Every kilowatt hour counts
Using less energy – this is the key to achieving Freudenberg’s ambitious climate targets. The technical building equipment has the potential to generate energy savings of between ten and fifteen percent at the Group’s more than 200 global production facilities by 2025. The Freudenberg Real Estate GmbH Corporate Function and Freudenberg Service KG’s energy team are pooling their expertise to tap into energy-saving potential. Combining plant and machinery with technical building equipment will reduce consumption by around fifteen percent by 2025.
The Weschnitz River flows through the grounds, tall trees line the paths and modern office buildings peer out from between clinker-plastered production halls. As you stroll through the industrial park in Weinheim, the fusion between industrial production and the natural idyll seem close enough to touch. Ulrich Kerber, Head of the Freudenberg Real Estate Corporate Function, and Hendrik Fichtner, Freudenberg Service KG CEO, are standing in front of a building that has been used by Freudenberg for over 100 years. Together, they are looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and, as a result, CO2 emissions.
Kerber runs his hand over the outer wall of the building: “In most cases, an energy-efficient renovation of the façade – in other words, improving the insulation of the walls and upgrading the windows – is not economical. It costs a lot of money and saves comparatively little energy. There is far more potential for energy savings in the technical building equipment and the production-related infrastructure.” Energy consumption cannot be considered in isolation from the building, which is why the Service KG energy experts are working together with Freudenberg´s real estate building experts to find solutions together. “Specifically, we analyze the interaction of a building’s heating, air-conditioning and electrical systems, as well as the equipment directly required for production, such as compressed air and process steam,” Fichtner adds.
Specifically, we analyze the interaction of a building’s heating, air-conditioning and electrical systems, as well as the equipment directly required for production, such as compressed air and process steam
Hendrik Fichtner, Freudenberg Service KG CEO
You can only manage what you can measure. The challenge in this case is that much of the building stock dates back to a time well before the availability and application of digital building technology. When designing and constructing new buildings, the provision of state-of-the-art digital sensors is ubiquitous in many places. These devices precisely measure and control everything in line with how it is used on a daily basis. For instance, the sensor data from a digital smoke detector that also measures a room’s temperature can be used to automatically regulate the indoor climate. When it comes to new buildings, it is relatively easy to integrate technical aspects into the design and, thanks to EU funding programs, it is also cost-effective. However, when the building is already there but the data technology is absent, the situation becomes more complicated. Kerber calls these buildings – which often date back to the time when the companies were founded – “analog elephants”: “The industrial park in Weinheim has been around since the end of the 19th century. Over the years, all sorts of production halls and office buildings have sprung up. These are largely inflexible, old buildings without sophisticated, digitally controllable infrastructure. Retrofitting this building stock is a huge challenge.”
The industrial park in Weinheim has been around since the end of the 19th century. Over the years, all sorts of production halls and office buildings have sprung up. These are largely inflexible, old buildings without sophisticated, digitally controllable infrastructure. Retrofitting this building stock is a huge challenge.
Ulrich Kerber, Head of the Freudenberg Real Estate Corporate Function
Political and social pressure is mounting on industry to do more for the climate, and not just in relation to buildings. In Germany, companies with an annual electricity consumption of 10,000 kilowatt hours or more are already obliged to use smart metering systems to control their energy consumption in the future. Existing analog consumption meters in industrial buildings will need to be rapidly replaced by smart digital meters.
As Fichtner points out, this is just the beginning of the digitalization of companies’ energy supply: “In one of our sustainability initiatives, metering systems and energy monitoring play a key role. For the Weinheim site alone, the law requires the replacement of up to 1,000 electricity and energy meters. An intelligent energy monitoring that accounts for the technical building infrastructure of the industrial park requires significantly more digital meters”, Fichtner explains in summarizing the findings of the analysts.
Just switch off
The simplest way to reduce a building’s thirst for energy is to turn off everything that isn’t being used to add value. “It’s about being able to switch off those parts of the building’s infrastructure that are not needed at a particular moment. Compressors, steam boilers or air-conditioning systems are just as much part of our analysis as the machines”, says Fichtner. Smart meters can help improve load profile monitoring so that deviating peaks or base loads can be rectified. Freudenberg already has valuable experience with shutdown management – a proven tool in the Operational Excellence (OpEx) programs that are boosting machine productivity at many facilities worldwide. Alongside the material and productivity aspects, energy waste now needs to be tackled as part of OpEx as well. Fichtner stresses, “Our current task is to raise awareness of energy management.” One way to achieve this is through training courses in which employees learn how the synchronized shutdown and startup of machines or detection of compressed air leaks can significantly reduce energy consumption.
Our current task is to raise awareness of energy management.
Hendrik Fichtner, Freudenberg Service KG CEO
Green rent cap
In terms of floor space, one-third of the buildings Freudenberg occupies worldwide are leased. Primary energy demand is already an important indicator for tenants. It appears on every energy certificate – from the USA to China – and shows how many kilowatt hours per year and square meter flow through the building. “It’s standard and our landlords are required to produce it”, Kerber explains. The Freudenberg Green Building Index (FGBI) quickly shows which object is in the red or green zone. After conducting an analysis of possible energy efficiency measures, the landlord of Freudenberg Sealing Technologies´ new administrative headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil, installed new LED luminaires equipped with daylight and motion sensors, among other things. This is good for both energy footprint and the wallet, as Freudenberg pays less for electricity as a result. “We pay very close attention to energy costs because we end up paying them directly. In general, landlords have little personal interest in making savings in this area, as these charges are passed on to their tenants.”
How much energy the Freudenberg Group can actually save in the buildings of its more than 200 production facilities worldwide remains to be seen. Kerber puts the potential savings across all buildings and properties at an average of 15 percent. Fichtner, who has already scrutinized the energy consumption of some facilities with his team, believes that a large proportion of these savings will come from the building and production-specific infrastructure. One thing is clear to both of them: we must and want to find technically and economically viable solutions, right now, so that industrial buildings can be retrofitted as intelligently as possible and operated in an energy-efficient manner. Beyond that, the behavior of the individual building users plays an essential role: After all, every kilowatt hour saved counts. When we leave our own homes, it goes without saying that we turn down or switch off all consuming devices as far as possible. We need to create this same mindset in the work environment as well.
lower energy consumption in buildings by 2025
for the industrial park in Weinheim
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