Free copy of The Building Code of Australia (BCA)

What a free copy of the building code of Australia (BCA), the Australian Government has made it public.

In order to promote public education and public safety, equal justice for all, a better informed citizenry, the rule of law, world trade and world peace, this legal document is hereby made available on a noncommercial basis, as it is the right of all humans to know and speak the laws that govern them.

National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME ONE HTML
National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME TWO HTML
National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME ONE PDF
National Construction Code Series 2012 VOLUME TWO PDF

Automatically start and run LabVIEW VI

Here is an AutoIT script and executable that takes a LabVIEW VI path, opens the VI and then runs the VI.

Script and download below.

#include <File.au3>

If $CmdLine[0] > 0 Then

; assume first parmaeter is the file and path of the VI
Local $sFilePath = $CmdLine[1]

Local $sDrive = "", $sDir = "", $sFilename = "", $sExtension = ""
Local $aPathSplit = _PathSplit($sFilePath, $sDrive, $sDir, $sFilename, $sExtension)

; generate the window title
Local $sTitle = $sFilename & $sExtension & " Front Panel"

; run the VI
ShellExecute($sFilePath )

; wait till the VI opens
WinWaitActive($sTitle)

; send CTRL-R to start to RUN
Send("^r")

EndIf

Open and Run LabVIEW VI AutoIt
Open and Run LabVIEW VI EXE

Use as follows;

open-run-labiew-vi.exe "C:\Users\UserName\Desktop\VIName.vi"

The benefits of builder brokers

It is known that mortgage brokers and insurance brokers are useful to get the best possible service at the best possible price. I thought I would share my knowledge of builder brokers, and whether they can benefit those building a home or development.  Note this analysis and opinion is purely based on my knowledge and experience in Perth, Australia, and I have never actually engaged the services of a builder broker.

Similar to a mortgage and insurance broker, a builder broker claims that they can build a dwelling at the best price and terms. The argument is that by quoting on the same plans to various builders, since all the builders will be quoting on the same design, the most favourable price and terms can be selected. This is different to approaching builders individually, who will create their own designs and provide a cost, since all designs are different, it is difficult to compare like for like. Though, there is an advantage that each builder may produce a design that they can optimally construct due to their past knowledge.

Design

A builder broker will create the dwelling design, usually the development approval drawings, so that it can be submitted to council for approval. The builder broker may guarantee council approval, which is a definitely a good thing. The price of these drawings may be significantly less than getting an architect to do similar, with the builder broker reasoning that their return are from the builder on signing up, so it is in their interest to take it that far.

There are a few catches, the copyright of the drawings will belong to the broker builder and will be licensed only if you use their services.  Let’s say you have received development approval, paid your application fee, a few hundred or thousand dollars depending on the size, you are now at the mercy of the builder broker, if you don’t like their choice of builders, the subsequent quotes, etc, you can’t take your plans somewhere else. This leads on to the next point.

Conflict of Interest

There is a difference between a mortgage or insurance broker and a builder broker, the former can easily be compared by yourself, when you receive a loan from a mortgage broker it can be compared with any number of banks, all on similar terms and conditions. Similarly, with an insurance broker, the insurance premiums can all be easily compared. A builder broker, you don’t have a licence to use the copyright except if you chose to progress the build through the broker, with the builder broker arguing that this is how they make their fees. Understandably, this is true, but even throwing your own preference for builder can be met with backlash.

Firstly, though, let’s talk about the builder broker’s fee, besides the initial ‘foot in the door’ payment for producing the drawings, the bulk of the builder brokers fee is the commission from the builders. That is, a percentage of the building cost is given to the builder broker, let me say that again, the more you pay to the builder, the more the builder broker receives, how is that is your best interests. Which leads to my next point.

Transparency

The builder broker will cloud however they can the comparison between builders, in order to favour the quote that gives them the largest cut. Firstly, each builder may give different referral fees, depending on past relationship, etc, you will never know, and that is why they are hesitant to introduce builders that are not on their shortlist, they may need to build new relationships, or know that there is not much commission through them. Secondly, they summarise the quotes into a simple table, so you can easily compare, you may never see the quotes, and their summaries are arranged to lead you choosing a builder that the builder broker prefers. Thirdly, brokers argue that they are simply taking the commission that the sales person of the builders would normally take, this may be true if the broker has a good relationship with a builder, but again, there is no transparency, and unlike a sales person what incentive does the broker have to negotiate a lower price.

Alternatives

A better alternative to a builder broker is getting a draft person or architect to design the dwelling for you. Once council approved, then approach builders individually, yes, you will be dealing with the builder’s salesperson, but if you don’t like what one builder is offering, simply move to the next.

In fairness, don’t show one builder’s quote to other builders, instead give them a rough indication of how they are placed and allow them to adjust.

Log solar generated to PVOutput with LabVIEW

Here is the full LabVIEW code to read a CMS2000 inverter solar generation, including power, voltage and temperature, and then logging it to PVOutput.

The data is read from the CMS2000 every 1 second and averaged over 5 minutes, as PVOutput only supports 5 minute intervals. The averaged value gives a better representation of the parameter compared to a single read every 5 minutes.

Logged is power generated, inverter temperature, and DC voltage. PV Bean Counter only supports AC voltage which won’t vary too much, DC voltage is a lot more interesting, DC current can be calculated from the power and voltage values.

Don’t forget to change the API key and system ID strings.

Use the linked images below when dragging into LabVIEW as a snipped, not the thumbs.

Read CMS2000 inverter to PVOutput VI

Read CMS2000 inverter to PVOutput

Read CMS2000 inverter to PVOutput

Connect to CMS2000 solar inverter with LabVIEW and read power

After a few weeks of ‘chasing the sun’, finally got something I am happy with, LabVIEW connects to the CMS2000 via serial interface and reads the parameters.

Programmed as a state-machine, basic error checking and fail safes.

Note, I am using a RS232 to TCP/IP adapter, I am guessing a lot of the peculiarities are due to that.

Don’t use the thumb snippet, but the linked image.

Read CMS 2000 Inverter with LabVIEW

Read CMS2000 invert in LabVIEW VI

Phoenixtec (CMS2000) inverter protocols spreadsheet

DIN rail single phase two wire energy meter Lanx Australis LXEM180 manual

Here is the closest replication manual for the Lanx Australis LXEM180, which is available from Schnap

The manual is another rebadged version, operation is exactly the same.

DIN rail single phase two wire energy meter LXEM180-PRO2DM.pdf

LXEM180

AFS Walling Solutions – permanent formwork concrete walls review

Recently I did some research into the AFS Logic Wall product as an alternative to brick for a development I am working on.

AFS is a permanent formwork concrete wall solution, what this means is instead of creating the timber frame on site for the concrete pour, a factory creates a shell which is then assembled on site and filled with concrete.

The benefits are quicker wall construction times, days not weeks, as there is minimum site works. This initially seams like a huge benefit, but only after speaking to a number of industry people are the true costs discovered.

As a start, read through this AFS Assessment by the Ceramic Advisory Services, though the information may be outdated and biased.

I received the following information from an AFS distributor, April 2014;

Typically AFS150 would be supplied and installed and filled with concrete for approx $ 215/m2, ready for applied finishes.

Compared to a brick, the costs is fairly similar, especially if comparing to double brick. But there are some additional costs that are not accounted for.

From the distance, there looks like there is a huge advantage to reduced wall thicknesses, I was informed 150mm AFS could be used in place of my 230mm double brick. There are a couple of catches though, only electrical conduit can be set in the concrete, water pipes can’t and so a separate stud wall is needed, adding about 75mm and additional costs.

AFS wall have a specified insulation R value, though the wall is concrete only, if you can’t meet the required insulation then additional will be required. With double brick construction, the insulation can be installed in the cavity, there is no cavity with the AFS so again a separate stud wall is needed.

When you need a thin wall, brick is a minimum 90mm thick, whilst AFS is 110mm, possibly due to the cement formwork being 10mm in thickness on each side and unable to support any load.

The slab needs starter rebar for the formwork, whilst brick does not, again, adding additional costs.

Finally, there are only a handful of builders that work with AFS, in Perth I was given the names of four builders, severely restricting the choice.

Monitor CMS2000 inverter via TCP/IP with USR-TCP232-E4 RS232/IP convertor

After months of waiting on hardware to arrive and playing around with different configurations, I have finally got my CMS2000 inverter to work through TCP/IP with POE.

RS232 to USB converter

The CMS2000 is a 2kW inverter with an RS232 connection for communications. If you simply want to view the data locally via a laptop, you will need a RS232 to USB adapter, specifically the Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port. Have a look at my review of RS232 to USB adapters for more info on the suitability of the converter.

RS232 to TCP/IP converter

Now, if you would rather run Ethernet to from the inverter and being able to read the values from any computer in your LAN, it is a little more complicated, but here is how.

The first thing you will need is a RS232 to TCP/IP converter, these can be purchased on eBay for about $25. Make sure you don’t simply get a serial to RJ45 cable, which are commonly used to configure managed switches. The model I received was the USR-TCP232-E45 by Jinan USR IOT Company China. The unit requires 5V power which I will discuss later.

The manual can be a little confusing, there is a test you can do if you have a com port or RS232 to USB adapter, where you basically create a loop and confirm it is all working. To get it talking to the CMS2000, configure the parameters of Port 0 (the RS232 port) as below. The main thing is to set it in TCP Server model. Configure the IP address and subnet as appropriate for your LAN.

Power

The RS232 to TCP/IP converter takes 5V DC, now you can run a separate 5V line to the inverter which isn’t ideal or use a passive injector to inject 5V into the line and split it out at the inverter, this is not IEEE 802.3af compliant though.   If your switch supports PoE you can split the power out directly at the inverter with a TP-LINK PoE splitter model TL-POE10R. This can be purchased for $14, and even includes the power and Ethernet cables needed to connect to the USR-TCP232-E45.

Software

To check the communications the CMS software ProControl can be used to check the communications prior to use with PVBeanCounter. Now, for some reason ProControl can’t connect directly via IP to the USR-TCP232-E45, fortunately I found a free virtual comm port software, which emulates a serial port connected to an IP address, the software is called VSP3 – Virtual Serial Port, developed by the HW group. Fairly easy to configure as below.

Final product