Dec 17, 2020

Building automation with PC-based control at UOW Malaysia KDU University College

Eight Embedded PCs and 3,000 EtherCAT I/Os ensure maximum building efficiency across university campus

Part of the University of Wollongong Australia’s global network, UOW Malaysia KDU has an 18,000-square-meter campus that includes a comfortable dormitory for up to 612 students. One of the requirements during the construction of the university complex was to have a powerful integrated building management system for the most energy-efficient operation possible. The two-time recognition of the campus as a “green” building complex is proof that this goal was successfully achieved using PC-based control from Beckhoff.

For the UOW Malaysia KDU University College in Shah Alam, Selangor, the designers managed to reduce the complexity of the building management system (BMS) from the many usual network layers to just two layers thanks to the Beckhoff CX5010 Embedded PC which combines network control and DDC functions in a single hardware component. This met the customer’s demand for lower first-time project costs, a common requirement in educational institutions during startup.

The BMS provides control and monitoring interfaces via Modbus, BACnet and web scheduling. The latter enables the monitoring, programming and planning of the HVAC systems as needed. The classroom and lecture halls have their lighting and air conditioning turned on and off based on their usage schedules, which significantly reduces energy consumption. Another reason for selecting PC-based control from Beckhoff was the system’s openness and flexibility in interacting with third-party systems such as chillers and cooling towers as well as lighting controls and power meters. The control system was also highly cost-effective.

One of the many CX5010 Embedded PCs deployed across the classroom and dormitory buildings.
One of the many CX5010 Embedded PCs deployed across the classroom and dormitory buildings.

One control system for all requirements

System integrator Enthu Technology, which implemented the building automation system, uses it to monitor heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems as well as lighting, pumps and motors. This enables UOW Malaysia KDU to monitor energy usage across the entire campus. It also earned the university the Silver Award from the Green Building Index (GBI) in 2014. Jeff Wong, technical director of Enthu Technology, describes the benefits of PC-based control: “We had to be able to integrate many different vendors, products and communication protocols of sensors and devices. To receive the GBI certification, we also needed to continuously collect and analyze system data. The Beckhoff system made it all possible.”

Jeff Wong further explained that the straightforward configuration and integration of the system saved time and money during the technical implementation and provides a high degree of scalability for continued expansion in coming years, not to mention efficiency and reliability. #

Since the system supports a broad range of fieldbus signals and protocols, Enthu Technology did not have to worry about how the many different signals could be integrated into the Beckhoff system. TwinCAT automation software was equally open to the integration of a Scada system for network monitoring and planning. In addition, the ease of integrating any Scada software helped Enthu Technology minimize its development time. TwinCAT also provided complete software libraries for most of the required BMS applications. For example, the energy management system can be operated locally or over the internet since TwinCAT provides all necessary functionality and interfaces.

Compact and powerful control technology

A total of eight CX5010 Embedded PCs, which are distributed across the entire campus and the dormitory, function as higher level controllers, and roughly 3,000 I/Os are distributed over many floors and zones and linked via Ethernet. This level of complexity caused Enthu Technology to select the PC-based control system from Beckhoff because it was the only one that reduced the need for hardware and could implement a BMS concept in only two layers.

Dashboard displaying energy parameters.
Dashboard displaying energy parameters.

In addition, the compact design of the 12-millimeter-wide EtherCAT Terminals reduced the space requirements in the control cabinets considerably – an important factor in a system with 3,000 I/Os. By using EtherCAT as the system bus for the I/O terminals, the design also benefits from the exceptionally short response times of the Beckhoff system at no additional cost, says Enthu Technology. In compliance with the overall project requirements, the CX5010 Embedded PC also features an integrated BACnet communication port. As Beckhoff supports a huge number of BACnet objects, this could only be accomplished with this PC-based control system, says Enthu Technology.

Another green building award

In July 2020, UOW Malaysia KDU became the first educational institution in Malaysia to be honored with the Greenpass Operation Award Certificate of the Lestari Energy Development Authority Malaysia (SEDA), a statutory body established under the Sustainable Energy Development Authority Act of 2011. The Green Building Certificate was awarded as a result of an evaluation process for energy-saving methods in buildings.

The University can now boast of a certified campus with the “green” footprint of 16.3% (the requirement of the local authorities is 10%). The tobacco smoke-free campus with its naturally ventilated courtyards and hallways features a highly efficient and centralized chilled-water air conditioning system, an advanced building management system with planning functions, energy-efficient lighting, demand-controlled ventilation and a rainwater harvesting system.

“The system is really great since it not only improves our energy savings but also provides us with details about the energy we are saving,” says Jagjeet Singh, senior manager of UOW Malaysia KDU’s facilities, maintenance and safety department. “I originally thought that it would be very hard to get such data from the BMS, but I was pleasantly surprised. The data is easy to read, and we can easily present it to management on a monthly basis.” Jagjeet Singh, who has been with the education group for over 14 years, adds that the system also helps with tracking many other kinds of data apart from its most important feature: energy efficiency.