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Will Smart Buildings Mind-Meld with the Smart Grid?

In the realm of intelligent buildings, there's a lot of talk about the smart grid, B2G, and "convergence." Denis Du Bois interviews Siemens, a major player in both sectors. Is there a roadmap for this convergence, or will it be a pile-up?

This is a highlight from the Building Priorities Briefing.


Ari Kobb, Siemens [in background, at the Greenbuild 2009 Expo]: ...But I think the next convergence point is this concept of the smart grid, where we talk about...

Denis Du Bois: In the building automation arena, there's a lot of talk about the smart grid. Siemens is in both industries, so I was interested in hearing whether they have a roadmap for the building-to-grid convergence...

Ari: ...As you decentralize the grid down to the building level--at the building level is where we're really sitting on one of the major keys to solving some of our energy issues and some of our environmental issues...

Denis: I was talking with Ari Kobb, the director of green building solutions for Siemens, to get an update about their building management system, when we got on the topic of the smart grid...

Ari [in background]: ...and another third in industrial. That's thinking a little bit outside the box, but I don't think it's all that far off.

Denis [to Ari]: So, what should be the priorities of a green building owner with regard to the smart grid?

Ari: I think whether it's a green building owner or not, we all want our buildings to be high-performing buildings. So I think the first step is to look at information management from a different light, because if you understand where energy is being consumed in a building, you'll know how to save energy. When you connect all that together and you connect that back into a smarter grid, the building is going to make smarter decisions.

So if you look at one of the major components of smart grid that's already out there, there's demand response. You understand the pricing signals, the load signals from the utility, your building is wired and connected, you know which systems you can turn on and turn off without sacrificing occupant safety, comfort, and productivity. You manage that against greenhouse gas emission savings and tie that into reporting systems.

That's where it's all going to ultimately go because that information helps you make better decisions, and ultimately helps you be greener, save money, and save energy. And the ultimate goal of what we're all trying to go after is a better-built environment.

I think it really all comes down to the existing building stock, and how do we make those buildings smarter, greener, and better. And one of the ways to do that is by doing a better job at managing the energy consumption of the building, and understanding its impact on price, and its impact on us -- the building occupants -- so that we're still able to be productive.

Denis: Smarter, greener, better, as you said, is what we all want in the commercial building space. Is that what utilities want as utilities move towards smart grid? I ask this because Siemens plays on both sides of that meter. Are the building owner's priorities and the utility's priorities consistent?

Ari: Let's look at it from the perspective of if there is some sort of a cap in trade or a carbon tax, the utilities are the ones that are going to be subject to that, clearly. And theoretically, every kilowatt-hour of energy saved is a certain amount of coal they don't have to pump into a new system, and how they manage it more effectively and cleaner is going to be the future of how the utilities have to operate.

I don't think that the building owner and the utility are necessarily on divergent paths. They can converge with the same goal of effectively reducing emissions, which will probably be mandated at some level, and then what role can we, as a building owner, play? But certainly, what I think comes out of green building, came out of the research we did, that from an attitudinal standpoint, C-level executives want this.

They want to save money, first and foremost, but they want to save energy. But we were very surprised that renewable energy came out at such a high desire level for the C-level executive in our research. They view the use of renewable energy as a clear environmental benefit and as a national security benefit. Energy independence is a good thing. I think we're beyond that argument, it's a matter of how we implement it now.

Denis: We're talking about a Siemens Smart Building and a Siemens Smart Grid. Does Siemens have a road map for dissolving that building-to-grid interface?

Ari: The good thing about Siemens is we're involved in the upstream and the downstream part of it. There's Siemens Power Generation making large wind turbines that are used in grid-based, clean energy generation in the wind market. There are power transmission and distribution technologies that reduce transmission loss getting to the building.

And at least, the part that we're here about, which is the building technologies division of Siemens. Once that energy gets into the building, isn't it about how you use it, how you manage it, how you reduce the amount of CO2 that's coming out of the building, yet maintaining optimal levels of inner air quality? That's where we all want to be.

So we're sitting on a very excellent opportunity in our minds, because at the end of the day, energy prices and energy security are critical issues within a building. But at the same time, there's this awareness of environmental responsibility. And when you couple those together then you're really creating opportunity, for us as a player in this market, to play a bigger role, even.


This is a very good post and instructive. May i add that 'building management systems' (BEMS) are equally important. Even more with the new CRC law coming up...