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Igor Kulašić, Siemens: Data Provide the Foundation for Smart Buildings

Igor Kulašić, Siemens: Data Provide the Foundation for Smart Buildings

Date: September 3rd 2020

Author: Alenka Lena Klopčič

Category: En.vision

Topic: Electricity , RES and EE , New technologies , En.vision

Siemens is developing solutions to intelligently connect energy systems and building infrastructure, creating living spaces that benefit both people and the environment. By combining these two areas, it aims to set up a smart infrastructure for grids, buildings, and the industry, creating an ecosystem that intuitively responds to the needs of people, explained the Head of Smart Infrastructure at Siemens Slovenia, Igor Kulašić. Although smart buildings are still relatively rare, independent research shows that improvements using digitalisation and interconnectivity could reduce the carbon footprint (of a building) by 80% compared to an ‘average’ building, Kulašić told Energetika.NET in a comprehensive interview focusing on smart buildings and the related storage options for excess energy which could be exchanged for other goods – even your morning coffee. Read the interview to find out why everything is a ‘resource’ when it comes to buildings, why the user is the main link in this ecosystem, and how “anything is possible”.

buildings of tomorrow   your smart buildings edgeThe buildings of the future will be more than just property, as they will provide smart environments for their users, said Siemens expert, Jon Lester, in the company’s presentation video in mid-March. How far are we from this future and would you say that today’s buildings are already starting to turn into the smart buildings presented by Siemens?

Smart buildings are still relatively rare, however, we believe that this will change quite rapidly, due both to the environmental and the economic aspect – especially due to the latter, since smart buildings mean cost savings. Up to 50% of the energy consumed by an average building is wasted on unnecessary lighting and needless heating, cooling, and ventilation services. If we only provide this energy in parts of the building and at times when it is really needed, we can achieve significant savings. The reduced costs also result from predictive instead of reactive maintenance. Recent research shows that improvements using digitalisation and interconnectivity can reduce a building’s carbon footprint by 80% compared to an ‘average’ building. And this is even without taking into account that the buildings of the future will act as smart prosumers that also produce energy.

Smart buildings therefore represent the evolution of a new type of building that will actively help meet the needs of various users, be it work or home related. Will users also be able to make a profit this way, to generate a passive income, similar to renting out property?

591 170642 key visual digital services ssp rgb 72dData will take up the most important position. Big data, AI, and predictive analytics are already part of this field; the data is collected, processed, and converted into digital knowledge. This way, companies are able to develop new business models and generate new sources of income. However, to make this happen, we also need users that exchange their data for some type of added value.

There are also interesting opportunities in storing the excess energy produced by these future buildings.

Siemens, for example, joined forces with a U.S. start-up to built a microgrid using blockchain. The grid allows building owners to sell their excess solar capacity, which can then be used to power air conditioners in the neighbourhood. Our aim is to build a microgrid that is actually a traders’ community. It will be like selling one’s extra capacity to the coffee shop next door, and getting free coffee in return. The concept has raised quite some interest.

Siemens is also carrying out an excess energy storage project in Canada, aiming to build a virtual power plant where buildings become part of a distributed power plant. If it works out, one or two coal-fired power plants won't need to be built. We will be able to integrate the buildings into the city’s electricity, gas, water, and heating network.

Siemens is also carrying out an excess energy storage project in Canada, aiming to build a virtual power plant where buildings become part of a distributed power plant. If it works out, one or two coal-fired power plants won't need to be built. We will be able to integrate the buildings into the city’s electricity, gas, water, and heating network.

In Siemens’ presentation video, Jon Lester also presents the operation of the systems within smart buildings, and gives an example of searching for a parking spot in the building’s garage with the help of a time-saving application. It seems that such a system would not do well in case of a power outage, which would probably even prevent entry into the building. What kind of back-end systems will there be in case of potential outages or even blackouts which energy experts have been warning us about in light of the uncoordinated planning of electricity grids and the growth of renewables and e-mobility (MORE)?

It is exactly these new technologies and dynamic grid management that provide for a stable network. If a building is both the consumer and the producer of the energy and perhaps even has its own storage, while also being integrated into the grid, the chance of a power outage is relatively low. On the other hand, the security systems that ensure the necessary evacuation and other urgent procedures are planned and implemented in a way that ensures smooth operation even in the case of an outage.

It is exactly these new technologies and dynamic grid management that provide for a stable network.

viennaThe crucial part of the Siemens Campus Microgrid project, which is currently taking place at the Siemens Austria office building in Vienna, is the microgrid controller, which acts as the central unit. This smart microgrid controller centrally orchestrates the connected assets and optimizes the power supply to take account of peak loads and grid capacity utilization, in addition to other influencing factors related to independent generation. The microgrid also incorporates the Desigo building management system, which can adjust the heating supply in the main building during peak load periods: for example, to optimize the power that the overall complex draws from the grid. With this unique connection to the infrastructure of an existing industrial firm and the combination of PV, battery storage, a microgrid controller, load control, and optimized charging solutions for electromobility, Siemens has created a model for a comprehensive smart system to optimize the management of energy and heating.

Lester also explained that smart buildings will be part of a broader infrastructure, including e-mobility, allowing the connected systems to function as effectively as possible. So where do we start? What is the sequence of events when it comes to designing these broad smart environments – do we start with the architectural, the engineering part, or do we need to wait for the (network) operators to provide the basic environment represented by the energy, IT, and finally the road network?

The backbone of a smart building is its digital twin – its accurate digital representation. This fully digital representation of the physical building combines the static and dynamic data, collected from several sources, in a 3D virtual model. By providing insight into the building functions in real time, it helps the operators make immediate adjustments which improve efficiency. The digital twin therefore allows for an analysis of the effect of an additional door or window in the planning phase – both in terms of safety, relating to different evacuation scenarios, and in terms of the effect on heating and cooling. Architects and engineers can also use the building consumption and operation data, which is obtained from these digital twins, to develop important long-term guidelines to improve planning in future buildings.

A showcase of what buildings can do today is Siemens’ new carbon-neutral Smart Infrastructure campus in Zug, Switzerland. It is one of Siemens’ first projects applying building information modelling (BIM), based on a digital twin, which also simulated the course of the construction project and used the data to measure and improve processes. The digital data created with BIM were also employed to give virtual tours through the site using virtual reality goggles.

Since the reconstructed campus opened its doors in mid-2018, the BIM data has been used for building maintenance. All in all, it is an excellent example of what buildings can do in terms of BIM, fire detection, access and intrusion control, CCTV, CO detection, extinguishing, voice evacuation, HVAC automation, room automation, and CPS field devices.

What about existing buildings? Is it difficult to digitalise them? Is it easier to build a new smart building from scratch? Can you provide an example of any such project cases?

It is definitely easier to start from scratch, however, this is often not possible. Many projects in which Siemens is taking part involve existing buildings – including many cultural heritage buildings where constructing them from scratch is simply out of the question.

dynamic hydronic balancingIzpostaviti pa je treba, da je naš sistem nadzornega sistema zasnovan modularno in ga je možno s časom nadgrajevati, širiti in povezovati z drugimi sistemi. V številnih primerih lahko v naš sistem povežemo že obstoječe sisteme in s tem začnemo stavbo pripravljati na njeno pot v digitalizacijo.

However, I should note that our control system has a modular design and can be upgraded, extended, and connected to other systems with time. In many cases, our system can already be integrated into existing systems, allowing us to start preparing the building for digitalisation.

You have probably heard of New York’s Carnegie Hall, one of the world’s most renowned concert venues. With the help of smart renovation using Siemens solutions, it is now one of the oldest and most notable buildings to earn a LEED Silver certification, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Anything is possible.

Most of us have probably already heard of New York’s Carnegie Hall, one of the world’s most renowned concert venues. With the help of smart renovation using Siemens solutions, it is now one of the oldest and most notable buildings to earn a LEED Silver certification, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Anything is possible.

What are some of the recognised ‘resources’ for a smart building? Waste water, perhaps waste itself? There is probably no ‘waste’ energy? Could you explain in a little more detail the entire circuit within such a building?

Actually, in a building, everything is a “resource”. As you already noted, this can be a conventional source, such as heat, electricity, water, and so on, however, it can also relate to the actual material of the building. Part of the building’s life cycle is also its disposal. At this point, its material can become a vital source of energy, construction or production material. Interventions that produce such resources also happen during the building’s life cycle. By implementing building management using the digital twin, effective management with all its resources is relatively simple and effective.

Which part does the person/user play in this ecosystem that Siemens is developing so rapidly? Are you also taking into account the increased use of home offices resulting from the measures related to COVID-19?

591 170365 ssp peoplekv180130rgbThe person is the main link! Before we can focus on the technology, we need to find out what it can do for the people that use it and how it affects them.

When developing our concepts, we are definitely taking into account the increased use of home offices, which was especially notable during the COVID-19 crisis, while also focusing on providing a safe work environment. A notable contributor to the development of these concepts is the fact that the corporation is also addressing this as part of its own operations – you may have heard that Siemens is establishing mobile working as a core component of its “new normal”.

We can therefore imagine a smart building as a conglomeration/system of innumerable elements and subsystems that will have to act coherently in order to ensure, as much as possible, the effective performance of the entire building. Still: which part would you say is the most vital, crucial, and which will have more of a supportive role?

Data provide the foundation for smart buildings – allowing buildings to tell stories.

I previously mentioned Siemens’ Smart Infrastructure campus in Switzerland – there are 12,000 connected data points all over campus: 6,500 at the office building and 5,500 at the production building. These data points tell us, for instance, what the temperature in the room is, as well as many other things. The data also needs to be integrated into the building’s Internet of Things.

Data provide the foundation for smart buildings – allowing buildings to tell stories.

What are your plans regarding the design of smart buildings and smart infrastructure at Siemens? How will the buildings built 20 years from now differ from those built in the next year or two?

In the last hundred years, very little has changed with regard to the planning and construction of buildings and I do not expect to see any substantial change in a year or two. However, this is exactly why anything we decide to focus on can be an innovation. At the same time, we are seeing increased awareness in terms of the previously mentioned economic and environmental savings, with the COVID-19 crisis providing additional incentive, so I believe that the big picture will change significantly in the future.

Can you tell us about the process of designing the wider infrastructure of the building environments – is the focus on commercial or residential buildings or is there no longer any difference between the two, as we are already witnessing in part? Will the future bring even more multi-operational and multi-functional buildings?

building technology servicesWe are already seeing a global trend of building residential buildings with dedicated home office rooms in one or two of the lower floors. This allows residents to retreat from their living environment where working conditions are often less than optimal – children, lack of equipment, other disruptive factors – without having to leave their premises. This has a positive effect on the environment, reduces the burden on the transport infrastructure, saves the time that would be used for the commute – for the individual as well as for others, since it helps relieve traffic congestion – and increases efficiency and satisfaction.

At the same time, the co-existence of residential and office buildings can also contribute to welfare, ultimately also in terms of managing the excess energy, however, this sort of planning requires us to take into account many factors. As part of creating “environments that care”, Siemens also envisages this development direction.

Will we therefore move on to simply resetting/updating buildings, like we do with today’s information systems? Will a large part of the resources go toward such updates or will this relate to updating the energy systems within such environments? To what degree will this relate to actual construction work and materials in terms of investment and maintenance?

smart buildings  helping through and beyond the paMost importantly, we will be able to gradually build up the buildings’ smart capability and continually upgrade it – with additional sensors to provide new data, new technologies that will execute smart actions, and integration into the widening ecosystem. I definitely do not see our move towards smart buildings as a possible burden in relation to the need for continual updates, new versions of automation systems, and frequent ‘replacements of spare parts’. Ultimately, this is a step in the right direction which brings with it different kinds of savings. New ‘upgrades’ are just another step forward and I believe that satisfied consumers will decide to take it, perhaps focusing more on profits and different kinds of advantages than on of savings.

Could you give us a example of future circular management in a smart building – for example using heat from devices, waste water recycling, perhaps even human energy...?

I think that we can all imagine a range of possible cases. What Siemens strives for is achievability. The campus in Zug is therefore a good example of everything that buildings can do today – and it is an impressive one.

siemens campus  zugEfficient heat pumps and water from Lake Zug are used for cooling and heating the building whereas the photovoltaic installations provide electricity, with vegetated rooftops providing an extra layer of insulation. Optimal room comfort is ensured with advanced cooling and space conditioning capacities and LED lighting solutions. It also features an integrated building automation system with energy optimization based on the Desigo CC integrated building management platform. The new control centre includes the latest products for ventilation and heating control, video surveillance, and fire protection – with space for further installations (which are coming). Additionally, a sustainable waste management concept has been created for the entire campus.

The open office landscape supports mobile and activity-based working and provides several areas for employees to choose for their task at hand. With the support of the workplace solution app Comfy, employees can adjust the temperature and lighting and book rooms for spontaneous meetings on the spot. Additionally, they are able to send work requests in case of problems or malfunctions to the facility managers directly. The connection between employees and the technology helps to monitor zone performance and optimize processes, layouts, and occupancy – adding value to people and business with smart office solutions.

As a model of technology, the campus is one of the first Siemens construction projects to use BIM, which I mentioned earlier.




This article is available also in Slovene.



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