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Decentralized electrical engineering meets intelligent control in the headquarters of Schulte Elektrotechnik GmbH.

Schulte Elektrotechnik has always converted visionary ideas into innovative products. With the new company headquarters, the company from Lüdenscheid, Germany can now demonstrate how their electrical wiring installations guarantee the efficiency of office buildings into the future while reducing costs. The building and individual room automation systems were created 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 cable in ceilings and walls just to turn on the lights,” says Siegfried Schulte. The founder and owner has always had a passion for sophisticated ideas about the interface between 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 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 electrical wiring systems trademarked under EVOline, which are high-quality modular products for power and data systems with a tasteful designed.

“When you move outside conventional electrical installations, even experts are often unable to understand exactly what it is that we do. However, we can’t give our customers guided tours of buildings that we 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,” explains Siegfried Schulte.

Headquarters of Schulte Elektrotechnik GmbH

  • Decentralized Power and Data Distribution
  • Ideas for the E-Workspace of Tomorrow
  • WAGO Controllers as a Factor for Success

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 configuration enables more intelligent distribution of power and data flows. Schulte devised decentralized distribution stations for this purpose as so-called “consolidation points.” They supply individual workstations and entire workspace groups with alternating current and link both desktops and printers to the data network. All cables from the office devices disappear into recesses in the floor, where they are directly plugged into the consolidation points. The supply of electricity to offices also uses 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 cable from the floor box to the furniture is usually forgotten during planning. We provide clear structures, not only in the design, but also in the electrical cabling,” explains Sallach.

“In my office alone, this type of electrical wiring eliminates almost three kilometers of cable,” says Siegfried Schulte. In comparison with conventional cable installation through the walls and ceiling, this design reduced costs by approximately 40 %. And there are more advantages: 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 law firm,” says Siegfried Schulte. Cables can be laid where ever they are needed, without a lot of expense.

This is the first time that this company from Lüdenscheid connected all of the consolidation points using WAGO’s 750 Series I/O Systems. “We have successfully collaborated for years, and this time was no exception – our teamwork was excellent and quite fruitful. In the future, we will jointly implement projects for individual room automation within office buildings,” says Frank Sallach. The interior design of the office spaces is minimalist and elegant. Chic white floodlights and integrated desk lighting perfectly illuminate every workspace. The lights are programmed to mimic daylight. The sunblinds also move automatically into suitable shade positions depending on the season, the sun’s position 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 floodlights are connected using DALI technology. Users can control the lights using EnOcean radio switches, which are also integrated into the desks. EVOline products were naturally included, like the new Square 80 system which, in addition to a socket, provides USB and LAN ports, as well as an induction field for wirelessly charging 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 allowed them to open up an additional business domain while offering customers comprehensive solutions for electrical wiring installations in office buildings. Schulte had additional demands for his own headquarters building: The technology also had to provide long-term energy efficiency. “As far back as the 1970s, we were already using heat generated in the production facility to warm the offices. I am just happy to be doing something for the next generation,” Schulte says, explaining his motivation.
The new building has a geothermal system. During the warmer months, hot water flows through ten holes, each of which extends 100 meters deep into the ground beneath the building. The water transfers its heat to the surrounding earth and cools down; it is then pumped back to the surface for cooling. In cold months, it works exactly the opposite way: The warmth stored in the earth is transferred to the water, providing heat for the building. This enables the building to forgo conventional heating and air-conditioning systems. The temperature remains at a comfortable 22 °C (72 °F) all year. 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 also relies on the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM. WAGO’s compact controllers (750-881), in connection with compatible I/O modules, ensure that heat pumps, valves and other components in the geothermal system function without interruption, and that the desired temperature is always maintained using the ventilation system. System states can be visualized using the controller’s Web server, and they are displayed on an operating panel in the control cabinet door. Access for remote monitoring was also set up. “Uniformly structuring the automation was very important to us. Another factor in our success was the integrated planning. From the beginning, there was close collaboration between the architects and Bellwon, the WAGO solution partner from Lünen, which was responsible for the electrical systems,” reports Frank Sallach.

The project created a stir among architects and designers. Experts and building owners travel from all over Germany to see the building and its technology in action. Recently, Schulte presented his design to the Department of Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh in the United States. “For me, it’s always been about challenging and improving what already exists,” he says. As evidenced by his new company headquarters, he has clearly succeeded.

Summary:

  • The WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM controls the room functions.
  • The ceiling floodlights use DALI technology and are addressed via EnOcean radio switches.
  • The I/O system also ensures intelligent control of the building technology components.

Author: Jörg Gruner | 2015-03-01

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