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Sep 1, 2015 - Building

From the Quarry to Building Automation

FGB plans to use the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750 as a turnkey solution for single-family houses.

During the new construction of their energy-efficient office building, the Steinbach Group was able to gain a lot of experience with building technology and building automation. The specialty machine-construction firm, FGB, which belongs to the Group, has applied the expertise they have gained in automating specialty ma-chines to building automation. The system, based on WAGO controllers, impressed their management so much that they have formed a new business unit for this market.

A company that builds its own office building with internal labor, and also autonomously implements the building automation, is the exception, not the rule. There are many other reasons that the Steinbach group is exceptional: the family-owned company, headquartered in Salz, is captained by the sixth generation of ex-perts in civil engineering and building materials. The Group includes several quarries and a mechanical en-gineering firm: FGB, Fertigungsgerätebau Adolf Steinbach GmbH & Co., the specialty machine company, was founded in 1970, comparatively recently with respect to other Group enterprises. This business unit originally developed from the in-house workshop, which maintained and repaired the machinery in the con-struction and quarry equipment. FGB currently employs 160 people who develop specialty machines and systems. With their turnkey systems, FGB is a respected supplier in their target markets: automotive manu-facturing, automotive suppliers, aeronautics, and research institutes.

New Headquarters for the Corporate Group

Due to consistent, healthy growth in recent years, the space required for managing the group of companies had become too limited. In 2013, they therefore decided to build a new company headquarters in Salz. The new office building should ensure that the management of all companies associated with the Group could be housed in a common space, in order to exploit the synergistic effects. The new facility, conceived with architectonic clear and straight lines, provides around 2000 square meters of office space. Company management placed particular value on an ecological construction design; high energy efficiency was also linked to this. Thus, a photovoltaic system on the roof provides 60 kWp of green energy. In addition, there is a wind turbine, a generously dimensioned energy storage system, and charging stations for electric vehicles and bicycles. The company moved into their offices in June, 2014, after only nine months of construction time.

Complete In-House Building Automation

The new construction of the headquarters included a large portion of in-house work: the entire building de-sign and the complete automation originated in FGB. The experts in specialty machine design could use the competence and experience that they had gained in mechanical engineering projects. “Developing and pro-gramming automated systems is part of our daily work in specialty machine construction,” explains Michael Steinbach, CEO of FGB. His brother, Bastian Steinbach, who is responsible for civil engineering and building materials within the corporate group, adds that “we were even able to design and furnish the external grounds with in-house expertise.”

FGB placed a lot of emphasis on energy efficiency in the building technology. In addition to energy-efficient components, like LED lights and cooling/heating ceilings, the building automation itself plays an important role. The central components for the automation solution, which FGB developed in-house, are ETHERNET controllers from WAGO, and the appropriate I/O modules from the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750. Michael Stein-bach explains the reasons behind this decision, “We have been using WAGO components in our specialty machine designs for many years, and have always had good results.” WAGO controllers are housed in con-trol cabinets at a total of seven locations in the new building and in the old headquarters, located directly adjacent. The controllers can be easily supplemented with the necessary I/O modules. Suitable I/O modules are available for practically every conceivable signal. In the new building, all sensors and actuators are con-nected to the building automation so that everything can be centrally monitored and controlled. FGB selected the wireless EnOcean system for the light switches and the room temperature sensors. Michael Steinbach lists the advantages, “This permits us to be very flexible and also saves us the cabling expense.” Instead of having to wire each temperature sensor and light switch individually in the control cabinet, the integration of one EnOcean I/O module into the I/O system is sufficient. The connection for the sun shades, which are controlled using an SMI I/O module, is performed just as easily.

Energy and Cost Savings

In addition to the savings in cabling, the new building automation should contribute to reductions in energy consumption. Peak load monitoring of the electrical supply is important in this context. Exceeding a threshold determined by the power supplier can lead to much higher costs for electricity. “The building automation therefore monitors the total consumption and can, if necessary, shut off individual consumers for a short time,” Michael Steinbach explains the principle of energy management. For this purpose, the S0 interfaces of the electronic effective current meters are connected to the WAGO controllers via digital I/O modules. The system shuts individual consumers off before the critical threshold is exceeded. “For example, the large crusher in the quarry has an output of 350 kW. If we shut off the conveyor belt for the raw rock so that no new raw material lands in the impact crusher, then the drive idles at a significantly lower power consumption, and we thereby reduce our peak current,” states Bastian Steinbach.

Retrofitting the heating system also contributed an important part to optimizing the energy efficiency. The old oil furnace was replaced by a modern wood pellet furnace. Bastian Steinbach expects a substantial cost reduction based on this, “Ultimately, we will only be able to calculate the savings after the winter, but I predict that this measure will save around 50 percent of our heating costs. Even small measures in the building automation can help to save energy, explains Michael Steinbach, “At 10 am, all the lights are switched off by the central controller. This prevents having a light on all day, just because someone forgot to switch it off.” If it gets too dark at any workstation, the employees can naturally switch the lights on.

Communication Using Central Database and Network Variables

To connect the seven WAGO controllers to the entire system, the developers at FGB generated a database. The communication between the controllers is performed using network variables. A higher-level database provides the seven controllers with different setpoint values, including temperature, brightness, and duty cycle. At the same time, room temperature profiles, electrical consumptions, or weather parameters, for example, are logged in the database. The integration is therefore very simple, as all controllers have an ETHERNET interface and can thus be connected into the network environment. The advantage to this solu-tion lies in the fact that all values are stored at one central point. Michael Steinbach explains the typical se-quence, using the weather station as an example: “When the weather station connected to a controller measures a wind speed that is too high, the controller sets the corresponding alarm network variable. The other controllers access the variable and the issue commands, via the SMI interface, to raise the sun shades into their housings.” This event is then logged in the database. The corresponding programs in the control-lers were programmed by FGB using CODESYS.

The user interface for operating the building automation, and which enables the visualization of the actual statuses, was likewise developed by FGB. The UI can, for example, graphically represent the sequence of energy consumption, and thus offers an interesting potential for analyzing consumption. “The operating unit is based on a web frontend and can thus be universally integrated into different platforms,” states Michael Steinbach.

Building Automation as a New Business Unit

During the planning and realization of the building automation for their headquarters, the FGB Team gained a lot of experience. Over the course of the project, the idea was expressed to apply this experience to cus-tomer projects. Thorsten Steinbach, who is CEO for the commercial aspects of the corporate group, depicts it like this: “A corresponding business division fits very well within the Construction, Construction Materials, and Mechanical Engineering divisions.” FGB is now offering complete building automation for single-family residences, in which they use both WAGO controllers and I/O system. The architecture is thereby similar to that used by FGB in its new headquarters. This means that the room temperature sensors and the light switches are likewise linked via EnOcean and digital outputs switch the lights on and off. “Since a single-family dwelling always has a relatively similar structure, we could offer a standardized system for it,” explains Michael Steinbach. The entire electrical building technology, including the controller and the I/O modules, is already installed in a control cabinet and is delivered as a complete system. Upon request, FGB also offers wired sensor inputs, if EnOcean cannot or should not be used. The electrician on site only has to connect the wires to the marked I/O modules and teach the sensors using the software that is delivered as part of the package. Afterwards, the system is immediately operational. Programming and adapting takes place entirely through the software package developed by FGB — using drag-and-drop in an intuitive software user interface that graphically corresponds to the real world.

The system includes a small PC with “Windows Embedded,” which is configured as a web server. This makes the user interface available to any web-enabled end device. Communication takes place via ETHERNET, so that the building automation can be integrated into the network in the house. This also ena-bles access to the building automation over the Internet. An app for smartphones and tablets is also under development.

With their building automation system, FGB is contributing to the consensus that energy efficiency is also an increasingly important aspect of building technology for residential construction. Since the energy measurements are likewise integrated into the system, the most important data about this are also available along with room temperatures. The system is modular and can be expanded for public buildings, like schools or kindergartens. “With the new business division, we hope to contribute to the healthy growth of our corporate group, even in the future,” Thorsten Steinbach forecasts an energy efficient future for the Steinbach Group.


  • Putting the brakes on energy costs through efficient peak load monitoring using automatic cutoffs
  • WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM as a compact turnkey solution for single family houses
  • Display of the most important data at a glance due to an intuitive user interface

Text: Frank Sünkel, WAGO
Photo: FGB, Erhard Driesel/vor-ort-foto.de

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