EMerge Alliance Launched To Create New Standard For Power Distribution & Device Control In Commercial Buildings

November 12, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

In a move aimed at increasing the flexibility, efficiency and sustainability of commercial buildings, a group of companies are announcing the EMerge Alliance™. The Alliance will lead the creation and deployment of a new power, control and device-level technology standard for commercial interiors, developed around the use of safe, low-voltage dc power.

Founding Members of the Alliance at the Governing level include Armstrong World Industries, Johnson Controls, Nextek Power Systems, OSRAM SYLVANIA and WAVE. Participating Members include Crestron Electronics, Delta Power, Finelite, Kanepi Innovations, Lighting Science Group, Steelcase, WattStopper and Zumtobel. Eden Park Illumination is a General Member, and Supporting Members include AVP, Brinjac Engineering, CleanTech Commercialization, EdCampus, Green Plug, Houston Advanced Research Center, JB Electrical, Los Angeles Community College District, Paladino and Company, Sensor Switch, Southern California Edison and Webcor Builders.

According to the Alliance, today’s workplace is dominated by fixed overhead lighting and a wide variety of electrical devices that are typically wired for a building’s lifetime rather than occupants’ changing needs. Building designers and owners increasingly have been seeking systems to make buildings more adaptable and integration of infrastructure, equipment and furnishings that can improve energy efficiency. Addressing these widespread needs for greater flexibility, efficiency, and sustainability is the focus of the EMerge Alliance, according to Alliance Chairman Brian Patterson of Armstrong World Industries.

"While the ways in which we use electricity have changed dramatically, the manner in which electricity is distributed for interior devices and control purposes remains largely unchanged since the beginning of the 20th century," said Patterson. "The EMerge Alliance is drawing from a broad and deep pool of leaders involved in the design, construction, and management of commercial buildings to create an enabling infrastructure that future proofs the workplace through the use of dc power. The standard is a revolutionary approach to the layout and re-use of interior space."

The central feature of the proposed EMerge standard is the selective and scaleable distribution of low-voltage dc power within common infrastructures already present in commercial interiors. For example, dc power is ideally suited for integration into the ceiling plane, providing facility managers with the ability to readily arrange and rearrange lighting, sensors, actuators, and other devices without the need for rewiring. The EMerge standard also embraces the trend toward using on-site alternative energy, by providing a means of direct and more efficient connection between these new energy sources and interior electrical loads, like lighting and controls.

EMerge Alliance’s Patterson sees the development of this new commercial technology standard as providing a platform for innovation to create even more energy-efficient and individually controllable devices for the future, such as Light-Emitting Diode (LED) or other solid-state general lighting devices.

"In creating a long-reaching, ’plug and play’ standard for integrated management and control of lighting and the many digital devices found in commercial buildings, the Alliance is focused on the nexus of today’s top priorities for building owners – energy savings and adaptability. One of the most intriguing aspects is the ability to seamlessly connect a low voltage dc infrastructure to on-site generated alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power," said Patterson. "This provides sustainability-minded building owners on the leading edge of power technologies with a faster return on their investment in clean energy."

The EMerge Alliance is accepting new members interested in developing or supporting the EMerge standard. Membership is open and available at a variety of levels, from those interested in contributing to or making products compatible with the new standard, to companies and organizations supporting the overall development of this new platform.