Media Partners’ Corner – Case Study: KNX award-winning smart castle in France

Systems integrator Lionel Armand describes the automaton of a castle that won the KNX Award 2022 for Smart Home – Europe.

La Folie Boulart is a Belle Époque-era castle in Biarritz, in the Basque Country, France. It has been restored as a five-star rental property boasting eight bedrooms, a large reception room, lounge bar, billiard room, sitting rooms, secret boudoirs and a spa including an 8.5m long pool, hammam and sauna.

The brief

In 2015, we were contacted by the owner to explore home automation possibilities for the castle. Although it was initially with a view to providing a simple lighting management system only, the scope evolved to cover two main objectives:

  • Management of all of the equipment of the castle, including lighting, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, audio video, and IP networks.
  • Energy monitoring to ensure maximum efficiency and thus meet the legal obligations of energy reduction.

Facilities at the castle include a spa with an 8.5m long pool, hammam and sauna.

The solution

We held a meeting with the client once a week in which he expressed his needs, which I then translated at the technical level, i.e. definition of system architectures, choice of protocols and equipment. KNX was the obvious choice as the reference protocol to be used to meet the multitude of requests.

The installation, having constantly evolved over five years, took place in several phases. I mainly carried out all of the technical studies, KNX programming, and programming of the ABB doGATE multiprotocol supervision systems for the BMS, as well as the RTI Integration Designer for in-room tablet control of comfort and multimedia.

Thanks to KNX, historical buildings can be hi-tech whilst preserving their original beauty and charm.

We needed a backbone that would be able to adapt to the building’s special requirements, yet also be sustainable for years to come. The solution was to install 16 KNX lines comprising 10 IP lines plus 6 RF lines, supporting more than 475 KNX devices. These ensure the management of more than 100 lights with dimming and scenes, and more than 80 hydraulic convectors to manage the HVAC.

What started off as a simple lighting management system evolved to embrace HVAC and entertainment.

Each room of the castle has pushbuttons and switches for manual control of lighting, plus a tablet to control KNX automation functions, as well as audio and video. There is also a comprehensive technical supervision system and energy metering engine. Since the castle is available to rent, we designed all user interfaces to be easy-to-understand, simple-to-use and robust.

Example of the user interface for a given area, providing comprehensive control of comfort and entertainment functions.

Challenges

The main challenge was that the customer’s desires changed every month and it was necessary to constantly adapt the systems while maintaining the necessary operating stability. The other challenge was to adapt to the requirements of a building classified as a historical monument, especially for the passage of cables. This is where the RF capabilities of KNX came to the rescue.

KNX RF came to the rescue when, for aesthetic reasons, there was no option to run a cable.

Experience from the project

This is among the largest installations carried out with complete management, including design of KNX, IP and AV technical architectures, programming of KNX equipment, and the design and programming of supervision systems. During the process I learned a lot about the technologies to be implemented to restore a historic building.

Conclusion

After about five years of work, we delivered the finalised project in April 2022 to the customer, who now has a global tool for operating his building both in terms of comfort and energy performance. This project also recently won the KNX Smart Home – Europe 2022 award – the first time it has been given to an integrator in France. I sincerely hope that this will lead to better penetration of KNX in my country!

La Folie Boulart project won the KNX Smart Home – Europe 2022 award.

For more information about the equipment list and the system integrator company realizing this project, please visit: Case Study: KNX award-winning smart castle in France – KNXtoday

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