Monday, June 26, 2017

Power Distribution for the Digital Age

By Eirin Madden, Offer Manager at Schneider Electric Ireland

We are currently witnessing the rise of a new chapter in power distribution. After all, today’s digital age is going to impact our lives and businesses as much as the introduction of electricity did at the end of the 19th century. This is going to bring with it a wave of innovations in power that will blur the lines between the energy and digital space. The traditional centralised model is giving way to new economic models and opportunities, which redefine the core basics of power distribution; efficiency, reliability, safety, security, and performance.

Many of us know the inconvenience of experiencing a blackout at home, but the impact is much more far reaching when it occurs in your corporate facility – from lost revenue and unhappy tenants, to more extreme scenarios like the loss of life. Recently, tourists and shoppers in central London were plunged into darkness after an underground electric cable faulted on a high voltage network and caused an area-wide power cut. Theatre shows were cancelled and shops were closed, leaving shoppers and store owners frustrated and disappointed.

A call to get smart

How can such outages be prevented? At the core of smart power distribution systems are smart devices that enable facility managers to take preventive measures to mitigate potential risks. These devices have become more than just responsible for controlling a single mechanism. They now measure and collect data, and provide control functions. Furthermore, they enable facility and maintenance personnel to access the power distribution network.

In many places throughout the power network the existing intelligence can be embedded inside other equipment, such as the smart trip units of circuit breakers. These smart breakers can provide power and energy data, as well as information on their performance, including breaker status, contact wear, alerts, and alarms. In addition to core protection functions, many devices are also capable of autonomous and coordinated control, without any need for user intervention.

Today, hardware such as the Masterpact MTZ Air Circuit Breaker (ACB) has evolved to include new digital capabilities. One of these primary new digital technologies revolves around communication abilities, providing a way to send the data the device is gathering to building analytic software, where it can be put to use.

Building analytics is another enabler for smart power distribution systems, offering an advanced lifecycle managed service that delivers automated fault detection, diagnosis, and real-time performance monitoring for buildings. Information is captured from building systems and sent to cloud-based data storage. From that point, an advanced analytics engine uses artificial intelligence to process building data and continuously diagnose facility performance by identifying equipment and system faults, sequence of operation improvements, system trends, and energy usage.

Combatting operational efficiency decline

One of the biggest challenges facing facility managers today is the need to maintain existing equipment performance. Components are prone to breaking or falling out of calibration, and general wear and tear often results in a marked decline of a buildings’ operational efficiency. What’s more, reduced budgets are forcing building owners to manage building systems with fewer resources. The issue is then further exacerbated by older systems becoming inefficient over time. Even when there is a budget at hand, it is time-consuming and increasingly difficult to attract, develop, and retain staff with the right skills and knowledge to make sense of the building data being generated.

When it comes to switchgear in particular, there is the challenge around spending, when it comes to maintenance and services. There is no doubt that regularly scheduled maintenance extends the life of existing switchgear. However, at some point facilities must decide whether to maintain or replace with new equipment. Of course, although keeping up with equipment maintenance has its challenges, especially with limited resources, the safety and reliability of a facility depends on it and must be the priority.

Looking ahead with building analytics

For many building owners and occupants, they are also looking at how building analytics can be used beyond just safety and reliability to make a difference to the bigger picture of workplace efficiency. From comfort to space, and occupant services, to management dashboards, organisations are now placing more emphasis on well-being at work. When building analytics recommendations are implemented, the results are obvious – enhanced building performance, optimised energy efficiency through continual commissioning, and reduced operating costs — all with a strong return on investment and an improved building environment.

BIM: The Manufacturers’ Responsibility

BIM is becoming an increasingly important part of doing business for electrical contractors, but what are manufacturers’ main responsibilities when it comes to adopting the initiative and how can they make it work for their customers? Emma Segelov, head of marketing at MK Electric, a Honeywell company, explains.

BIM is becoming increasingly important to business – after all, if you want to be in line for government funded projects you’ll need to be fully BIM compliant, and it’s becoming increasingly important for private projects, too.

The platform provides contractors with the ability to deliver a high-quality service, reduce waste and mistakes whilst maximising efficiencies in the supply chain. All manufacturers from SMEs to the large multinationals must support the construction industry by providing accurate BIM data to the supply chain. Without accurate BIM data, the models will not work.

Mandated by the government for all publicly funded developments since April last year, the benefits of BIM will most certainly be felt in the months and years to come as the first projects using it reach completion.

When working on a project, you’ll likely download files from various manufacturers to use within your BIM. It is the manufacturers responsibility to ensure these files are available and, importantly, up to date to make life as easy as possible for the contractors – and allow them to get on with doing their jobs.

Responsibility for both the real and virtual product rests with the manufacturers, but the user must ensure that they only ever apply the most up to date version of a manufacturer’s BIM data. It is therefore imperative to check that the product data loaded at the start of the project has not been updated by the manufacturer prior to signing off a BIM.

Out of date models could not only be misleading, but also cause delays to a project – which is exactly what BIM was designed to prevent. For electricians, time lost on site can be an expensive business – nobody can afford to be sat around idle and everyone wants to work as efficiently as possible to ensure that their time is being used as valuably and profitably as possible.

Manufacturers are required to supply their BIM objects in an accessible format, with many choosing to share their files in the form of an excel spreadsheet through Open BIM, a non-proprietary format that ensures BIM data can be used in all BIM software platforms.

This means that it is easy for contractors to pull the models into whichever system they may be using to create their objects, whether that is Revit, Bentley, ArchiCAD or an alternative.

MK Electric provides a well-stocked library of BIM products across its popular ranges, helping to ensure electricians always have the right information at hand, and that they never need to go back to the drawing board again.

MK Electric is the UK’s leading electrical accessories manufacturer and part of the Honeywell family. For further information please visit


Lighting’s role in creating healthy, productive workplaces

The value of good office lighting – and simple principles that can unlock it

For lighting professionals, the importance of illuminating workplaces safely, effectively and comfortably is clear.

However, these benefits are hard to measure, and persuading clients to prioritise them over cost can be a challenge.  But as science reveals more and more about how light affects the human body and mind, the impact of office lighting on businesses is becoming more tangible.

In fact, employers the world over are waking up to the huge influence that office lighting has on the health and productivity of their people.

To improve things, they’ve got their work cut out. In a recent survey conducted across 17 countries by polling company Ipsos, a quarter of office workers said they were unhappy with their lighting. That means millions of people spend every work day under light they find uncomfortable.  The fact that workers are not content with their lighting is worrying enough in itself, but a wealth of evidence shows that it also has very real implications for their health and wellbeing. That affects their performance, and that affects the bottom line.

This paper looks at the key role that quality lighting products and great design can play in fixing this problem and creating a healthy and productive work environment. Simply adhering to the standards and guidelines for office lighting is not enough – so this paper sets out simple principles that lighting professionals can follow to give clients the best return on their lighting investment.

How light affects workers

Historically, the focus of lighting for offices has been on visual performance, comfort and aesthetics – in other words, how the place looks, and how well workers can see. The most important factors are light levels, distribution, colour rendering and glare, all of which are covered in the European standard for workplace lighting, EN12464, and in numerous office lighting guidelines.  But these factors only tell part of the story of how lighting affects people at work.

Humans evolved by the light of the sun, and our bodies use the sun’s light to see, but also to set our body clocks and control our sleep-wake cycle. The right light at the right time keeps our minds alert and our bodies running smoothly. Too little light – or too much at the wrong time – disrupts our natural rhythms, leaving us feeling tired, uncomfortable and unable to perform at our best.

In a 2016 survey by the British Council for Offices, 85% of people said lighting was one of the most important factors influencing their wellbeing in the workplace, along with temperature and general comfort. A recent study in the Netherlands placed office workers under different light conditions for an hour to see what happened. One room was lit at a dim 200 lux and the other at a bright 1,000 lux. Results showed that light levels affected how alert people felt, their level of sustained attention on tasks, and their heart rate. Participants felt less sleepy and more energetic under brighter lights, and had quicker reaction times. The past two decades have seen a revolution in the science of how light influences the body. Unfortunately, most of the guidelines used for lighting offices were developed before such effects were understood. For example, when computers became commonplace in offices, it was recommended that offices be lit with high levels of horizontal illuminance and lower levels of vertical illuminance, to avoid glare on screens. Luminaires that met these requirements became the norm in offices.

The unintended consequence was to limit the amount of light getting to people’s eyes, meaning that offices weren’t providing enough light to keep workers alert.

In a 2005 study using mock-up offices, lower levels of vertical illuminance were found to be linked to greater fatigue and worse sleep. The researchers came to the conclusion that the lighting in the majority of offices would not provide enough vertical illuminance. So how can we tell if a lighting scheme is doing employees good? There’s no need to set up a lab experiment – just ask them. A study in the US found that people who said their office lighting was high quality were more comfortable, more satisfied and felt better at work. How much people like their lighting also seems to be linked to how they feel about their jobs. In Ipsos’s survey, the proportion of employees who didn’t like their lighting was much higher among those who reported being dissatisfied and disengaged with their work (around 60% compared to just 24% overall). This is important, because people who like their workplaces tend to be more engaged with their work, and perform better, according to a 2013 study. “Providing lighting conditions that are appraised as being good will promote desirable work behaviours,” the researchers found. There are health implications too. A 1998 survey of six UK offices found a strong link between perceptions of office conditions, including lighting, and work-related illness. Dim lighting and a lack of control over lights have even been implicated as possible causes of so-called sick building syndrome. It’s easy to see how these factors could hit employee attendance and retention, resulting in significant costs for employers.

Most importantly for employers, people are more productive when working under light they like. A 2009 survey of office design at banking organisations found a strong correlation between how employees rated their lighting conditions and their productivity.

Lighting for task, space and face

The science of how light influences our bodies is complex and we still have a lot to learn about how to put it into practice. Even so, there are simple principles that every lighting professional can follow to make sure office lighting creates a healthy, comfortable atmosphere.  This means not just focusing on lighting for workplace “tasks”, but taking a more holistic approach. The three essential elements to consider when lighting an office are: task, space and face. Lighting schemes that successfully combine all three of these, will create an atmosphere that is pleasant and productive.


Typical office work involves sitting at desks working with papers, keyboards and computers or other devices for long stretches.  Lighting must provide the right level of light for people to carry out tasks effectively, and EN12464 specifies luminance levels for various activities, including 500 lux for desk-based tasks and 300 lux for filing and administration. But people’s individual preferences play a big role. In fact, a study by Zumtobel Lighting and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering found that a majority of people preferred light levels of 800 lux or higher in an office setting. Older workers and workers with poorer eyesight may need higher levels of light than others.

But as the world of work changes, so do the kinds of tasks we need to light. Many offices now place an increasing emphasis on flexible working, online and face-to-face meetings and conversations. Even workers who are mainly desk-based may be using portable devices, and may not be at the same desk every day. Lighting must be flexible enough to work well in all of these situations.  Computers, tablets and phones with backlit screens are everywhere in the modern office, so glare that could make these difficult to use must be avoided.


In the past, office lighting has often focused only on lighting for the task, which usually meant lighting desk surfaces and avoiding glare on screens. This inadvertently created the so-called “cave effect”, resulting in gloomy offices and drowsy workers.

Considering carefully how we light the space around us avoids these problems, helping to create an environment where workers can feel comfortable and alert. Diffuse, well distributed light with a mix of vertical and horizontal illumination is important. And because our eyes expect light to come from above, like the sun, bright ceilings and upper walls also make a space feel more pleasant.

It’s important for people to relax their eyes from time to time by being able to look away from their work to things in the distance. Lighting the space around them well helps to achieve this, and adding additional light to the walls and focal points in a room will create visual interest to enhance the ambience.

EN12464 specifies light levels for the task area, the immediate surroundings, and areas beyond. It also specifies uniformity levels for task areas, as well as light to walls and ceilings, to make sure there isn’t too much contrast between light and dimmer areas.  The colour of light also has an important influence on the ambience of an office. Warmer colour temperatures are associated with relaxation, while cooler lights are considered more appropriate for a work environment. Cheap LED luminaires tend to be cooler in colour, simply because they’re easier to make that way. But compromising on colour temperature or colour rendering will have a big impact on the working atmosphere you create.

Just as important as making sure there’s enough light in a space is making sure there isn’t too much glare, which can cause headaches and eye strain, as well as making it harder to see what we’re doing, and harder to use computers, phones and tablets.

Glare can be controlled through careful lighting design and choosing luminaires with good optical design, to keep office workers comfortable and focused. LED technology allows us to direct light with more precision than ever before, and well-designed LED luminaires create soft, pleasant light for working. But the nature of LEDs – tiny dots that emit a lot of light – means cheap or poorly designed LED products can be glary.

EN12464 recommends maximum glare levels for different tasks, using the unified glare rating (UGR) metric. This provides a helpful guideline, but it doesn’t capture everything. A direct view of multiple small, intense light sources, such as the bright spots of LEDs in a ceiling light, can appear more glary than a single source – something that UGR does not predict. This underlines how important it is to choose LED luminaires where the light points are not visible.


In the modern workplace, face-to-face communication is central to how we work. Whether it’s a meeting, a video conference or a chat by the water cooler, lighting needs to allow us to see each other’s faces clearly. The key factors are cylindrical illuminance, facial modelling and good colour rendering.  EN12464 specifies 150 lux cylindrical illuminance at head height and a modelling index of between 0.3 and 0.6.

This creates an environment where we feel comfortable, look good, and can see each other clearly enough to read our colleagues’ expressions, mood and body language. It also makes sure that enough light is reaching people’s eyes to keep them alert.


One of the most common complaints among office workers is flickering lights. Visible flicker can be irritating, but even lights that flicker too fast for humans to perceive, can still cause headaches and eye strain.  Not all the effects of flicker on humans are fully understood, but research has shown that even invisible flicker can harm how well we performance at tasks.  LED lights or fluorescent lights with electronic ballasts shouldn’t flicker – as long as they’re installed and used correctly. Cheap imports, incompatible drivers and dimmers can cause LED lights to flicker, so be sure to use reputable suppliers and an appropriate control system.


To make sure employees are comfortable with their lighting, put them in control. The more control people have over their workplace lighting, the more satisfied they are, and the higher they rate their wellbeing. In spite of this, 81% of employees have little or no control over the lighting where they work, according to one study. Everyone’s preferences and requirements are different (for example, older people need more light than young people), and the ability to adjust light to their preferences and to the task they’re performing, makes employees feel more at ease.

Intelligent lighting systems that use PIR and microwave sensors to respond to occupancy and daylight levels, help to keep control simple for employees. Wireless controls using RF communication can give employees the power to control lighting from a computer or other device, and task lighting lets them adjust the light in their workspace for their own comfort.

What is light worth to your client’s business?

Ask any business what their most valuable asset is, and they’ll tell you it’s their people. So why do so many employers let their workers spend their days in badly lit offices?

To understand the value of lighting in promoting health and wellbeing at work, we must first understand the cost of people to a business.

Staffing costs account for around 90% of the cost of running an office, eclipsing the cost of buildings and maintenance, according to estimates from the UK and the US. In terms of a business’s total costs, that’s more than half.

If better lighting makes staff 1% more productive, take 1% less time off sick, or make 1% fewer mistakes, then it has paid for itself.

The evidence about lighting’s effect on our performance at work points to a big opportunity for businesses to make these kinds of savings. By helping employees feel comfortable and get more out of their working day, employers can get more out of them in return. It’s up to lighting specifiers to show end users that good lighting is worth the investment, and that promoting health and comfort should be a priority.

The UK Green Building Council has said that most employers “are missing a trick in ignoring the enormous opportunity” that exists in improving wellbeing it work. It’s becoming clearer by the day that lighting is a huge part of this.

Lighting professionals must encourage employers to move from judging the effectiveness of lighting not by how much light the luminaires emit and how much electricity they use, to judging it by the value of that light in creating a place to work that keeps people healthy and delivering their best.

Comfort Management by Thorn Lighting

Thorn Lighting has launched new range of workplace lighting products built on the concept of Comfort Management, putting people at the centre of lighting design. The aim is to create comfortable, healthy lighting by following the simple principles of lighting for the task, space and face.

Good design and an appreciation of how light affects people, allows us to create lights that support comfort and wellbeing, while also being affordable and offering big energy savings over traditional lighting.

The first product in the range is IQ Wave: an innovative recessed LED ceiling luminaire for offices.

IQ Wave features Thorn’s unique MV-Tech light optic, which creates homogenous, low-glare ambient light with absolutely no visible LEDs. This is achieved by mounting the LEDs to point upwards, so the actual light source cannot be seen. The light is then reflected down from the back of the luminaire, and through a diffuser to create a soft, even glow.

IQ Wave puts the user in control. It is available with integrated PIR and microwave sensors for presence/absence detection and wireless RF communication.

Thorn’s Iain Macrae says: “Building owners can have it all: energy savings, high performance but above all a lighting scheme that provides comfort for occupants, keeping their workers productive.”


Open BIM – Best Route to Seamless Collaboration

The role played by BIM (Building Information Modelling) in enabling different teams to work collaboratively together on a building project cannot be underestimated. As a digital representation of a building’s physical and functional characteristics that can be used by all parties contributing towards the construction and maintenance of any building, there’s no doubt that BIM can help to minimise errors and conflicts as well as increase productivity.

The UK is already being viewed as a leading early adopter in this arena. The government’s new Level 2 BIM regulation means BIM is now a requirement for all publicly funded projects. Privately funded projects are turning to BIM too, so to help accelerate its adoption efficiently and effectively some manufacturers like MK Electric are already supplying Open BIM files for their branded ranges.

But despite the growing importance of BIM and support from manufacturers, the idea of adopting BIM as part of day-to-day processes is still intimidating for many businesses. While most companies understand and see the value in BIM, some find it difficult to know which software platform to adopt. Although Revit is growing in popularity, especially in the M&E sector, the market remains uncertain as to what platform will prevail.

This unpredictability puts companies in a difficult position. They feel the pressure to adopt BIM. At the same time there could be a significant risk to future-proofing, which could mean they would need to make additional investment further down the road. Businesses need guidance on which platforms to consider and how to start their journey toward becoming BIM compliant.

Open BIM

Open BIM is a universal approach to how 3D data is presented. The aim is to ensure interoperability between different platforms when transferring data from one application to another. It doesn’t rely on one specific BIM platform and should allow all parts of the supply chain – contractors, installers, specifiers, etc. – to work from the same data model.  Once established and working properly, Open BIM will allow contractors from across the industry to adopt BIM without the concerns of whether they have chosen the “right” platform. The same should apply to building owners and managers, who should be able to access and use Open BIM files once the project has been completed.

Integration challenges

Although the benefits are clear, Open BIM does still face integration challenges.  One key problem is the number of Product Data Templates (PDT) available today. M&E manufacturers can apply their own interpretation of the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) specification to create a custom PDT, or, they can use a Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) or National Building Specification (NBS) PDT to provide the relevant product data. Without a singular and consistent template source, there is no guarantee for consistent and quality data.

Another key issue is a lack of industry derived bespoke PDTs. The UK government is supporting a singular, industry derived set of bespoke PDTs, but the speed of its release to the market is an ongoing frustration.

Supporting Open BIM

There are simple steps the industry can take to overcome these challenges, all of which focus on collaboration. If manufacturers release their product data sheets in Excel, then they would be able to instantly support Open BIM across the industry.

This one simple step enables contractors, manufacturers and specifiers to obtain and apply the data on publically funded projects that must be executed to BIM level 2.

In as little as three years, BIM will be an essential shared framework for managing and building projects. As the most flexible option, Open BIM provides the best solution for manufacturers, contractors, and specifiers looking to maximise compatibility with other companies in the supply chain, including customers and even who their customers are selling to.

For further information please visit

The industry landscape in 2017

Ray Dooley

By Ray Dooley, product manager industrial control, at Schneider Electric

Ireland is already seeing an increased investment in smart technologies at an industry level in 2017. There is huge potential for growth in this area, so its important to understand which technologies we should expect to see leaping forward in the months and years to come.

Smart thinking

In the factory of the future, the application of augmented reality will be the new normal for plant maintenance and the training of staff. While we might now rely on QR codes to download extra information, the future will drive engineers towards applications that enable them to overlay an entire data directory on specific machinery or areas of a plant to carry out maintenance with advanced capability. Access to video tutorials on configuration and repairs will mean learning on the job takes on an entirely new meaning. Plants will no longer waste hours of training on staff who’ve forgotten what they’ve learnt before they’ve had chance to apply it.

Developments in smart sensing technology will match this development by improving the capabilities of smart devices to the point where their temperature, vibration, smell and touch sensing will enable them to detect problems far better than even humans can. Predictive maintenance will be the new standard for plants and automated work orders, ensuring that maintenance planning meetings cease to exist with scheduled (preventative) maintenance a distant memory.

Efficiency has been a key driver for production for many years, emerging technologies will help them to make the next quantum leap. As plants shift from the use of 3D CAD systems and simulation software towards Virtual Reality tools, processes will be given a virtual dummy run before a physical build is set in motion, enabling output to be thoroughly assessed in advance.

Personalisation is key

In the consumer world, this capacity for virtual experiences will drive increased demand for personalisation and on-demand products, with purchases only initiated once shoppers have had the chance to experience and develop individual product specifications. This new demand will be met by a highly customised and varied product production phase, made possible by increasing levels of automation. In fact, ideas that we never thought possible will become a reality as complex processes can be delivered far more quickly. This sharp turn in consumer demand will also mean plants are no longer continuously making stock but moving to an era of developing products and delivering them in one go as part of smarter supply chain integration.

Working with robots

Life in plants will also take on new meaning with smart sensing introducing a mix of human and robotic workers to the factory floor. Working in cages will be a thing of the past for robots, as humans accept that safe integration is a no longer a cause for concern. Even production lines will be populated with autonomous robots, which will be able to conduct activity all over the facility. Flexibility in programming will mean that even complex packaging processes will be tackled by enhanced automation, bringing an end to scenarios such as staff spending 8 hours in fridges packing meat. Instead, robots will share equal workloads.

Manufacturers will reach a peak in flexibility where they can change products, volumes, batch sizes and match demand much quicker than ever before. Overall, software and intelligent devices will largely remove the need for human intervention at all, especially within food and beverage plants where staff today are still manually interacting with the automated processes.

As a result of this activity, we’ll reach a peak in less than 30 years’ time where it will be ‘lights out’ for plants. The masses of data being created as part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the intelligence of smart devices will mean that factories can run harder for longer without being monitored from the physical location. As remote monitoring becomes sufficient, employees will no longer walk the plant unless engineers are dispatched to fix their repairs.

Best Practice BIM

The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has far-reaching benefits for construction, facilities and energy management. However, there is some debate within the industry over best practice. Here are MK Electric’s top tips for using BIM for effective building and facilities management and ensuring construction projects are delivered on time and to budget:

Adjust the approach

The first step to effective BIM modelling is to focus on its core purpose: providing information. What sets BIM apart from other modelling approaches is the ability to store detailed, granular data on a building and its components. Having this data easily accessible – such as measurements, materials, product codes and so on – is invaluable when planning construction projects and maintaining assets. A more appropriate acronym would be Better Information Management, as that’s what it’s really all about.

Research software

If a contractor is interested in adopting BIM into their business, their first action should be research. There are many different BIM software platforms available, and it’s important to find out which platforms their customers and other companies in their supply chain are using as anything they adopt will need to be compatible. Revit is currently very popular in the M&E sector, but there is uncertainty as to which platform will prevail in the long run.

A good place to start researching is to look at what competitors are doing to get a benchmark. For smaller companies, seeing what medium to large competitors are doing may help them choose a platform that will unlock opportunities for future growth and new projects.

Plan ahead

When it comes to refurbishment projects, the benefits of BIM are too great to ignore. By using BIM, it’s easier to sell-in and visualise potential refurbishment projects, collaborating with other partners and contractors to show building owners the specific details regarding options, costs, benefits, and timelines.

Having these types of conversations with external parties well in advance reduces churn, time and budget spent correcting mistakes. For education and medical premises in particular, this is essential to ensuring buildings can be re-opened for business on time.

Master the model

For a BIM project to be optimally executed, it is essential that all contributing parties contribute to the same master model. A well-designed BIM will contain the product information that builders, electrical installers, and other members of the team need to ensure their work is streamlined and that all installed products are compatible with existing systems. Having a master model to work from provides contractors with the reassurance that any adjustments will be reflected, reducing unnecessary costs and saving time.

Make it better together

Finally, BIM on its own is a powerful tool, but when used in conjunction with other tools its capabilities reach even further. For example, to bring a sustainable strategy to life, a BIM-based scenario review undertaken in conjunction with a building energy analysis tool will allow the client to view the potential savings of green technologies over the entire life of the building. It could also be used to calculate potential carbon taxes, taking into account any tax relief or subsidies provided by Government schemes.


For further information please visit

BIM Across the Supply Chain: Benefits for All

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been heralded as the ‘secret weapon’ to driving out construction waste, with countries such as the UK even drawing up legislation to ensure it is used for all publicly procured projects. But what actually is BIM and how can it benefit each sector?

BIM in Brief

BIM, in short, describes the process of designing a building collaboratively using one coherent system of computer models rather than as separate sets of drawings. The collaborative software platform produces a master model that all those in the supply chain – from architects and M&E consultants through to electricians and facilities managers – can work from to reduce the risk of clashes or errors, improve efficiencies and keep projects on budget and on time. However, for many it can be difficult to grasp how BIM will work in the day-to-day working environment. Here is a brief run-down:


One of the most notable advantages of BIM to the specifier is the ability to detect clashes in a model. Clash detection, in short, means identifying mistakes which normally would have been discovered on the site before anyone sets foot outside the office, preventing costly corrective work which often puts projects behind schedule.

Clashes can be one of three types: a hard clash, when two objects overlap each other; a soft clash, when objects are modelled too closely to each other; and a workflow clash, when, for example, work crews are scheduled to arrive when there is no equipment on site.


The collaborative nature of BIM Level 2 and above has significant advantages for the contractor. Take, for example, the installation of an air conditioning unit which would usually involve at least two parties. One contractor would be employed to fabricate a space for the unit to be placed, while the other would complete the actual installation work. Often, miscommunication can occur which results in the unit being sized incorrectly for the space. However, BIM eliminates this risk as both contractors can cross-reference the detailed information on dimensions and other requirements within the model.


The benefits of BIM for specifiers and contractors also have a knock-on effect for the time-poor electrician who can often find themselves waiting round on site due to construction delays.  The model also holds detailed information about components such as cabling which assists the electrician with siting sockets correctly on a new build property.

Facilities Managers

While much of the focus around BIM centres on the initial design and construction phases, it also has recognised benefits for the facilities manager in managing the lifecycle and the day-to-day running of a building.

BIM provides facilities managers with accurate and up-to-date product information which is invaluable for efficient building maintenance. With easy access to every product’s lifecycle information, facilities managers can schedule repairs and order replacement parts well in advance – minimising the chance of a product breaking and causing costly downtime while its replacement is on the way. This prevents delays to essential services, particularly in the case of high traffic buildings such as schools or busy offices,

Finally, as a huge benefit, BIM can help to bring sustainable strategy to life. By using a BIM-based scenario in conjunction with a building energy use analysis tool, facilities managers can view the potential savings of green technologies not just over the warranty period but rather the entire life of a building.

Where have you BIM all my life?

Anyone involved in the construction industry will have heard the term BIM (or Building Information Modelling) bandied around a lot recently. Like most technology concepts, it has split the industry into three distinct camps: the fanatics, the sceptics and the apathetics.

While Ireland has not yet adopted UK-style BIM Level 2 requirements for publicly procured projects, a number of groups such as National BIM Steering Committee of Ireland have been set up to establish the nation’s roadmap towards standardisation.  This means it’s likely that BIM Level 2 is here to stay, and – contrary to popular belief – that’s a good thing.

The origins

Architects, specifiers and contractors have been building digital models of projects since computers came into existence. It’s only been in recent years – with the advent of big data – that BIM has really come into its own.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a process of designing, constructing or operating a building or infrastructure asset using electronic object orientated information. The name is slightly misleading, as BIM is not about buildings, but rather, construction. Neither is it about modelling; it’s more than just a visual, it’s the information behind it that’s key. Think of it as “Better Information Management”.

Where we are now?

How useful a BIM system can be is directly correlated to the quality and amount of data it contains. To allow the industry to assimilate and accommodate BIM, requirements have been split into three levels – 1 and 2 are currently available, with Level 3 not far on the horizon.

Level 1 typically comprises a mixture of 3D CAD for concept work, and 2D for drafting of statutory approval documentation and production Information.

Level 2, which is where the UK is now, is focused on collaborative working i.e. key stakeholders use their own models, but do not need to work from a single, shared model. The use of a common file format allows information to be shared between parties.

The reason the UK is legislating on BIM Level 2, and why Ireland has established its own BIM committee, is to drive out waste in construction by lowering capital costs by up to 20 per cent. The majority of construction waste is caused by unsuccessful work attempts, mistakes and inefficiencies in the information supply chain so by utilising BIM to work collaboratively from the outset, this waste can be greatly reduced.

To demonstrate this, consider the specification of something as seemingly simple as an air conditioning unit. Inevitably, this particular job is going to require two contractors – one to create the space in the ceiling and another to bring in the unit itself, ready to be installed.

If communication lines between these two parties break down it is quite possible that the space for the air conditioning unit will be incorrectly sized, leading to extra costs, delays, and knock on effects to other contractors on site, all of which inevitably combines to push back the completion date of the project and adds considerable cost.

For electricians, time lost on site can be an expensive business. Nobody can afford to be sitting around idle and everyone wants to work as efficiently as possible to ensure that their time is being used valuably and profitably.

Clash detection in the BIM model from the offset ensures early detection and re-engineering of problems that would have otherwise caused delays and generated waste during construction.

What does the future hold?

Eventually there will be a much greater degree of granularity in BIM models. Take an office building for example – current models generally just contain information on the fabric of the building such as walls, windows and radiators. As BIM becomes more widely used and understood, the amount of information available will mean a much greater level of detail can be achieved, to include every single component of the building, down to chairs, desks and stationery cupboards.

For those with one eye firmly on the future, Level 3 BIM is the next target. This would mean a single, shared, online project model with construction sequencing (4D), cost (5D) and “in use” data capture (6D), held in a central repository. Sometimes referred to as ‘iBIM’ (integrated BIM) or ‘Open BIM’, this represents the pinnacle of BIM collaboration.

Much work still needs to be done to achieve buy-in from all areas of the supply chain before BIM can really take hold in the Irish construction industry. Whether to take a legislative approach or to take another path is up to the Government and National BIM Steering Committee. However, the reality is that, while BIM is a relatively new concept for some, it is undoubtedly the future. Thus, the recommendation for the installer is to take stock now and be an early adopter of this ground-breaking concept in order to reap the benefits in the long-term.

Issued on behalf of MK Electric

Cyber Security in Utilities: The Seven Pillars of Defence

Brian O’Neill, Vice President for Energy at Schneider Electric Ireland Explains

Cyber security has risen to prominence in Ireland’s businesses, and the energy sector is certainly not exempt from these dangers. Critical infrastructure has been identified as a global target, and its protection is fast becoming a legislative priority. Utility companies should carefully consider the vulnerabilities of their data and proprietary systems.

As the energy industry increasingly moves towards automation and connected services, it is attracting the attention of hackers. These threat actors are looking to cause widespread disruption, meaning the pressure is on to defend this arm of critical infrastructure.

Cyber security incidents are escalating in volume and complexity. While still new to the age of connectivity, the energy industry is becoming increasingly aware of cyber security threats and the need for standardised, effective solutions in order to combat against them.

The energy that utilities provide serves as the lifeblood of a functioning modern society. But the facts speak for themselves: a report by the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) on the Cost of Incidents affecting CIIs (Critical Information Infrastructures) found that the energy sector, alongside finance and ICT sectors, have the highest incident costs and these attacks are on the rise.

Understanding network vulnerabilities

Now that cyber security is a top-of-mind concern, utility stakeholders are mimicking their IT peers and seeking ways to strengthen their infrastructure security. Just look inside the industry’s substations, where proprietary devices once considered for specialised applications are now being scrutinised for vulnerabilities. After all, the sensitive information found there (such as online documentation that describes how these devices work) can be accessed via the internet by anyone, including those with malicious intent.

Electrical substations today are characterised by different mixes of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT). Operational Technology is defined as the automation and control systems and components that monitor, measure, and protect critical infrastructure.

There are many ways to access computer systems. The number has increased dramatically now that employees commonly use mobile devices or USB keys to connect. With so many devices in play, the chances of malicious software invading these systems increases. This could cause a utility’s control system or network to go down and damage substation systems that control the grid, affecting not only a business, but also the economy and security of a country or region.

To address this problem, many substation automation vendors have tried the bolt-on security approach, keeping cyber security functionally separate from non-secured OT devices and building a layer of security around them. This approach may allow for a layer of access control and monitoring, but once the initial layer is breached, devices remain vulnerable.

While bolt-on solutions allow for a fast implementation to reduce the risk of a cyber-attack on OT devices, substation asset managers should consider upgrading their OT devices during their lifecycle to newer devices containing built-in cyber security functions.

The seven pillars of cyber defence

To help prevent system unavailability and quickly recover from a security incident, it is essential to have a robust cyber security programme in place. An integrated cyber security solution designed for critical infrastructures allows users to increase the safety, availability and reliability of industrial control systems.

The below should form the key elements of any utility company’s security plan:

  1. Identify critical cyber assets
    Identify the assets that are essential to operations and ensure that there are up-to-date backups of these, which allow for quick recovery in the case of loss or failure.
  2. Minimise access to the most sensitive information 
    Partition the sensitive data inside communication pipes. Sometimes wide area networks (WANs) are used for multiple purposes, such as IP telephony, CCTV, teleprotection, and SCADA. Segment and use quality of service to preserve critical functions according to priority.
  3. Control user access
    Restrict users’ electronic and physical access to prevent unauthorised access of confidential and critical company information.
  4. Implement patch management policies
    Eliminate known security vulnerabilities by implementing a system that monitors and applies software patches.
  5. Prevent malicious software attacks
    Protect against malicious programmes using application whitelisting, which allows only authorised applications and services to run on a computer.
  6. Develop a disaster recovery and response plan
    Ensure processes, policies, and procedures are in place to recover critical technology infrastructure in the event of a breach.
  7. Monitor cyber systems for attacks
    Surveil systems continuously for signs of attack, such as failed logins and account deletion and creation, and ensure an alert system is in place for reporting any attacks.

Implementing these strategies is critical for protection. However, given the proliferation of cyber security breaches across industries in recent years, many experts believe it is no longer a question of if, but when, a company will experience a breach. With this in mind, utilities also need to deploy the proper recovery tools and processes in order to supplement the cyber security protection technologies put in place. Not only will this mitigate the damage to systems, it also minimises the substantial damage that can be done, in terms of financial impact, and brand value and reputation – some of today’s biggest differentiators.