Mar 1, 2015 - Building
Schulte Elektrotechnik has always converted visionary ideas into innovative products. With the new company headquarters, the company from Lüdenscheid can now demonstrate how their electrical wiring installations can guarantee the efficiency of office buildings into the future, and also reduce costs. The building and also the individual room automation systems were realized using controllers and modules from the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750.
Visitors to the new Schulte Elektrotechnik GmbH headquarters in North Rhine-Westphalia will notice one thing quite quickly: there are no lights in the ceiling and no switches or electrical outlets in the walls. “It makes no sense to lay kilometers of wire in ceilings and walls, just to turn on the lights,” explains Siegfried Schulte. The founder and owner of the electrical engineering company has always had a passion for sophisticated ways to interface humans and technology. He invented the steering column arm switch, commonly used for blinkers. The dead man’s switch, which causes the engine on a lawn mower, for example, to shut down when released, was also his idea. In all, Siegfried Schulte has developed more than 300 patents. The company, which he founded in 1964, is known for the installation systems trademarked under EVOline, top quality, modular products for power and data systems in tasteful designs. “When you move outside of conventional electrical installations, then even experts often are unable to understand exactly what it is that we do. We cannot guide our customers around buildings that we have equipped, since that would disturb the people working there. Therefore, we show building owners, architects, and electrical systems designers our own headquarters, so they can see what is feasible,” Schulte explains
Decentralized Power and Data Distribution
There is not much to see, which is in itself an attraction. “All of the technology for the electrical systems is accommodated in the raised floors,” explains Frank Sallach, Head of Product Management at Schulte. What is truly interesting is that the cable in the raised floors is not conventional electrical cable, but a three-phase current configured as a mains ring. It is thus unimportant how many office devices consume electricity from the lines: the supply remains stable. In addition, this enables more intelligent distribution of power and data flows. Schulte devised decentralized distribution stations for this purpose, so-called Consolidation Points. They supply individual workstations and entire workspace groups with alternating current, and link PCs and even printers to the data network. All cables from the office devices disappear into recesses in the floor, where they are pluggably wired directly to the consolidation points. The supply of electricity to offices also takes place using these distribution points. In the consolidation points, the phases are divided into the individual switch circuits and provided with fuses according to load. “The final meter of wiring from the floor sockets to the furniture surfaces is usually forgotten during planning. We provide distinct structures, not only in design, but also in the electrical cabling,” states Sallach.
“In my office alone, using this type of installation does away with almost three kilometers of wire,” Schulte declares. In comparison with conventional wiring through the walls and ceiling, this design reduced costs by a total of around 40 %. And there is more: since all cables are accessible in the raised floor, instead of being literally walled away, the electrical supply to the rooms remains extremely flexible. “It no longer matters what type of business moves into a building, it can be an administrative office, medical practice, or legal chambers,” states Schulte. Cables can be laid where ever they are needed, without a lot of expense.
This is the first time that the company from Lüdenscheid has docked their consolidation points to WAGO’s 750 Series I/O-Systems. “We have collaborated for many years, and this time as well, the teamwork functioned excellently and was quite fruitful. In the future, we will jointly implement projects for individual room automation in office buildings,” Sallach concludes. The interior design of the office spaces is spare and elegant. Chic, white torchieres and integrated desk lighting provide every workspace with optimum illumination. The lights are controlled to mimic daylight. The sun blinds also move automatically into suitable shade positions depending on the season, the position of the sun, and the intensity of the sunlight that day. These room functions were implemented using the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM. The automation components are installed in the floor distribution boxes. In order to avoid laying more cables, the torchieres are connected using DALI technology. Users can control the lights using EnOcean radio controls, which are also integrated into the desks. EVOline products were naturally included, like the new System Square 80, which provides, in addition to outlets, a USB and a LAN port and also an induction field for non-contact charging of smartphones.
Ideas for the E-Workspace of Tomorrow
EVOline products are the core business at Schulte. The concept of decentralized power and data distribution has provided them with an additional business field, and offers customers total solutions for electrical wiring installations in office buildings. Schulte had additional demands for his own headquarters building: the energy technology had to be guaranteed into the future. “Back in the 70's, we were using heat generated in the production hall to warm the offices. I am simply happy to do something for the next generation,” he explains.
Therefore, the new building has a geothermal system. During the warmer months, hot water flows through ten holes that are each 100 meters deep into the ground beneath the building. The water transfers its heat to the surrounding earth and cools down, and is then pumped back to the surface to the air conditioning system. In cold months, it works exactly the opposite: the warmth stored in the earth is transferred to the water, providing heat for the building. Because of this, the building does not need a conventional heating or air conditioning system. The temperature remains a comfortable 22ºC (72ºF) all year long. Even the heat from the server cabinets is captured and supplied to the heating/cooling circuit.
WAGO Controllers as a Factor for Success
In addition to individual room automation, the measurement and control technology for the technical systems uses the WAGO-I/OSYSTEM. The compact 750-881 Controllers, in combination with the I/O modules, ensure that heat pumps, valves, and other components in the geothermal system function without interruption, and the desired temperature is always obtained in interplay with the ventilation system. System states can be visualized using the controller’s webserver, and are displayed on an operating panel in the control cabinet door. Remote access for distance monitoring was also set up. “The uniform structure of the automation was very important to us. Another factor in our success was the integrated planning sessions. From the beginning there was close collaboration between the architects and the company responsible for the electrical systems, Bellwon, a WAGO solution partner from Lünen,” reports Sallach.
The project created a sensation among architects and designers. Experts and building owners travel from all over Germany to see the building and its technology in action. Just recently, Siegfried Schulte presented his design to the Department of Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. “For me, it has always been a point of asking what stands behind that which already exists in order to improve it,” he concludes. He has definitely succeeded, as his new company headquarters amply demonstrates.
- The WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM takes on the control of the room functionalities.
- The torchieres use DALI technology and are addressed via EnOcean wireless buttons.
- The I/O-System also ensures intelligent control of the building technology components.
Text: Jörg Gruner, WAGO