know, the UK market here and I don't know how this variances are you know, in different regions of the world but
Unknown Speaker 10:17
at some point and mechanical electrical consultant would be appointed on a project and they will be working alongside the interior design and the architectural team so where the infrastructure requires it you would have an m&e consultant that is specifying and designing the the heating systems, the boilers, the pump sets the air conditioning, so they would be responsible for saying, you need these boilers that are going to be sufficient to heat the whole of this house, given the size and the layout, etc, etc. And they would design and think about the layout of the pipe runs and flow rates and things like that. So that certainly is not an area that we would necessarily get involved with. Now at that stage, if they are if an m&e consultant is on board, or even if an m&e contractor who is responsible for delivering the work is doing on a, like a contractor design sort of process where they're going to design it as they go, they would then engage our services because they will say we've got all of this infrastructure going in, and we need a control system that can manage it all. So our expertise is interpreting their mechanical electrical design, and then recommending and designing an appropriate control system that can manage all of the systems that they're putting in. So it's very much a kind of a team effort between those two, I guess. Okay, so typically from our point of view, and in an ideal world, if an m&e consultant is engaged on a project, they would specify us within the you know, the specification for the project and say, you should be working with Imperium building systems to design and deliver the control system for this property. All right, gotcha. So, at this point, we were kind of talking standalone are talking about a large, complex system with control
Unknown Speaker 11:58
to make that better, but this whole conversation started with that being just a piece of the conversation. Because you we wanted to get into Okay, so you've got your HVAC, but then you have the entire rest of the house and, and the system and the problems that this this creates, you also mentioned about supply chain and a poor customer experience. So why don't we why don't we start to delve into that area of things and why what you've learned what you what you think, is a problem and or, and or a better approach and give us some of your experience on, on why you're passionate the show off the show. So I think one of the things that we have noticed throughout our life in terms of you know,
Unknown Speaker 12:43
empowering being 10 years as a business, and certainly predating that before Imperium was was started as a company was was noticing that
Unknown Speaker 12:53
we were obviously working with systems that, as I said, right at the beginning fall into what I would consider to be a critical part of a building.
Unknown Speaker 13:02
But we are very frequently and most oftentimes, sorry, in most projects, we are, at some point, integrating the HVAC control system, the BMS system into an AV control system. And that's really important from a perspective of the end user experience. And so just to sort of qualify that and clear that up, talk a little bit more around that. So
Unknown Speaker 13:30
we we put these, these very specialist control systems in place. And normally the panels that we built to control all this stuff is hidden away somewhere in a dusty apartment, right where the boilers and all the pumps are. So it's not front of house, it's not something that the client is physically interacting with on a day to day basis. Now the bit that they are seeing and they are interacting with is is what we call the AV system, which in itself is a slightly misleading statement because that refers to audio visual. But as we well know when we say audio visual, what we really mean is crashed on Lutron, control four etc. And that's the client sees and plays with on a date. So they've got their keypads on the wall, they might have some,
Unknown Speaker 14:07
you know, nice touchscreen display, for example. And that's the bit they actually go and touch. And then they expect something to happen. And this is where we have seen regular challenges over the years. And this is something we are very passionate about. And we are working very hard to try to create positive change throughout the industry.
Unknown Speaker 14:27
And there are multiple layers to how we can address that problem. And I don't think we'd necessarily have time to dive into them all. But the point is, once that control systems in let's say we're interfacing with a Crestron
Unknown Speaker 14:38
home control or AV system. It is the Christian keypad and the question on display the client is touching. So if you don't get the technical integration between the BMS and the AV, right, then that can lead to problems when the client is is setting a temperature in a particular room or trying to turn on the AC and what they're expecting to happen afterwards.
Unknown Speaker 15:00
doesn't happen. So they're going, I want to set the temperature of my living room to 22. And then two hours later, they're going still feels very cold in here. And so it is the process of managing the complexity between what our system is controlling, and what the AV system thinks our system is controlling, and making sure that all of the interface and all of the complexity behind the scenes marries up perfectly when the homeowner moves in and goes to make start making adjustments within their property. And that is
Unknown Speaker 15:30
a real challenge. And it's a challenge that doesn't come about just from the point of when we have an engineer in a property and an AV engineer is in a property and we're trying to make these two systems work together. It is a challenge and a problem that goes back way before that, that comes down to how we think about designing both the AV control system and the BMS control system.
Unknown Speaker 15:53
Okay, so I'm just sitting here,
Unknown Speaker 15:59
at my desk, like a million miles away from you, as we're doing this podcast.
Unknown Speaker 16:04
I'm thinking, well, what's the problem? You've got some communication protocol, and you send a command in the system, this is supposed to respond and do it. So what what? Where is the breakdown? Why why is it more complex than that? Do you have? Do you need a more robust system of a feedback? So you know, where things are and where they're progressing? And then you do, you know, check points against that? Why? What am I missing?
Unknown Speaker 16:32
Very good question. And there are a few answers to that. So
Unknown Speaker 16:40
one of the issues comes down to how AV systems and BMS systems are fundamentally considered and designed, and at which stages of the process and and to clarify that typically with an AV system. And again, because AV is is interesting, it's visual, it's tangible.
Unknown Speaker 17:01
The design and the creation of an AV scope, and an AV system is often thought about very early on in a process. And that's usually because an AV company is an AV integrator has a relationship with the end client, or they may have a relationship with an architect or an interior designer. And these these people are engaged right at the beginning, you know, in terms of when the house is being designed in terms of how it's going to look. So those are aspects of being plugged in very early doors. And the end client often will have great input into that process because they're choosing the finishes of their keypads. They're choosing what displays they want, what stereo systems, cinema rooms, and all this sort of stuff.
Unknown Speaker 17:43
So that stuff is being considered very early on. And budgets are being apportion to that in a in a more fair kind of way. I guess because what I mean by that is the client understands why they want to spend a lot of money and because they can touch it, right? Yep, tangible. It's tangible.
Unknown Speaker 18:00
Typically with the BMS, the process of how and when it's designed become comes along much later. So if we go back to that m&e consultant that we were referring to, they will be working on designing the m&e infrastructure
Unknown Speaker 18:15
throughout the project. And then at some stage when an m&e contractor is appointed or is or the m&e contract has been tendered, they would then take the m&e specification and send it out to a BMS company such as ourselves and would we would be then asked to design a system and price for a system based on that m&e specification and this typically comes a lot later on in the process.
Unknown Speaker 18:36
So and also bearing in mind at that point, like I said, at the end client isn't necessarily interested in that they they just, you know, yes, there's an m&e contractor and he's going to install the pipes, but the ball is in to make it work. So that's kind of the extent of their, usually the extent of their kind of interest level at that at that point. So it's very common for us to be working at a point where budgets, you know, now budgets have been approved and signed off and all the money has been spent on the fun stuff. And now there is a pot of cash left to spend over here on this on this piece. So oftentimes we can be working to constrain budgets
Unknown Speaker 19:12
at a much later stage of the process, so AV system has been designed and thought about long time ago, they're understanding what the zones look like, how many keypads what the buttons are going to do, etc, etc. And then at some stage later on, up pops this BMS guy says, Hey, I'm doing the controls. And by the way, we've got all these heating zones that are going in and we need to make your peace interface with our peace. Now in an ideal world, you know, Mr. BMS guy, and Mr. AV guy will sit down in a room and compare notes as early as possible and say, right, let's make sure these Maryam and with the best will in the world that you know, we try to work in that process. We're fortunate we have very good relationships with a lot of big AV companies, and we work alongside them very well. So we are starting to improve that kind of connection process. But oftentimes, time constraints budget constraints, design constraints,
Unknown Speaker 20:00
mean that we'll be on site trying to deliver the BMS portion of the job whilst they're trying to finish off the programming for the AV? And at that stage are conversations happening around? How is the how are the two going to interface with each other? So really, when we talk about how can we solve this problem,
Unknown Speaker 20:15
probably the most fundamental way of doing it is just to try to get people to understand the significance of the BMS. And to try to to engage in that communication process a lot sooner. Sometimes it's just a conversation that needs to happen earlier. And we can resolve a lot of issues that come later on when we're trying to deliver a project. Yeah, seems a bit backwards, doesn't it? When I say backwards, this is infrastructure to me. I mean, ah, HVAC is critical, you gotta have it. It's just like framing, or brickwork or anything else like that. It's almost like, it seems, if you're building a structure that requires a BMS system to properly manage the HVAC stuff. And now you're like, Okay, well, we have enough money, so we can actually do it the way we want to do it.
Unknown Speaker 21:05
We great if that was something that happened before.
Unknown Speaker 21:10
You talked about all the bells and whistles stuff, because it's, it's, you don't want to be cutting, control. I mean, this is about their daily comfort, right? I mean, lightnings got, a lot of things are going to come and go in that house, you're gonna update TVs, you're gonna do this, you're gonna do that. But that heating cooling system, that's there for like, a long time, and you want that to work, right. So it does seem odd that you kind of you're chucked in there at the end. And then and then you worry about the scramble about what dollars are leftover. And then, and then and then the customer is probably like, what
Unknown Speaker 21:42
is going to be this much to properly control the system, and then you're just kind of like an uphill fight for you to do a lot of explaining precisely, and you've hit the nail on the head. And I think, you know, when when the
Unknown Speaker 21:58
QoS sits down and says this project is over budget, we need to start shaving cost. Sadly, a lot of times, they will be looking at that large number that sits in this BMS package. Number one, they don't necessarily understand what that means. And we're talking, you know, the people holding the purse strings here,
Unknown Speaker 22:15
the end client, you know, they'll be looking going, well, what is this BMS? I don't know, well, that controls your boilers. And it's going to cost me 100, grand, you know, grabbing an arbitrary number here.
Unknown Speaker 22:25
Why would I spend 100,000 on that? But yeah, over here, when they're looking at their AV package, which might be 100 500 million, when you're saying some Well, yeah, but that's your cinema room. And this, you know, ak 25,000 pound projector, and, you know, this is your fancy shading, and all the materials and other than that, whatever, that they get that, so they're not going to pull money from there, they're going to like, more or less pour money over here. So that is certainly, you know, that is certainly a challenge. And as I said, it comes down to education, really, it's, it's getting them to understand that this is the infrastructure of your house. And once the walls are in the pipes are written and the system is written, it's really difficult to undo what you've done. So it is, we oftentimes have these conversations with people where we're saying, Look, trust us, you need this, it's, you know, you really should spend the money there. Because what you don't want to do is move into a house where for the next 1015 20 years, or however long you own the property live in the property, you don't feel like the heating system is working to your preference, because that's a real problem. And that is something else that we that we do also deal with a lot, you know, clients that have those sorts of issues, and we have to keep going back trying to make things better, make it work more efficiently, and sadly, underneath we're saying did tell you so
Unknown Speaker 23:41
you know, and that's the worst, because then even though you're there to fix stuff, they're still mentally, in their mind being like, you know, I have to call these guys all the time. And they're over all the time, and that nobody wins. When that happens, right? Even though you told me exactly.
Unknown Speaker 23:56
Yeah, it's very true. And I think, you know, things are changing. So we're working very hard to try to bring more focus and interest on this number one, I think, because it makes our job easier. Certainly in terms of the selling process. If more people understand the importance of this stuff, it makes that discussion easier. But number two, we want to deliver systems that really work and the clients are really happy with, you know, that's our goal, we, the majority of our growth in last 10 years has been purely organic, because we are very much seen, as you know, the experts in BMS controlling in large residential environments, so people come to us because they know they're going to get that quality of service. So it's in our interest in everybody's interest to try to grow understanding throughout the industry around this subject. And what we're certainly seeing is a lot of the traditional AV companies that we've done projects with over the years, really do understand the importance of this because in the same vein, they often take phone calls or disgruntled clients are saying, well, I'm pressing your touchscreen, but the heating is not working. And the first thing they say is, well, we need to talk to the BMS company. And then sadly, we
Unknown Speaker 25:00
and end up in a scenario where we're going well, AV system is doing what it's supposed to must be on the AV side,
Unknown Speaker 25:05
somewhere between this interface. So I think, you know, awareness is growing. And actually, what we are now seeing is a lot of the big AV companies that take on these sort of jobs where BMS system will also be in play, because they've also felt the pain that they are saying to their client team and the architecture team and the developers, they're saying, we do need to get Imperium in this process sooner, because it will make everyone's life easier throughout. So we are we are making progress.
Unknown Speaker 25:31
Right now, I'm going to introduce a screwball question for you.
Unknown Speaker 25:35
So is this all about a single point of control? What is to prevent somebody physically from having like a mechanical thermostat? And in every single room, I mean, that would that would work? Or would that? Or is it also a pain in the butt from?
Unknown Speaker 25:55
From a from a management standpoint? Like if somebody said to you, we'll look at why can't we just put thermostats on the wall, and we just run around and adjustable? What What would your answer be? If someone said that to you? Yeah, and we hear this often. So number one, it's about ensuring that the thermostats just a control system. So you know, in the same way, we talk about BMS as being a system there to control the HVAC infrastructure, you can consider a thermostat or just a bog standard mechanical thermostat as that just a very simplistic version of it. Okay.
Unknown Speaker 26:30
Now, there are certain scenarios where you may be able to just do that. And, and from a point of view of well, it's just simple, then maybe that is, that is a solution.
Unknown Speaker 26:42
But it's good answer, certainly, from our point of view, the, it's about understanding the the line of which a BMS system is now requirements. Now, I think one of the things that obviously, again, from an end client perspective, when we're trying to have those conversations, what they don't understand is that what you've actually got in your plant room, in terms of your HVAC infrastructure is extraordinarily complex.
Unknown Speaker 27:08
You know, a lot of the houses we work in, have HVAC infrastructure, and plant rooms that are more akin to what you would find in a very sizable office block in London.
Unknown Speaker 27:18
And so, you know, we're not just talking about a simple boiler, like I have in my garage, and I have a little rotary mechanical stuff that goes click, and I know the heat and boil is gonna come on, right? You know, we're talking about multiples of boilers, we're talking about two, three or more plant runs throughout the house, we're talking about air handling units, we're talking about multiple pump sets that need automatic changeover facilities. So it's very complex stuff. And at that point, a mechanical thermostat just physically can't cope with the requirements. So it's understanding and trying to explain that to the client, say, you can't not have a BMS here, you need one. And therefore, you need all the complexity that comes with it. Do you also sell, I'm gonna use the word scenes as a convenience. For instance, if they're going away, and you could go to the restaurant keypad and say, you know, we're going off of vacation. So the control system then
Unknown Speaker 28:13
takes a look at all the zones and keeps things at minimums and make sure things don't freeze or whatever? Or do you also create scenes for people that, that they use? Otherwise, while they're in the building? Like, you know, I want to be warm, or I want to be cool. I mean, do you do that as well and offer that as, as a as, as a reason to try to get them to feel better about the spend that they're going to be doing on this BMS system 100% In the same way, we would, when we talk about a home automation system, or AV system, such as a crush on or, or whatever, you see, there's, there's, there's multiples of terms here that often all mean the same thing. And it's no wonder that, you know, the people involved in trying to specify and design this stuff can get confused. So, absolutely, we do.
Unknown Speaker 29:02
Number one, I just want to take a quick step back and also talk about interior design,
Unknown Speaker 29:06
thinking as well, because you asked a really great question in terms of why can't we just use a mechanical stat on the wall. Okay, so for
Unknown Speaker 29:14
now, oftentimes, particularly where we have, you know, a discerning client and interior design team, they want to keep the walls as clean as and as aesthetically pleasing as possible. And the last thing they want is a, you know, really great big mechanical thermostat on the wall because it just looks terrible, right? And the big AV companies like Lutron and crush on so on, they spend a huge amount of money creating keypads that look beautiful. So the clients are happy to have them on the wall. Now, that is not the same story that can be said for
Unknown Speaker 29:43
you know, companies that manufacture heating thermostats and even BMS cell brands as well. So especially in America, right, exactly. So, so there is, so one great advantage and there are a couple that I want to talk about here, but one certainly from an interior design perspective is one greater
Unknown Speaker 30:00
advantage of having an integrated BMS into your home automation system means that we can essentially
Unknown Speaker 30:08
take that thermostat away from the wall. And we can present the option to adjust temperatures and read temperatures and understand what your heating and cooling systems are doing through the app on your phone that is provided by your question provider, etc, etc. or through a touch panel on the wall. So again, you talked around having like a single point of control, that is a huge benefit here. And one of the reasons why brands like Christian exists, because what they're doing is integrating all of these disparate systems into a single platform. That means as an end user, I have one app that I can where I can adjust my whole property rather than having four or five different apps for heating, lighting, shading, and security, and so on. So that's, that's one great advantage there. So it's, it's sort of playing into the interior design requirements, it's providing that convenience factor to the client. But the other thing as well as obviously sustainability. So now we can start to talk around when we have a, an intelligent control system like a BMS, we can start to build into that a lot of very intelligent algorithms that really take the sustainability piece and, and I'm talking about things like, let's monitor external air temperatures, and make ever slight adjustments to your heating profiles who underfloor heating and cooling systems based on how the outside air temperatures are changing progressively through the seasons. So we're always trying to meet your comfort requirements, but at the same time, we're trying to, you know, reduce the energy consumption that you're using in these properties. Now, we all know that in certain properties of this nature, some clients don't care, they want the heating all the time, they've got a swimming pool that's been heated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they probably use it twice, right.
Unknown Speaker 31:44
But when we start to say to clients, but actually, we can just start to set up these profiles that will track exterior temperatures, we can have a significant impact on the energy costs of those buildings, because the the utility costs to heat and cool a building are one of the greatest energy costs for any building doesn't matter if it's residential or commercial. So we can directly influence the energy consumption of a building through our BMS system.
Unknown Speaker 32:12
And then equally, we can start to build those clever routines into more broad home automation profiles that the the AV and home automation provider wants to set up as well. So, you know, as a sales guest, to try and articulate that point to a client to be able to say to somebody, as you leave your home, and you press that away button on your Lutron keypad at the front door, not only will it switch off all of the lights or run your lighting security profile, but it will also drop your blinds, it will track the movement of the sun so that the blinds will automate and you know, reduce heat gain through solar gain all this sort of jazz, but it will also set back all of your heating set points throughout your building. You know, let's if you're not in the house, let's let's knock your set points back by three degrees and let the let the heating just back off a little bit. Because that will save you a great deal of energy. Equally, when you come back home and you press that home button, all of those things that you want to happen when you come home in terms of your favorite radio station plays your lights through the hallway to your kitchen, come on, we can start to bring those temperatures back up for you. So there's there's a whole piece around the the broader kind of home automation discussion that we can really play into when we have a properly integrated BMS system into the home automation control. It'd be interesting to see what the ROI breakdown is of that, because I guess that could be another one of your messages in the sales that even though they're paying money upfront, you're going to be able to
Unknown Speaker 33:36
bring down their monthly expenses. Absolutely. And whilst I'd love to sit here and say, I could start throwing some arrow fingers at you, I couldn't but but what I can say is that, certainly when we talk from my prior experiences, from working with the BMS manufacturer, a company called trend part of Honeywell group for many years, the data around
Unknown Speaker 34:00
the energy consuming sorry, 84% of the energy, I think it's something statistic like 80 to 84% of the energy consumed plant is directly under the control of a BMS system in a typical commercial building. So now I don't know how that stacks up in terms of a residential scenario, but we are talking a significant amount that we can influence. And, you know, I'm pretty sure the statistic is if you reduce your temperature setpoint by one degree, you save a percent in energy. So, you know, if you're now doing that across a property of the sort of size that we're referring to where their energy bills as you can appreciate it 10s of 1000s per year, if we start to not one, two degrees offset points throughout a building, when the clients aren't there, or if they don't need, you know, certain areas at certain temperatures, then we can have a very significant impact. And as you said, they may invest 100,000 In a BMS system that could probably pay itself back within three to five years.
Unknown Speaker 34:54
Oh, wow. So that's okay. So that's that's a huge part of the discussion then the
Unknown Speaker 35:00
Get somebody to come to the table and agree to do it.
Unknown Speaker 35:04
Alright, so as the BMS designer, I imagine I just had another epiphany about comfort and control. I imagine, one of your specialties is to know, you're deploying a lot of sensors. And you're what are some of your magic sauce is which kind of use? Where? And? And how many? It's a really good question. And again, there's, there's no exact science here, because it comes down to a number of factors. And oftentimes, this can be an area that that can be a bit of a battle for us.
Unknown Speaker 35:39
And the reason why I say that is, again, when we're installing sensors, our priority as the controls installer, is to make sure the sensors are located in an appropriate location that gives the most accurate temperature reading for the space. Yeah, so you're looking at like, oh, there's gonna be a draft here, because it's a giant hallway in the staircase. So we don't want to put it there. I mean, that's, that's probably a lot of the art of this, I would say 100%. And again, we're into the interior design kind of discussion piece here. Now, it's not uncommon for us to be told where to put sensors. So you'll have an interior designer that will say you can't put it there, you need to go and stick it over on that wall. And we're looking, and we can see that that wall is, you know, has direct sunlight coming through a window straight onto the sensor, or it's directly above a radiator.
Unknown Speaker 36:28
So these are things that we often come up against. And sometimes we have a bit of an uphill struggle to try to explain, you know, it's going to affect the way the system controls if we have to put the center there, and we're telling you that it needs to go the hit. So we have to tread carefully around that topic. Now,
Unknown Speaker 36:48
one of the ways we get around that is to use very discreet sensors. So there are a range of options, like thermal sensors, these sensors, some bead sensors are no bigger than the sort of yes, your pinky finger now.
Unknown Speaker 37:01
And, and also, we can obviously color them to match all walls, finishes, paints, paper, you know, wallpaper, and etc, etc. So there are a range of sort of tactics that we do deploy. And actually we have this topic is so topical for us right now. Because it is such a challenge for us when we're trying to deliver and design systems that we've actually created a document, literally in the last two weeks, that shows the most typical sensors we work with. And we recommend and and has images of them all. And it talks around the pros and cons. And this is a document that, that we've created to issue to end clients, interior designers and architects. So they can actually think about this much earlier, rather than when our guys are on site, putting a sensor in there then telling us to move in. Because then hopefully, they already understand which sensor is gonna go in, where it's gonna go and why it needs to go there. So again, it's just another thing we're doing to try to head off these, you know, these discussions at the past long before it becomes a problem later on. In delivering the project. That's super interesting. What how is that changing? Are you finding interior designers to be
Unknown Speaker 38:04
more amenable to you putting sensors where they need to be because hopefully, they're getting more drawn into Okay, so I get my job is to have the look and feel side of this job. But I do get that some of my decisions may cost the customer more money or or may cost them some comfort are? How is that? How is their mindset changing the designers? Are they getting harder to work with or easier to work with?
Unknown Speaker 38:31
It's a great question. I think, certainly what we see is interior designers who have experienced the pain on projects they've been involved with, and they don't necessarily experience it directly. And so really to rephrase my statement, they have witnessed their own clients experience the pain. And so when they then come to do the next project, it's something that's in there, it's in the back of their mind, you know, they know that the center placements on this project created a problem later on. And then there were discussions and everyone was around the table again, well, why were the sensors put there? Why were they not put where they needed to be? So so there's unfortunately, particularly with PMS. It's a bit of a running joke in our industry, but we often say,
Unknown Speaker 39:18
you know, we have to let people go and experience the problem. And then they're more amenable to the solution. But one of the things we do also do is we are actively out running CBDs. And these are CBDs. We've developed ourselves that talk around this whole piece. And obviously our target audience for those is interior designers and architects and what is what is your what is CBD stand for? Sorry, continued professional development. So it's
Unknown Speaker 39:43
a presentation that's there to hopefully sort of educate them around these challenges.
Unknown Speaker 39:48
And we talk a lot around this piece in terms of the integration of the two systems and then the consideration around making sure sensors are in the right location, making sure you've got the correct sensor and the correct control system and so on. So on.
Unknown Speaker 40:00
Um, now, the other thing as well, just to just that's sort of coming into my mind we, that there is a relatively new ish product that that's, that's been released in the UK. And then now as far as I understand it selling worldwide, and I don't know if it's probably come across a company called polar bear design that have launched what they call as NTSC. And it's a it's a cool name. It's very cool. And it's a very cool product, to be honest. So it basically very, the guy who created the business, very clever engineering, and he was very aware of this issue. And so he went away back to the drawing board, and he's created a, a very intelligent controller that goes on the wall, you can think of it as a thermostat, but it's way, way more than that. But what he's done is he's really played into the aesthetic and interior design challenge that we are often, you know, dealing with, and we're largely discussing here. And so he's made essentially a thermostat. That is beautiful.
Unknown Speaker 40:55
And, and the difference there is that clients are saying, This is amazing. It's very simple to use. It's beautiful. I want it on the wall. Now, that's really important, because back to your mechanical thermostat question earlier, one of the things we often see, and we're often requested this by the end client, or by the interior design team, is that the thermostat or the room controllers are hidden away in joinery. So, you know, you can't hide the keypad, you still need the lighting keypad because you've still got to switch your lights on and off and open and close your blinds. But because the typical thermostats that we see in the control industry are not particularly attractive, people said, Oh, what are the we'll go and put it in that cupboard over there. Now, that's not gonna work. Right, exactly. So from an interior design point of view, that seems like a an eloquent and elegant solution, because we just, we just hide it, and then it's out of sight out of mind. But therein lies the rub in that when the client is now sitting there going to court a bit chilly, I want to turn up the temperature. They're looking around going How the hell do I do it? Because the thermostats also not accurate because it's not in free space in the right spot. So I mean, then you guys have to try to do offsets, because it's not an ideal space precise seems like a nightmare, it is a nightmare. Now, one way we do get around that is we can run what we call a remote sensor. So we can run a piece of cable from the thermostat and install a discrete sensor. But you are absolutely right. It does lead to temperature, you know, issues and temperature reading issues. So we do have to use offsets to try and bring an accurate reading. But also from again, back to the end user experience. It just creates a very poor one. So more complexity of the system, more complexity. Exactly that. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 42:37
You spoke a bit about algorithms. Is that some of your magic sauce when when you were when when your system is taking a look at all the variables, the outside temperature? I don't even know Do you even forward look into forecast and into our systems now getting intelligent enough for that you can bring in Hey, it's supposed to be really brutal. Next week. So can you speak a little bit about that? Absolutely. And yes, is the answer to your question. So
Unknown Speaker 43:06
typically, monitoring outside air temperature in real time, and making adjustments to the system is usually enough.
Unknown Speaker 43:15
And perhaps on when I say you enough, I mean, that's, that's a very sufficient solution. But now, because of the way that obviously the technology is continuing to develop, and because of, you know, our ability to integrate, and to pull in information and data from third party systems as is never been so you know, so good.
Unknown Speaker 43:36
Now with the the option to use useless API's, and all sorts of things, we can pull in weather data. So to answer your question, yes, these are things that we can do. And we can start to build in pre emptive routines into control systems that will, that will start to vary based on those factors. But oftentimes, it's
Unknown Speaker 43:53
one of the things we you know, we try to get people to understand is,
Unknown Speaker 43:58
let's focus on the really tangible things that are going to make a big difference. And those are correct sensor in the correct location.
Unknown Speaker 44:08
Making sure that you know, you're not leaving cloud running all the time, you know, overriding systems, you have time shedule set up in your system to make sure that at night, when you go to bed, you bring the temperatures back down, they are the things that make the big difference, when we then start to think about tracking of whether these are the things that are like the cherries on top. So all of those other things we talked about could have a 20 30% influence on your energy consumption and the performance of your system. When we then talk around the real smart stuff, we're really starting to squeeze out the last few percentage points and I think in certainly in residential environments, it's less relevant when you're talking around if I'm a you know, a large real estate operator or, you know, a global
Unknown Speaker 44:52
you know, corporation that has building stock around the world, you can imagine that they're very interested in those one 2% Because that
Unknown Speaker 45:00
Every utility costs throughout the throughout the year, it could be hundreds of millions. So knocking off those extra one 2%. Yeah. Can be complained about my energy costs, obviously nowhere near that. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I guess my question was a bit loaded, I'm thinking about in the future, as your systems get more efficient. I imagine at some point, there's going to be more storage. And if there's a potential storm coming on, you could you could start to ramp up storage, right? Or if there's a power loss, you know, or, or anything I was thinking about.
Unknown Speaker 45:38
I'm sure you have to work that into your systems as well, as far as backup power and trying to have stuff on hand. And then my other question was,
Unknown Speaker 45:49
is also part of your magic sauce with your algorithms? What the house is constructed out of? Because let's let's say it's like a stone house, it's probably going to have different retention and rate of rise properties than a house that's that's wood or something else? Do you take a look at all those factors, when you're when you're figuring out how a system is going to behave? Yeah, definitely, we certainly do.
Unknown Speaker 46:13
That will influence to two sides of the coin, I guess, number one, it will influence the choice of the systems that we use, and specifically the choice of things like sensors, and again, center locations.
Unknown Speaker 46:25
And the second aspect of that is when we are actually talking around when the system is operating on a day to day basis. Now, fortunately, we don't have to think too much around that. Because the within our intelligent BMS systems, they have, essentially self learning algorithms. And we set these up as part of the control, we call it strategy. But by that what we mean is control software. So there are very advanced control loops, or essentially algorithms that are happening in our processes that are constantly monitoring the performance, and the characteristics of the heating and cooling profiles. And it will continue to make adjustments, very minor adjustments to those two to counteract things like the thermal properties of the material that heated going through, and all this sort of stuff. So
Unknown Speaker 47:14
they get more efficient over time as they, as they've been used. Exactly right. And I'd call that machine learning, I guess, unless it's just a dumb kind of a binary, it is, I think it would very much fall into the category of that, yeah. And obviously, bearing in mind that, you know, a house will take longer to heat up in the middle of winter, than it will in the middle of spring. So having these these, this kind of learning and these algorithms in there is extremely beneficial. Because, you know, if we don't meet, maybe then you start the heating process earlier before they get up because it's winter. So and all these types of things exactly that and even down to a very granular level in terms of how much do we ramp up the boilers, you know, in winter, it to get the same level of output within the same time profile, we might need to ramp up two or three boilers to 100%. Just grabbing numbers. But in spring, we may only need to ramp up to boilers at 60%. And then, so yeah. And then we were then into the discussion of, you know, how quickly and the pumps need to follow us. But, you know, we're digressing. But now we're not digressing. I, I love it, because it's it shows we just peel back the onion a little bit more to the see how complex this, this equation really is. There is a lot of specialty to figure out how to make a system work? Well, if there is absolutely, and I think you made an interesting point earlier in terms of, you know, a lot of AV companies have of doing BMS to some degree with their, you know, technologies like K and X, for example, mean that there are certain solutions that you could argue, are a BMS system maybe, you know, full blown in the way we think about them, but mean that, that companies that are that don't do this on a day to day basis can now provide some sort of system.
Unknown Speaker 49:02
What we often find is that, that
Unknown Speaker 49:04
AV companies will have a go, and then suffer the pain. And then we'll say, No, we're not going to do that again, on the next job, we suggest you get a BMS expert like Imperium to work alongside a customer, right? To do that. Yeah, exactly.
Unknown Speaker 49:21
So what am I miss Chris? This has been a fascinating discussion. I feel like we've just, we've only scratched the surface it just talking to you for 48 minutes and 55 seconds. Seems to have just opened up a ton of questions in my head. But is there anything else that you wanted to get across that I didn't even bring up?
Unknown Speaker 49:43
Honestly, I don't think so. I think we, you know, I feel like we've covered the really key points that I think people should consider when they're thinking about a project.
Unknown Speaker 49:52
And really, when we're out talking to, you know, an architect or an interior design if we're doing an educational seminar or we're having having
Unknown Speaker 50:00
Nice, very similar discussions. Really the the main thing we try to get people to, to buy into and understand is that this part of the project is really is just really critical. And the earlier you can therefore involve it in the process, the better outcome for everybody involved.
Unknown Speaker 50:18
I think that's your that's your, you sent me a bullet point, de risking the project. Exactly. Yeah. I think that's really key. Because the worst case scenario is client moves into their beautiful home interior design is immaculate, it looks stunning, the lights are beautiful. But they're there forever having problems with their heating controls. That is because as we said earlier, you can't undo that, once the walls and the pipes and everything are in and the control systems in it's very difficult to back engineer that. If the TV's wrong, we can give you a new TV,
Unknown Speaker 50:48
you know, so those things are easy to fix. And so really, it's, you know, from our point of view, we can do everything. And we'd love to be talking to clients about us, providing an end to end solution. But we work alongside other BMS companies and other AV companies on a day to day basis. And really, the key message for anyone listening is just that, understand this stuff's important and engage the discussion of BMS in the process as early as you can. And you will have better outcomes.
Unknown Speaker 51:14
Yeah, I agree. And the other the other thing I got loud and clear is, is if you're more of a traditional
Unknown Speaker 51:21
audio video specialist, employee, a company that can help you write this get a relationship with one definitely, and I'm sure you both benefit, financially as well, by working together.
Unknown Speaker 51:36
And also takes a headache away. I mean, if someone isn't really comfortable with this stuff, and has a go at it, it could be the worst nightmare ever. Because they're they're called back all the time. And the customer isn't happy. So I would, yeah, this is such a unique area with with so many things to learn.
Unknown Speaker 51:53
Yeah, sounds like it. specialist is what, what you should be doing. Right? I agree. Absolutely.
Unknown Speaker 52:00
All right. Well, Chris, thank you so much for being on the podcast with me and talking about this, this fascinating subject. It's, it's one of the hard sells, but I think if you get the right language together,
Unknown Speaker 52:12
you could probably pretty much sell anybody on it just because you're right. If you're hotter, you're cold, which happens to people all the time, right? You're not happy. And I would think that's that's a key message to get across from to customer about just being comfortable. So
Unknown Speaker 52:33
working out in your sales discussion. All right. Well, thanks again, Chris. If you think of another topic that we can geek out on, like, like, sensors and where that's going or, or even, you know, where where BMS technology or HVAC technologies moving? I'm all here, so I think it'd be really fun to bust into. Yeah, no problem. No call today. Alright, thanks again, Chris, for being on the podcast. My pleasure. Thanks. So thanks very much for listening to this CD, a podcast. I hope you picked up a thing or two, about HVAC control and BMS management. And oh, sorry about the audio issues, we relied on a cloud service that seems to have fallen down this time. So there's no other way to rectify that one this time. So I apologize again for some of the audio weirdness. I hope you enjoyed the cast. And as always, I will ask you to please keep an open mind.
Unknown Speaker 53:32
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