August 2014

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Why industry collaboration could be key to enhanced energy efficiency

By raising the profile of new technologies and acknowledging the advantages behind them, the design, installation, maintenance and benefits of energy efficient solutions can only improve and spread.

Chris Monson,
Trend Controls UK.

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Most people have some understanding of the importance of energy efficiency. Within our own homes, keeping bills down and maintaining a comfortable environment is a delicate balance of control.

Yet for commercial businesses and government organisations, the advantages of energy efficiency can be huge. Although the benefits of reducing carbon footprints and cutting costs are obvious in today's austere times, the commercial understanding of how to do this is possibly not as clear as it should be. To address this, associations in the controls industry are being encouraged to collaborate to provide better energy efficiency education.

Of course it's important to save energy

A high profile topic in recent years, energy saving is rarely out of the media and for good reason. Efficient energy use is central to minimising carbon footprints and building utility costs – saving much needed business budget.

In the UK, government legislation is already in place setting levels of energy efficiency for all UK buildings: Part L of the UK Building Regulations for example specifically focuses on the conservation of fuel and power, detailing insulation, HVAC and carbon emission targets. In addition to this, other recent legislation focuses on conscious energy reduction as central to cutting the UK's carbon footprint – and saving money for businesses. For example:

Yet while media coverage and legislation go some way towards enhancing awareness of the importance of energy saving, many organisations are failing to understand how to implement a robust plan. As a result, inefficient building control systems – plus poorly considered energy use – can lead to rising business expenses.

Education leads to optimisation

Building controls are central to optimising energy use in commercial buildings. Controls systems can influence up to 84 per cent of the energy-using equipment in the average non-domestic building fabric. So for any organisation seeking to reduce energy waste, an understanding of their controls system is crucial.

Unfortunately, many are unaware of just what savings they could make, or even how to begin optimising their building controls. If utilities and facilities managers are unaware of their system's potential, lights can remain on, heating and air conditioning can run out of sync with operational hours and inefficiencies can spiral out of control fast. As a result, trade associations within the building controls sector believe now more than ever is the time to collaborate by encouraging organisations within the industry to work together to educate end-users about getting the most out of their building controls.

Bringing industries together for collaborative controls and saving

By working with industry peers in associations such as the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA), the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) and the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA), controls organisations can take a more effective step towards educating others.

These channels provide a broader platform for the benefits of energy control to reach and impact government and end users with a clear and concise message. Karen Fletcher, BCIA's executive officer, states, 'It is very important that controls companies, large and small, work together... We can help to educate the wider construction industry about the benefits of controls in general by providing working groups, conferences, and briefings – creating greater interest in the products and services of our members as a result.'

Real-world cases of enhanced energy efficiency and knowledge

It's easy to state that enhancing energy efficiency and improving understanding should be business priorities. From savings and better use of budgets, to minimised environmental impact, the benefits are clear. But in the real world, how have organisations actually achieved success through their understanding?

Jaguar Land Rover

Needing a way to make buildings across a 900 acre site more efficient through a comprehensive BEMS, the vehicle manufacturer managed to make an energy saving of 4,271,544kw and reduce CO2 by 21%.

Matrix House

By installing new VSD's (variable speed drives), Matrix house gained an additional 80k p.a. in savings, and experienced an 18% energy reduction in just over a year. Considering the initial solution investment was 90k, ROI was achieved in little over a year.

Imperial College London

In the case of Imperial College, 9 local BEMS networks connected 14 buildings across a 250,000m2 area. Through investing in BEMS, the college made a 50% saving on heating equal to 350,000, made better usage of the environment itself by starting to use fresh air recirculation for 'free' energy savings, and reduced steam usage by 79%.

Chester Zoo

Enabling an 80% reduction in fan power energy consumption, Chester Zoo's solution saved 84 tonnes of CO2, increased air filter service life by 60% and made a 25,000pa saving on an initial 9,000 investment.

At a smaller scale, even in a non-commercial building similar benefits can be felt. For example, 25% of all a building's heat is lost skywards, so roof insulation just 250mm thick can make a noticeable impact on bills. If building and property owners are made aware of this, they can take the time to insulate: from walls to floors, double glazed windows and loft insulation. The result of efficiency education? Costs can be cut, energy consumption can be reduced and the overall climate of a property can be much improved through all seasons.

Avoiding mixed vendor solutions

One of the reasons that the commercial solutions above saw long term maintained success and ROI was due to continuous collaboration, review and adjustment between the client and the BEMS provider.

Without on-going maintenance accounting for changes in building usage, purpose and new construction, solutions quickly become ineffective again. This is one reason that mixed-vendor solutions can be seen as less reliable. If different providers install (and therefore must maintain) different parts of a solution, it adds a lot of complexity, a lot of room for error and incompatibility, and leads to an overall increase in costs in the long run: an issue that many companies may not be aware of. So for best results, reporting, management and long term ROI, it's wise to invest in a comprehensive solution from a single provider.

A brighter, more efficient future

By raising the profile of new technologies and acknowledging the advantages behind them, the design, installation, maintenance and benefits of energy efficient solutions can only improve and spread.

Initially and immediately this will result in better energy practice for many organisations, but from a wider perspective this can have dramatic transformational results in many areas: in creating new industry training opportunities, better end-user control guides, and potentially even influencing new legislation on building's energy usages. Through education and positive action a combined industry approach to educate and improve efficiency may benefit all.

All information courtesy of Trend Controls UK.