Christian looks after building automation and conventional wiring accessories in the UK. His goal is to make ABB’s products his customers’ number one choice for intelligent building control in the commercial and residential sectors. He links ABB’s customers in the UK with factories around the world, to meet the requirements of electrical consultants and architects and help them realise their project plans.
How did you become involved in the Smart Buildings industry?
I was naturally drawn to building automation in the mid 00s after recognising that automation technologies had potential to be the next big thing. Having developed my early career selling electrical products from the trade counter upwards, I know from the inside out how the electrical industry works. What attracted me to building automation at ABB was the huge investment it makes in research and development and its scale in the electrical business, placing me at the forefront of smart buildings.
What excites you about the Smart Buildings industry?
It’s fascinating to see how fast the industry is evolving, but what’s really interesting for me are the commercial aspects. We’re on the cusp of mass market adoption of building automation and two trends have come together to support this.
The first trend is the rise of the smart phone, which has led to growth of expectation in how we control and interact with the world. The second is the technology that underpins smart buildings, in terms of capabilities and price. Smart buildings and smart home are becoming the norm. It’s also important to have a support system in place as well as the ability to grow and add to a system over time.
Are there any particular technologies that we should be aware of, but are currently under the radar?
One that springs to mind is ABB-free@home, which is opening up smart home technology to the mass market. Whereas automation has previously been the domain of specialist contractors using the KNX protocol, the ABB-free@home system can be set up by electrical contractors within a few hours, bringing it within reach of domestic budgets. It integrates lighting, blinds and curtains, heating and door security and is configured and controlled through a smartphone or tablet app, or via a PC.
At the same time, KNX will remain as important as ever for commercial buildings. It is also moving into smart phone, tablet and even smart watch control via apps that control KNX building functions.
At ABB we’re growing our capabilities all the time and so when they become available, customers will be able to add features such as sensors that recognise and track multiple building occupiers, wireless sensors and actuators that enable retrofit or extension of intelligence in existing buildings, and gesture commands that can control lighting with a sweep of the hand.
What services does your company offer?
As a leader in power and automation, ABB offers everything from power supplies and energy management systems to controllers, switches, security systems, sensors and actuators, as well as the controllers that act as the brains of a smart building. These include ABB branded products as well as the Busch-Jaeger, ABB Stotz and CEWE brands. Our objective is to offer architects and building owners choices in building automation that are only limited by their imagination. The approach combines functionality and reliability with attractive and intuitive interfaces and switches.
Are people aware of the regulations that they will need to comply with in the near future?
The government’s Construction Strategy 2016 to 2020 is currently in place to guide the UK’s building and construction sector over the next few years. The strategy encourages the use of digital technology to drive innovation and reduce waste.
Building automation can help achieve this by reducing energy consumption through the life of buildings, helping to meet the government’s Construction 2025 target for a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment.
Another important regulation is Part L of the Building Regulations, which sets the standards for energy performance.
What are the benefits of a smart building?
In the domestic sector, house builders and home owners can both benefit. On one hand, home owners gain enhanced control over heating, lighting and security, but on the other hand, we’ve heard from housebuilders that smart home systems are giving them a competitive edge.
In commercial buildings, comfort, style and efficiency are the order of the day. For example, Microsoft’s objective for its new office in Copenhagen was to create a workplace of the future. It has an intelligent KNX system from ABB that maintains a perfect indoor climate through temperature, air quality and lighting control. The system adapts to the natural rhythym of the day and uses the sun’s warmth and light where possible. It adjusts blinds and windows and reuses heat from computers and servers to minimise waste at no cost to comfort.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
It’s impossible to identify just one person but I’ve been very grateful for the support of my senior managers at ABB over the years. They’ve acted as mentors, shared valuable advice and helped me find answers to tough questions.
What is the question you are most often asked in your business life?
I’m often asked what I would recommend, which is very flattering.
What are the best/worst things about your job?
I particularly enjoy interacting with clients and helping them bring their projects to life – the job gives me a huge amount of variety in terms of technology, projects and location as I get to work all around the world.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Now is a great time to get into smart buildings because home and building automation is about to become the norm, not just a ‘nice to have’. I’d encourage electrical contractors to learn as many skills as they can – so they should sign up for training courses, read industry news and learn about what products are on offer.
Because the industry is about to take off, ABB is offering free training in its entry-level smart home system, ABB-free@home to drop the barrier to entry for new contractors and customers.
What living person do you admire and why?
I really admire Richard Branson for his stamina and entrepreneurship. One thing he said that really struck a chord with me was that it’s most important to look after employees, rather than customers. If you look after employees, they will in turn look after customers.
Where would you most like to live?
I really love Asia and Scotland. They’re a real contrast to one another in every respect.
What is your favourite book?
I love the good storytelling and gripping plots of Dan Brown.
How do you relax?
The simple pleasures in life: cooking and travelling.
What sports team do you support?
Being from Germany originally, I follow VFL Wolfsburg but today I also follow my local team, which is Spurs.
What is your desert island disk?
Hotel California by the Eagles
What is your ideal holiday?
I choose a new country to explore every year so that I can experience the culture, food and atmosphere.