My Master Thesis Project: Direct Current in an Office Building

hereMy biggest project of the past year (and of my entire life I think) was my Master Thesis Project. During eight months I conducted research for ABN AMRO bank at Grontmij (a large engineering consultant) to investigate the possibilities for converting an existing office building to Direct Current (DC).

The research was split up into two parts, where first of all the focus was on building a business case for converting an office to DC, and second on investigating the available policy instruments to aid the development of DC buildings.

The very short summary of the first part is that it is possible to convert an office so it can run on DC, but that the costs are currently fairly high (with payback times of 10-30 years depending on the choices you make) and that a lot of tailor made solutions need to be used. It is however possible to save between 10-14% of the electricity use by doing so, coming mainly from less losses in transformers and less losses in the cables.

Other financial savings come from the ‘simplification’ of the system. For example, a DC/DC converter for a computer is much smaller, uses a lot less material and is more efficient than the current AC/DC blocks that feed your PC, thereby saving money.

So the conclusion for the first part is that for now it is only interesting as a learning opportunity, but not so much as a hard financial opportunity.

The second part of the research focussed on the policy instruments, and in there most of all the interesting observations concerning innovation and policy instruments can be made.

(Almost) Every new idea will need some help to be become a real product on the market. This is even more true for sustainability innovations, which have a positive influence on the environment but usually at costs that are exceeding the existing solutions.

It is therefore that governments create all kinds of policy instruments that can help these innovations cross the chasm and become a competitive product in the existing market. This does lead to some questions however, such as which innovations to support and when to provide which kind of support.

There is no simple, short answer to this but in general it is clear that in the first stages tax deductions for doing any kind of R&D are the instrument of choice, whereas in later stages more generic instruments are created when the innovation has proven successful. There are however still a lot more instruments to choose from at that point

If you’re interested (which might just be the case), feel free to check out the poster below, of download my entire thesis here. And if you have any questions, recommendations or other remarks, please let me know, either in the comments or by sending me a message!


That’s all for today, in one of the upcoming posts I’ll explain some more about the design process of the logo, the branding and the poster & presentation.

Check back next week for more!