By: Giorgia Concas, General Secretary
On the 20-21 September, over 100 of the top stakeholders in the heating, cooling, ventilation and electrical installation sector from Europe and beyond gathered under one roof in Stockholm to exchange experiences, talk about the latest trends, and discuss what will be the future of the sector in the era of digitalisation.
During these two days jam packed with strategic meetings, seminars, and an exciting conference, one thing became clear – the modern installer is thriving in the digital age.
It is clear that there is no getting around digitalisation – Anna Eriksson, the Director General of the Swedish Agency for Digital Government, outlines that in Sweden 89% of citizens are online and 73% have a smart phone. Furthermore, digitalisation is not limited to simply liking your friend’s picture on FaceBook or downloading a book on Amazon to read on your tablet – it is having a major impact on how business is functioning now and developing for the future.
Take Building Information Modeling (BIM) for example – this is one of the foundational digital technologies that is transforming the installation sector. Therefore, during the Summit, there was a joint AIE and GCP Europe BIM Working Group meeting to discuss how installers across Europe are using BIM. While BIM is currently being applied widespread across Europe, in most cases it is only Level 1 or 2 in terms of information and rationalisation – a Level 3 BIM will be crucial to move towards Industry 4.0 as it integrates the various stages of an installation and better manage a product’s lifecycle, explained Rogier Jongeling of the BIM Alliance. This will also be important for installers in terms of cost calculations, commented Andreas Udd, a BIM Project Manager of an installation company in Sweden. Most projects he worked on using this technology saved on time and money while delivering high quality installations with no need for corrections.
Another digital revolution in the sector is building automation. There are many different aspects to building automation, and it can offer many advantages to both the installer and consumer. For the installer, automation offers new opportunities with possibilities to engage in more operation and maintenance activities, as Christiane Mann of Schneider Electric explained. For the consumer, Walter Hugentobler, a leading researcher in indoor environment quality, discussed that automation in buildings can actually improve the health of building occupants by better regulating humidity. Yet, installers must also be wary of the greater implications that come with digitalisation, as Casto Canavate of KNX warned that cyber-security becomes a real issue with greater automation in buildings and preventative measures must also be installed.
Beyond the digital technologies that are transforming installations, there are also digital technologies that are transforming the businesses of installers across Europe. Sweden is one of the countries leading the digital revolution, so we took advantage of being in Stockholm to learn about how Swedish companies are embracing digitalisation. Kristina Gabrielli of the Smart Built Environment explains that the country recognises that digitalisation is crucial for a more efficient construction sector, and outlined the many high-level initiatives that Sweden has launched to fully embrace the benefits of digital technology in the industry . From a value chain perspective, digital solutions that facilitate more efficient interaction between upstream to downstream and viceversa, as Peter Fredholm of BEAst explains, will be instrumental in fuelling a stronger sector. Even managing your workers becomes easier with digitalisation, as Claes Rydin of ID-06 discusses that a digital identification for workers in the sector is becoming the norm in Sweden and Finland.
Altogether, the Installers’ Summit 2018 showed that installers shouldn’t be afraid of the digital revolution, but instead be one of its leaders in order to build a stronger sector and more efficient installations. While there will certainly be challenges, the benefits are simply too great to pass up for the modern installer.
With these lessons in mind, we will continue the conversation next year at the Installers’ Summit on 17-18 October 2019 in Montreux, Switzerland – we hope to see you all there!
AIE: EuroSkills 2018 took place last week in Budapest – as the Chief Expert for the Electrical Installations competition, why do you think such an initiative is so important for our sector?
AS: This competition is an ideal stage to demonstrate the complexity of this profession both to the youth already starting their apprenticeships, and to the youth who have not yet considered following a career in the sector.
The electrotechnical sector is one which will be key to finding solutions for Europe’s energy future, as we are uniquely positioned between the old and the new. As electrical installers, we must simultaneously know about both how older installations function in order to maintain and renovate them, all the while staying on the cutting edge of new technologies. For example, when installing an automation system in a customer’s home, the electrical installer must consider how to combine the digital technology with the existing ones in order to optimise both and ensure safety.
Each EuroSkills competition, we therefore develop a project that reflects the reality of the sector today. This year competitors were asked to install and program a multifaceted installation that combined traditional cabling with KNX and computer automation systems for lights and controls.
We hope that as a result of EuroSkills, more and more of Europe’s young people will see that the electrotechnical sector is exciting and dynamic. With an aging work force, we need more motivated young professionals to help us build the future of Europe’s energy system.
AIE: What type of training needs to be done in order to prepare the participants for such a competition?
AS: The EuroSkills competition is open to youth aged 17 – 25 who have won regional and national competitions in their future professions. Training for a competition such as EuroSkills is twofold:
Firstly, the competitor must already have the basic education needed for being an electrical installer. This knowledge is developed with Vocational Education and Training (VET) and an apprenticeship to give the future electrician both technical and practical knowledge to be successful in the sector. Once a person has completed these two pillars of their training, they can already be certified to work as an electrical installer in most countries – often we even have competitors who have already launched their own business!
Secondly, the competitor must be trained for the specificity of the EuroSkills format and stage. This competition is intense – with only three days to install a complex project, they are taking on much more than they would in a typical work day. This is why each competitor is teamed up with an expert from their home country. The expert supports the competitor by preparing them for the pressure of the competition, both mentally and technically. Often, mental training is even done in a national team setting, crossing sectors in an Olympic-esque ambiance.
The young people who compete in EuroSkills are extremely dedicated and motivated individuals – and even if they don’t win, it is a feat in itself to make it to this high-level of competition!
AIE: Apprenticeships are often seen as a second choice for young people starting their career – why should they be considered as a first choice?
AS: Apprenticeships are one of the best ways to build your career, plain and simple. There have been many studies that have shown again and again that those who follow the apprenticeship path are more likely to get a job faster and easier after their studies than those who follow the university path.
Yet, there still seems to be a stigma in many countries about apprenticeships. The fact is that apprenticeships are often equal to a university degree in terms of education level and they provide equal, if not higher, salaries. Furthermore, there are many opportunities to advance in your career after completing your apprenticeship by following an engineering or business degree to complement your VET.
We must show to our youth that doing a VET and apprenticeship is just as good as going to university. The EuroSkills competition is a fantastic opportunity to do just that, as it demonstrates that the profession is much more than plugging in cables. New digital technologies require electrical installers to also be computer programmers, engineers, designers, business developers and much more – apprenticeships are really a multifaceted education that will prepare Europe’s young people for a prosperous career.
Learn more about EuroSkills here.
With the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) adopted in June, it is now up to Member States to make it a reality in their respective national legislation. While the Directive is ambitious and provides a unique opportunity to make Europe’s ageing building stock cleaner, smarter, and more efficient, there is one tool that will be absolutely necessary for this Directive to be successful – inspections.
During the Installers’ Summit on the 20 September in Stockholm, AIE and GCP Europe finalised a joint position paper that outlines the importance of inspections for the EPBD.
With greater digitalisation of buildings, it is assumed in this legislation that digital solutions, such as Building Automation Control Systems (BACS), will at least partially replace the need for inspections as devices will be able to foresee, detect and address possible sub-optimal functioning or misfunctioning. However, the BACS on the market today still lack the ability to fully complete this self-inspection function, and thus regular inspections are necessary to benefit from digitalisation throughout the whole life-time of the applications.
Moreover, as the usage of buildings change overtime and as the needs and behaviours of the occupants evolve after continuous use, inspections are necessary for experts to provide guidance to building managers on how to best adapt their installations to maximise energy savings and meet their needs. As new technologies are added onto older installations, the case for inspections becomes even more significant as the risk of high strain on installations may lead to safety issues.
To maintain high safety standards and ensure that Europe’s building stock is based on high quality and sustainable installations as building technologies evolve in accordance to the EPBD, regular inspections are really a no-brainer.
As installers are the ones on the ground with expert knowledge of the life cycle of building installations, AIE and GCP Europe members are at full disposal to support Member States in developing and implementing inspection policies fit for their national context.
Read the full position paper here.
Gérard Constantin, representing AIE’s Swiss member VSEI/USIE, has been elected the new President of AIE following the association’s Board elections on the 21 September in Stockholm. Constantin will replace Thomas Carlsson of the Swedish association Installatörsföretagen, who had been the President of AIE since 2015. .
“It is an honour to have been elected AIE’s new President and lead the Board as we look to grow as an association. This is a crucial time for electrical contractors as the sector is changing faster than ever, and I look forward to helping AIE ensure that electrical contractors across Europe have all the tools they need to succeed”, commented Constantin.
“Currently, the leading position of electrical contractors allows Europe to benefit from a very high level of technical and economic performance. To maintain this leadership, I will make it a priority to improve and standardise national processes as well as to strengthen the professional training of employees and employers through improved synergies between companies and training institutes. If this is done, the entire EU economy serves to benefit tremendously”, added Constantin.
There were other changes on AIE’s Board during these elections. Martin Bailey (ECA-UK) was voted as the new Vice-President, Alexis Delepoulle (FFIE-France) was voted in as a Member of the Management Committee, and Thomas Carlsson (Installatörsföretagen-Sweden) remains on the Board as a Director, taking the seat of Janne Skogberg (STUL-Finland). The two other Directors, Gunnar Gran (NELFO-Norway) and Karl-Heinz Bertram (ZVEH-Germany) remain in their current positions.
“The election of AIE’s new Board reflects the association’s greater evolution. The mix of both old and new members will be a major asset to push the association to progress while staying rooted in the history and core objectives of its members. With the new President and Board of Directors as well as the new Secretariat, we can really look to taking AIE to the next level over the next three years”, said Giorgia Concas, Secretary General of AIE.
Hardly a single month passes in which we do not hear about hacking attacks, data leaks and online theft. In some cases, we can say that this is the price we pay for a connected world, and are lessons we must learn in order to be protected towards digital attacks in the future. Yet, by having more and more functions and applications installed, your house connected to the internet, we have to face the fact that those who can hack Facebook, Yahoo!, Sony, and other major companies, can also hack our house - which might end up giving burglars more chances to disrupt the peace of our home.
Change is not bad – on the contrary: as long as we know how to use it responsibly, the proliferation of smart homes will be of benefit to us all, due to in part to higher comfort, but also due to the resulting energy savings. But where can the homeowner learn how to be safe and secure at home?
All information to make your smart home secure available on one page
Due to the high importance and the relevance of this issue in the current era of digitalisation, KNX Association is happy to facilitate the access to information and training about security for smart homes and smart buildings. With already more than 30 registered events, KNX Association is inviting you to join the KNX Secure Roadshow, held in Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America. Besides presentations, introductions and the possibility to talk to industry experts, the range of access to information is even further extended by webinars, which focus on the topic security. To make it even easier, KNX compiled all information on a dedicated “KNX Secure Roadshow” website, available here.
How will you be smarter after the KNX Secure Roadshow?
Higher security does not require much effort but a stronger focus – once you locked your door, burglars will have a harder time entering it. The same accounts for smart homes. With already existing security mechanisms, you can learn how your current home can reach a higher level of security.
Since smart homes are more and more connected to the internet and will be increasingly an important part of our lives, it is also necessary that this change includes further security mechanisms for the digital age. In order to set the example in the market, KNX Association has developed a double protection mechanism, based on the worldwide security standard AES128, in cooperation of industry leaders. The result is “KNX Secure”. The revolutionary encryption feature for smart homes and smart buildings is unique in the market, and will protect your house from attacks from the inside and the outside.
This is the main focus of the KNX Secure Roadshow - all visitors will learn the basics of smart home protection, all the way to the latest standard for security: KNX Secure.
Installers are one of the key players needed for Europe to shift to an energy system that includes self-consumption – yet, the installer is often left out of this conversation. On the 5 September in Paris, installers were able to have their voice heard by the rest of the value chain as AIE’s Secretary General, Giorgia Concas, addressed the importance of the installer to the self-consumption revolution at Enerplan’s Summer University of PV self-consumption.
With an ambitious 32% renewable energy target for 2030 and the provision of rights for renewable self-consumption, the revised Renewable Energy Directive will provide unique opportunities for current energy consumers to transform into energy prosumers. Once this legislation is transposed at the national level by mid-2020, there will undoubtedly be a surge in demand for technologies, such as PV and storage solutions, that empower EU consumers to contribute to a clean energy system in Europe.
This is good news for the European economy, as thousands of jobs will be created as a result with this increase in demand. In the small-scale PV market, over 75% of the jobs created at the local European level are downstream in installation, operation, and maintenance sectors. Yet, as this is a relatively new technology and has not been widespread in many EU countries due to previously inhibitive policies, we risk not having a work force adequately trained to fulfill this new demand.
It is therefore crucial that we have the right training systems in place to ensure that when PV is installed, it is installed in a way that is safe and sustainable to efficiently contribute to Europe’s clean energy system. ‘Solar cowboys’ or DIY-ers threaten to destabilise the self-consumption revolution by installing PV without proper training, which could lead to sub-optimal functioning of the systems and, in the worst-case scenario, even to fires.
Having qualified installers is important throughout the life-time of PV systems, as the need for some maintenance and repair may arise, including for small-scale systems. Together with SolarPower Europe, AIE is developing a set of Best Practices when it comes to operating and maintaining small-scale PV, to ensure that the solar panel on your rooftop can reach its potential in powering the self-consumption revolution.
With the new Renewable Energy Directive, a consumer-driven energy transition becomes possible – but it will only become a reality if renewable energy technologies are installed and operated safely and efficiently by trained professionals.