Making use of technology

We often hear people talking about an integrated solution plus the costs and energy savings which this type of solution can bring. I spoke to Erik Kahlert, Managing Director of Siemens Building Technologies to find out what an integrated solution can offer and the benefits of working with a company like Siemens.
One of the main strengths which Siemens has is that they are involved in most aspects of energy, from fossil power generation, renewables, high and low voltage distribution, to domestic usage, they understand the whole energy chain which ultimately means that they know how to make the most of it and thus how to control its use in a building.
This might seem to be a fairly basic point but Erik argues that only by understanding the basics can we hope to achieve energy savings down the line: “In the past we would simply say that energy was available as a resource for us to use. Now availability alone is not the only issue – there are different types of energy which are supplied at different costs and it is only by understanding properly how it is utilised can the customer hope to become more efficient in the way his building is run.
“We are therefore able to not only help the customer to understand his energy consumption but we can use our industry and product knowledge to achieve important cost savings.”
Intelligent control
There have been two recent developments which have led the industry to look at building controls in a more serious light, the cost of energy and the regulatory requirements which buildings need to meet. But what is increasingly becoming far more of a driving force is the need to change, improve and be sustainable.
Erik says: “Awareness of the energy saving issue is massive and because of this awareness the debate has turned from one with a cost focus to one where people are thinking more about the future. Cost is still very much a defining factor but the fundamental desire by people to save energy and make better use of what we have available today means that we are now making bigger advances in energy saving technology than ever before.”
One of the key advances in technology which is becoming increasingly important is the development of controls which communicate interactively with the building. By using intelligent building controls we can anticipate the behaviours of people working within a building and thus start to realise even greater savings.
For example, in the past controls were limited to switching lighting and heating systems on and off. New systems that we now see on the market mean that we can move to a decentralised approach allowing the building manager control over individual rooms or spaces to suit their use.
Erik says: “The building management systems which are available today are all about making the occupants of a building comfortable while at the same time minimising energy consumption. A building can only be as good as the original design, but the management of that building can facilitate cost savings if it is set up correctly. It is basically about collecting the right kind of information and using it to make savings without sacrificing comfort.”
The right system
Some would argue that it is easy to implement these type of savings in a new building, but what about the thousands of older buildings whose systems date back to a time when energy saving wasn’t top of the agenda?
Erik says: “The principal of a building management system remains the same whether it is for a new or old building because it is all about looking at the equipment that is already in place, its current energy consumption and then identifying ways to make savings.
“Our systems work on a modular basis which means that we can tailor a building management system to meet the needs of the individual. We don’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach and whether the building is new or old we can work with the customer and look at what will give them the best returns on their investment.”
There is an increasing awareness within the industry of the benefits of a building control system but one problem which keeps coming up is that of timing. Erik says: “In the past the controls have been something of an after thought with the end user trying to adapt a system which wasn’t designed for the occupants. The message from this is that the earlier we, or our partners, are involved the better because by coming to the project at the design stage we are able to produce a solution which matches the needs of the building use and thus achieves greater efficiencies.”
The complete solution
The benefits of implementing the right building management system is very clear but by working with one company who can provide the complete package you can be sure that once installed everything will work exactly as you are expecting it to.
Siemens Building Technologies provide solutions for security, fire and building automation which, when integrated into one package, will help the customer to achieve both cost and energy savings. But it goes a lot further than that because by understanding each of the individual disciplines they are able to harmonise their product platforms to ensure that they communicate effectively with each other.
Erik says: “From a contractor’s point of view, the fact that we can provide everything in one package takes the headache out of trying to make different products work together. We work with a number of open protocols such as Bacnet, Modbus and later developments like KNX and Enocean allowing us to work with a customer to choose a solution which best meets their needs.
“We invest heavily in R&D to develop products which work on different platforms and we have a large range of products to suit any application. But the benefits of working with one company to provide the complete solution is not just in their product range, the added value is in the solution. By using our products and harmonising them so that they all communicate we can guarantee that the final installation will be the one which works best for the customer.”
Looking forward
For a company like Siemens there are many challenges ahead in keeping up with the latest technological innovations and ensuring that they have a solution to meet the ever changing needs of the customer. But the current economic climate is something which will also dictate their activity over the next 12 months. Erik says: “Our main challenge for the next 12 months is to see how the economy will develop and progress. We work with a number of different partners both large and small and we need to see how they will be affected.
“The good news however is that as energy costs fluctuate, building management systems will continue to increase in popularity as the desirable option. It may once have been seen as an expensive option which could be taken out of the plans as the costs started to spiral, but as everyone fights to keep their costs down it is now the ideal, most economical, solution.
“The fact remains that our customers still need to make savings and by looking at whole life costs they have begun to realise that a building management system will provide them with those savings with an ever reducing pay back period  and then onwards for the lifetime of the structure.”
And finally
As awareness of the need to make energy savings continues to increase the use of a building management system is one solution which can provide many answers. By working with a company like Siemens who can also integrate fire and security solutions into one building management package it is clear that there are even further savings to be made.
But whatever route you take the message is very clear – by planning a building management system at the design stage, rather than leaving it to be implemented as an after thought, you can and will achieve greater savings and therefore it makes sense to think ahead and make the best use of the technology that the industry has to offer.

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