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Building management services firm Sauter ready for tech-hungry UK

Sauter’s intelligent building management products and services are widely used across Europe and internationally. Now the company is finding an increasing market for them in the UK.

Use of technology in construction is growing exponentially, with BIM, ‘smart cities’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ all central to the government’s future Construction 2025 construction strategy.

Sauter, a Swiss-based company which provides intelligent building management products and services, could be in the right place at the right time.

“We aim to provide automated solutions to all questions relating to modern building management,” says UK deputy managing director Mark Clinch.

Its portfolio includes whole BMS systems, standalone components, plus its own consulting and technical FM services. It operates throughout Europe and has joint ventures around the globe.

Ongoing expansion

Recent growth has been impressive despite the recession. Turnover has grown steadily from £201.6m in 2010 to £236.8m last year. Staff numbers increased from 2,019 to 2,297 over the same period.

In the UK, after 10 per cent growth over the past two years, the company’s revenue is £11m and it employs 80 staff.

Sauter’s expansion has been driven by the green agenda, and by clients realising how much they can drive down operating costs through more intelligent building management.

Its products are increasingly being used on high-profile UK projects, including Brookfield’s St George Tower in Vauxhall (see box), where it is helping to deliver energy savings of a third compared to similar developments.

“Our products integrate seamlessly with systems from other manufacturers, making them easier to engineer and install”

Mark Clinch, Sauter

Sauter’s ethos is an integrated approach to building services.

“The BMS should be seen as the central nervous system of a building - controlling, monitoring and reporting,” Mr Clinch says. “But flexibility is vital.

“Our products are designed to integrate seamlessly with systems from other manufacturers, making them easier and cheaper to engineer and install. That includes not only mechanical and electrical, but also fire, security - anything to do with the building’s operation.”

However, Mr Clinch is frustrated by attitudes towards building services procurement.

“Many main contractors procure their systems directly and consider that this provides best value, as do we,” he says. “But the M&E supply chain is currently the mechanism for making the building work, and having closer and better managed ties with it will ultimately give the client a better building.

“We work closely with M&E consultants, and often help them achieve a better outcome, for example, on the Fitzroy Place project (see box), a mixed-use development with many differing services requirements.

“We aim to do the same through closer engagement with main contractors and clients,” he adds, “but we need to be involved early - we are often brought in too late to make a real difference with cost.”

Connecting the dots

Another problem Sauter frequently encounters is a lack of joined-up thinking in building services management.

“We have seen an expansion of equipment manufacturers installing a control system on their own products, which may make sense in a small building,” Mr Clinch says. “But where there is a wide range of equipment, an overall control system is required.”

He envisages greater integration of building services, and would like to see consultants ditching old habits of treating electrical and mechanical separately.

“Open, integrated systems for regulating and controlling room automation tasks provide control of the entire service installation,” he says. “They provide maximum energy efficiency through control routines such as demand-led room ventilation, optimised control with occupancy profile and detection, and sunshade control to help heating and cooling.”

A brief history

Even though it sees itself at the cutting edge of modern construction technology, Sauter is far from being a ‘Johnny-come-lately’.

The company dates back to 1910, when it was founded as a manufacturer of electrical timers in Switzerland.

It first produced devices for controlling heating and air-conditioning in 1935, laying the foundations for today’s core business, and used software to control building management systems as early as 1974.

The integrated approach Mr Clinch espouses depends on wider use of open, industry standard protocols - an issue frustrated BIM practitioners will be familiar with.

“We develop our products on that open principle,” Mr Clinch says. “For example, we use the BACnet/IP open communications protocol for our main BMS controllers.

“Our EY-Modulo5 range of controllers are all based on BACnet/IP. They are distributed around the building, acting as the central intelligence hub for the BMS, and have integrated web technology, so they can be accessed from any web browser and any mobile device. The building’s managers operate the controllers using software such as our Vision Centre package, which is also web-based.”

Other protocols Sauter uses include KNX (a standard developed by building control trade body Konnex Association) for room operation units, DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting) for lighting, and SMI (standard motor interface) for solar blinds.

Its ECOS 504 automatic room controller, which is compatible with all of these protocols, integrates the sunshade, lighting and room climate regulation systems.

“In modern buildings, a large proportion of the energy is used for cooling,” Mr Clinch says. “With the ECOS 504, the automatic control of the blinds, plus occupancy-dependent control of the lighting and demand-control ventilation with CO2 sensors, can make significant energy savings. The system also integrates into the BMS through the open BACnet/IP communication.”

“End users want better performance from their buildings; if you’ve paid millions of pounds for an apartment, you don’t want disparate, old fashioned user interfaces”

Mark Clinch, Sauter

Mr Clinch says Sauter is focused on creating products that service the specific needs of building managers and end users, while keeping an eye on technological development.

The firm says it recently launched a first in the marketplace by introducing an app that will allow high-end apartment occupiers to operate their BMS from a smartphone or tablet.

“End users increasingly want better performance from their buildings, and if you’ve paid millions of pounds for an apartment, you don’t want disparate, old fashioned user interfaces,” Mr Clinch explains.

New markets

“Our app will allow residents to control every aspect of the building services in their apartment, from underfloor heating to blinds.

“In building services terms, technology and the green agenda go hand in hand and we want to be at the forefront of that.”

The increasing technological sophistication means there is now a role for building services professionals long after installation is complete, Mr Clinch argues, which is why Sauter has recently moved into the technical FM sector.

“You can’t just install and then forget about these products,” he says, “so we offer a full after-sales maintenance service after installation. We’re now also saying to the FM provider or client that we will offer a technical FM service to look after all other M&E devices in the building.

“This will ensure maximum return from the BMS in terms of energy efficiency and ultimately operational cost. We can also advise on how internal layout changes should be reflected in building services management.

“We use this approach in our other European businesses, and there is an increasing demand for it in the UK too. The building manager is becoming very different, and we have positioned ourselves to help manage buildings more intelligently and efficiently.”

Which sounds like it might fit neatly with the Construction 2025 vision.

Fitzroy Place W1

This facility has a Sauter system at the heart of its building services.

The development includes two office buildings, 291 apartments (including affordable), retail units, a Primary Care Trust facility, a local education facility and a Grade II listed chapel all within landscaped space with below ground parking.

Energy saving measures include close plant control, apartment controls via the new app and the use of Sauter’s own Energy Management Solution. The building is controlled by 75 of the Sauter EY Modulo5 building management controllers and uses a high level of interfacing (ModBus and MBus) to provide a fully automated building.

The recently launched integrated apartment solution, called RESIDE, controls the underfloor heating and the cooling in the high end apartments and allows the occupants to manage their environment remotely and ensure they are not wasting energy.

With all the energy and close controls measures put in place by Sauter - along with its new app and its energy management technology - the building has hit its BREEAM Excellent rating.

Sauter also worked closely with designers Aecom and main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine.

The Tower, One St George Wharf, London

A Sauter building automation system has been installed in the UK’s tallest residential building, St George Tower in Vauxhall, London.

The 50-storey, 180m residential skyscraper was completed in 2014. The building’s design incorporates an aquifer system which cools the tower in summer and heats it in winter, via heat exchangers, and a corkscrew wind turbine which powers the common lighting.

The renewable energy features, along with all other HVAC services, are controlled by Sauter’s EY-Modulo 5 building management system.

Use of the system means the tower will require only one third of the energy of comparable buildings, and will produce between one-half and two thirds of normal CO2 emissions.

Sauter worked on St George’s Tower with main contractor Brookfield Multiplex, plus M&E contractor Haydon and M&E engineer Grontmij.

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