By Nikolaus Fecht
Digitalization also affects buildings. "It changes the way buildings are planned, built, used and operated in future," says Uwe Großmann, Chairman of the VDMA Forum Technical Building Equipment and Head Solution & Services Portfolio Siemens Building Technologies in Frankfurt am Main. Digitalization harbors enormous potential. Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of energy consumption worldwide and for a large share of CO2 emissions.
In non-residential buildings, these issues are to be solved by means of digital solutions. Smart buildings are equipped with building automation systems that intelligently integrate all technical systems. "This allows heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, shading systems and technologies for energy generation and storage to work together seamlessly," explains Großmann.
In terms of technical features and user requirements, the digital solutions used in buildings thus closely resemble those in industrial plants. "That is why Industrie 4.0 solutions can be applied to this segment of building equipment relatively easily," states Dr. Manfred Oesterle, Senior Vice President Automation & Systems at KSB Aktiengesellschaft in Frankenthal.
Optimizing plants from afar
Value can for example be created by combining a large amount of pump data in a cloud and using this data to evaluate the economic and ecological state of a building, he adds. This enables property managers to compare their assets and optimize them based on demand in real time and from anywhere using mobile devices. "Building on this vision, KSB has a vast array of additional services in mind for its customers," says Oesterle with a view to the future.
Communication takes the lead role
Dr. Markus Beukenberg, CTO at Wilo SE from Dortmund, stresses the importance of digitalization for product design: "Only modularly designed products that can be adapted to customer demands and integrated optimally with the environment will be successful in future." This is why communication with other devices and via the Internet is of utmost importance, he adds. Beukenberg also expects this will unlock new opportunities for servicing and status monitoring.
"In non-residential buildings, the pumps' capability to integrate with building information modeling (BIM) environments will be of vital importance. Only manufacturers who ensure that their products have these functionalities will be successful in the long term and strengthen their market position," Beukenberg predicts. (See Background-Information at the end of the text)
Buildings 4.0 in practice
Udo Jung, member of the Board of Management of Trox GmbH in Neukirchen-Vluyn (Wesel district), explores the digitalization of buildings from different angles. In his view, digitalization also influences the product and system landscape. "Products 4.0 and Systems 4.0 are terms for describing the intelligent interconnection of individual components and devices to form subsystems. These subsystems enable us to offer solutions for various types of buildings, such as systems for room air control and smoke extraction," explains Jung. He believes that the future lies with products and systems that are capable of optimizing themselves independently. In the use and management of buildings, this interconnection offers substantial benefits in terms of safety and energy efficiency. "The interesting challenge of digitalization, for Industrie 4.0, is related to the intelligent interconnection of all business processes, production and the product and system landscape," Jung summarizes.
Intelligent interconnection saves resources
"Digitalization in non-residential buildings is progressing at a rapid pace," says Andreas von Thun, Chairman of the Management Board of the BerlinerLuft. Technik GmbH from Berlin. But the use of energy-efficient products alone is far from enough. "The resources can only live up to their true potential if all technical products and subsystems are connected in an intelligent manner," von Thun is convinced. In the field of ventilation and air conditioning technology, this might also create interesting potential links with process air from production.
Developers and planners join the decision-making process
Further important steps in the digitalization process include the planning of non-residential buildings using building information modeling and simulation models of the building. "In future, developers and planners will have more say in the decision-making process on quality and the intelligent connection of products," explains von Thun, adding, "Companies in the field of industrial ventilation, air conditioning and process air technology are more likely to use tailor-made products that are harder to replace with competitor products due to their geometric data." According to von Thun, product data, maintenance information and digital documentation will then already be available in the planning phase.
But what do the experts from Berlin hold in store to meet this challenge? "Our engineers have developed a software solution built on a rule-based logic," explains von Thun. "Project-specific data is queried via a template." The construction process up to the machine control system takes place in the background.
The digitalization of sanitary fittings not only increases the safety and efficiency of valves, as Dr. Peter Arens, Head of Product Management and expert for drinking water hygiene at Schell GmbH & Co. KG Armaturentechnologie from Olpe explains. "More importantly, automation enables us to resolve one important issue in a sustainable manner - operating drinking water installations at the highest hygienic standards to protect our health," he adds.
Curbing energy peaks digitally
In principle, automation is based on connecting valves with one another and with other building technologies. This enables operators to reduce operating costs by lowering costly energy peaks. For example, when the number of showers used at the same time in a public swimming pool increases, intelligent valves will pass this information on to the building management system (BMS). "The BMS will increase ventilation output and start heating the drinking water - long before the integrated sensors identify this demand," Arens explains.
According to Arens, digitalization also offers legal certainty for users in public spaces, since the stagnation flush sequences required for hygienic reasons can be documented in a legally compliant manner for every valve.
Transferring consumption data via sensor technology
"For large-scale objects, meaning public and non-public buildings, the digitalization of building valves is still in the early development and definition phase," says Ulrich Petzolt, Head of Product Management at Gebr. Kemper GmbH + Co. KG from Olpe. An increasing number of operators are approaching engineering partners and installation companies to talk about opportunities for transferring specific states, operating conditions and consumption data within the drinking water system to and from building valves via sensors, he adds. Several years ago, it was all about monitoring plants and machinery, with error messages being transferred to a permanently manned office located inside the building.
Sending measured values across the globe
Today, energy efficiency and sustainability are taking center stage. Values measured for current consumption or operating states are recorded online and sent across Germany and even the world.
The recording, saving and analyzing of the values then takes place locally on site. Data bus systems are increasingly used for forwarding the digital values measured by the building valves - only five years ago, these systems were still largely unknown and underdeveloped. When it comes to digitalization, the customers of Grundfos GmbH from Erkrath place the utmost importance on potential benefits. "The most important aspect for them is to find solutions that offer added value for themselves and their customers," says Martin Palsa, Managing Director of Grundfos GmbH. For Grundfos pumps, digitalization means increased communication, greater transparency and safer operation.
Minimum life cycle costs
Planners of technical building equipment and installation technicians benefit from these improved communication capabilities, since they enable them to offer their customers a solution featuring maximum efficiency and minimum life cycle costs. "We are supporting engineers with a wide range of digital design tools that are available on our website," says Palsa. Technicians can also benefit from digitalization when it comes to installing pump systems quickly and without any errors - a task that is becoming increasingly difficult. "Even the smartest technicians may quickly lose their way in light of the vast number of different parameterization processes in boiler control or the operation of solar systems or heat pumps, for example," Palsa explains. This is why Grundfos offers a pre-configured application file containing the optimum setting parameters for typical applications. And thanks to the new app, technicians are able to transfer this file to the pump.
Digitalization is also becoming increasingly popular in homes, albeit users here have slightly different interests. "They are looking for solutions that make everyday life easier, increase comfort and help reduce costs," says Jörg Schmidt, Head of Public Relations at Viessmann Werke GmbH & Co. KG in Allendorf (Eder). The company's new app is a great example of this. Specialist partners install the required hardware in about five minutes at the system operator's site. The system is then ready to use without any further explanation - using the intelligent wizards in the app, heating system owners can enter their personal heating periods, configure the heating in an intuitive manner and even save heating costs.
"The specialist partner can also be integrated using an additional function," explains Schmidt, adding "This way, heating engineers also have an overview of the system when worse comes to worst." The digital interface also enables them to implement remote monitoring and diagnostic functions.
Digitalization creates added value
For Aloys F. Dornbracht GmbH & Co. KG in Iserlohn, digitalization and building engineering have become inseparable. "Heating, lighting, electric devices and even valves are now increasingly controlled via digital interfaces," explains Michael Beese, Head of eSolutions at Dornbracht. In the case of valves, this involves much more than just setting the right temperature or amount of water. Beese is convinced that "digitalization can create real added value in the building valve industry," as it offers greater comfort, increased safety and greater individuality.
As an example, the expert mentions the automatic function for filling the bathtub. In addition to setting the desired temperature, the function also prevents the bathtub from overflowing or the temperature from becoming too hot. "Digitalization also harbors great potential when it comes to raising awareness for health and safety in bathrooms - a topic that is becoming increasingly important in light of demographic changes and the ever-growing level of consciousness concerning health."
Intelligent building technology is the path to the future
"Networked buildings are increasingly popular and point the way to the future," observes Peter Gormanns, Head of Sales & Marketing at SYR Hans Sasserath GmbH & Co. KG from Korschenbroich. "Smart homes require intelligent control electronics for building technology - after all, homes can only be operated in an intelligent manner if they are equipped for the task." The company is already paving the way for this by offering a dedicated app and a specific program which include the technology required to connect valves and control electronics with the Internet. "This technology enables us to connect valves with the Internet. End users and craftsmen can then use the free app to control and regulate them," explains Gormanns. The app thus offers reliable and comprehensive protection for detached houses and apartment buildings, public buildings and large industrial complexes.
BACKGROUND: BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING (BIM)
Building information modeling is a method for the improved planning, building and operating of buildings using a software solution. The BIM system records, combines and links all relevant building data in a digital manner and over the entire life cycle of a building. BIM thus plays a central role in digitalizing the construction sector. For the first time, users have the option to digitally record building data in a standardized manner, meaning that this data can be automatically processed using software. This makes it possible to optimize planning and construction processes, improve the quality of buildings and reduce operating costs.