Change Feels Good - Innovative Digitalization Concept at ZigZag in Mainz
Under the motto “Change Feels Good”, CA Immo has realized the ZigZag office building in the Zollhafen harbor district in Mainz. The approx. 4,600 m² building was completed at the end of 2021 and was already almost fully leased at that time. Client CA Immo had not only commissioned omniCon with the construction management, but also with the development and implementation of a consistent digitalization of the building. Roland Schneider and his team then threw the classic building control system overboard.
“When we develop a digitization concept for the ZigZag, we wanted to get the most out of it. We wanted to accomplish that the building can be built and operated efficiently and sustainably through the digitization modules.” This is how Roland Schneider, project manager for electrical engineering at omniCon and a trained master electrician, describes his team’s motivation for this project. “In addition, both the office users and the facility managers should really be able to reach and control everything digitally.”
To make this vision a reality, Schneider and his team replaced the extensive cabling, known as MSR / GLT, throughout the building with radio-based digital components. “We unceremoniously threw the classic planning with BMS, ISP and room controllers overboard for functional and practical reasons as well as sustainability aspects,” he summarizes. “And we still stayed within the planned budget.”
“We came up with the idea of controlling and monitoring all the sensors and digital components of the ZigZag wirelessly during a visit to the “Light and Building” trade fair in Frankfurt,” Schneider continues. Using this approach, the components can not only be controlled and operated individually “over the air” from anywhere, but the individual systems are also in permanent contact with each other.
The devices communicate with each other: A network is created
To achieve this, as many devices and systems as possible must be equipped with a small Bluetooth chip. Such chips can be installed in lamps, for example, but also in ventilation units, radiators or room sensors. Via these chips and the corresponding firmware, the components can exchange various data with each other via Bluetooth: On the one hand, these are operating data of the device, such as the energy consumption or the service life. On the other hand, data such as room temperature, movement data, CO2, VOC (volatile organic compounds) and air humidity are recorded via environmental sensors. This data is shared with the individual devices in the network so that they can react to changes in condition according to previously defined rules. In addition, the data is analyzed in a dashboard and visualized as operational data. Based on this, the facility manager can adjust and optimize the rules for building control.
The firmware that networks all the devices together is called “BlueRange Mesh.” The BlueRange Mesh forms the interface for all data, collects and processes it. The rules for the devices are also imported into this firmware and their compliance is monitored.
The “mesh” forms the digital nervous system of the ZigZag.
For example, the lighting is switched off in rooms that are not in use. Also, only in these rooms is the sun protection fully raised or lowered to support the air conditioning, depending on the season. In more heavily occupied rooms, on the other hand, the ventilation technology autonomously ensures an optimal room climate and supply of fresh air.
For office tenants, an app provides the most important services for working in the office. For example, employees can use it to switch the floor and ceiling lights on and off with iOS and Android smartphones. Tenants can either use the ZigZag app or bring and connect their own app thanks to a standard API (MQTT and REST interface).
Last but not least, equipping the devices with a Bluetooth-enabled chip brings tremendous transparency to building operations. The digitized components can be monitored and controlled via the master dashboard. This means that not only can consumption be read in real time and counteracted if consumption is too high, but faults can also be immediately detected, localized and then also quickly rectified.
A common language is a precondition
“The more devices can exchange their information with each other, the more consistently the building can be operated wirelessly,” Roland Schneider describes the principle. Some devices used in ZigZag already had a compatible chip. In some cases, omniCon had already successfully implemented these devices in the cube berlin. Other devices already had a chip integrated, but one that was not initially compatible with the BlueRange mesh. And some other devices have never been equipped with a chip before.
The challenge for the omniCon team was, among other things, to equip the missing components with the appropriate chip. To ensure that all components of the building control system could ultimately communicate with each other, the team was in intensive contact with the respective manufacturers. Standard components had to be reconfigured or new hardware components developed. This resulted in high-quality products that are now not only used in ZigZag, but have also been adopted by the manufacturers in their standard catalogs and can also be used in future smart buildings.
As a result, you’ll find a server, 18 mesh gateways and 18 digital “BlueRange Meshes” based on the Bluetooth standard in the building at ZigZag, connecting the various Bluetooth-enabled devices. However, only the usual 230 V, 24 V and 12 V lines for general power supply had to be installed in the leased space. This represents a significant savings in equipment and cabling compared to conventional I&C/GLT technology.
The elimination of traditional circuits and elaborate switchgear not only reduces the risk of fire. It also saves valuable raw materials, such as the metals for the cables and non-recyclable plastics for the sheathing.
“In order to get technical components to communicate seamlessly and wirelessly with each other, all the colleagues involved must of course also be in close communication. This digitization project at ZigZag would not have been possible without the constructive cooperation of all those involved in the project, intensive test phases and a constant willingness to perfect the solutions. We succeeded very well,” sums up Schneider.
He also cited the openness of CA Immo and the omniCon project managers to innovation as well as the willingness to implement innovative solutions as prerequisites for the success of this digitization concept. Both were given here. “On this basis, it is now possible to implement all conceivable digital UseCases in the ZigZag and integrate additional devices into the BlueRange Mesh as needed. The next step would now be to be able to control building operations directly from the BIM model. We’re already looking forward to tackling that next project.”
Roland Schneider presented the ZigZag digitization concept at the Builtworld event series “Building Technology Experts”. Together with Steffen Lörch, project manager at BlueRange, he delves deeper into the technical details.
The recording of this event can be found in the Builtworld archive under the following link (German only):
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