Delivering buildings that are intelligent cuts costs

Published:  11 December, 2004

Buildings
The key to delivering better buildings without increasing capital costs is the convergence of building systems such as security, access control, lighting, heating, air conditioning and electrical infrastructure.

It is not a paradox that intelligent buildings cost less to run than those with disparate control systems, but also cost less to build. RICHARD HIPKISS explains.

Competitive tendering and price pressures in new building continue to focus attention on capital costs — despite evidence that operating costs are typically almost three times the capital required in acquiring the building. Moreover, the figures do not reflect maintenance costs that can be twice the capital costs. The time to invest in equipment and systems that reduce operational costs is clearly when a building is commissioned. This can be achieved without increasing capital expenditure if a convergent approach is adopted from the beginning.

Massive operational investment

Another issue which is never considered in any value chain is that the staff in most commercial buildings account for about 80% of operational costs. Intelligent-building schemes can significantly improve the performance of this massive operational investment, through an improved environment and greater efficiency in the workplace.

There are numerous opportunities to reduce running costs by judicious specification and installation of energy-efficient boilers, chillers, heat pumps or CHP plant. Variable-speed control of electric motors brings huge energy savings, since they consume about 65% of electrical energy.

Electrical plant, while fundamental to any building, is often ignored. The electrical network can cloak hidden costs. By managing the utility bill, savings of up to 5% can be achieved. This is just the beginning; a further 5% can be saved on increased equipment utilisation, avoiding unnecessary capital purchases, while improving system reliability can save a further 10%. Other considerations include avoiding under- and over-voltages, supply losses, harmonic issues (for which there is now the need to comply with G5/4 that forbids harmonic pollution), maintenance savings, maximum-demand avoidance and load shedding. All these factors require controls.

Towards better planning

So what prevents better planning at first- and second-fix stages? One clear impediment, especially through its impact on price, is that most building systems are discrete. In other words, there are separate systems for security and access control, lighting, heating and electrical infrastructure. Even in systems running under some form of BMS there is a distinct lack of joined-up thinking. What we describe does not require integration, for true integration of all these disparate systems is still mythical, but convergence. By enabling common cabling, protocols and data sharing, costs can be slashed at the same time as controls and, hence, costs can be instated.

Convergence

Only by including installers and manufacturers on the top table alongside the design team can convergence be achieved. The focuses can then be energy efficiency, future maintainability, ease of installation and the de-skilling of installation — in short, all those areas with the greatest impact on operating expenditure.

The distinct areas of control for a typical building include electrical distribution, centralised heating and cooling plant, distributed heating and cooling equipment, access control, CCTV, security alarms and data infrastructure. The aim is to achieve the following.

• An energy-efficient building through cost-effective operation.

• A common information portal accessible from multiple locations by multiple disciplines covering all information in a similar format. The aim is to share functions, resulting in a lower installed cost.

Transparency

A fundamental aspect of a convergent and intelligent system is transparency. If the convergent, rather than integrated, system is to maintain control and reduce costs, it must have a common platform. While this does not preclude sophisticated BMS, a simple, readily understood interface such as a web browser can deliver a user-friendly platform from which to realise a powerful system. Adopting such an approach allows the fundamental structured cabling infrastructure to be fully utilised in a broad variety of ways — removing the need for many proprietary cabling or datacomms installations.

Schneider Electric’s Transparent Building Integrated Systems (T-BIS) offer shows that even by substantially increasing control technology significant cost reductions can be made. In a recent model where the company’s engineering team was invited to participate from the design stage, some 40% of the capital costs were removed, while achieving an intelligent and energy-efficient building.

Integrated cabling

The bulk of the saving was achieved by using integrated communications cabling. In this scheme, segregation of services was carried out at several levels: individual patch panels for each service were installed, patched into a discrete switch for each service; common patch panels for all horizontal and backbone cables were installed where the segregation was made in the patching process; and common patch panels for all horizontal and riser cables were used with no segregation. The corporate data LAN was used for all the services.

The building has an overall scheme, plus zones under local control and using local buses. In the zoned areas, an energy controller was specified for heating and cooling valves, lighting, alarms and access control, with a link to the main network via a simple network interface to the main building controller in the incident room.

Working as part of the design team and taking ownership of the control at installation stage, enabled overall installation costs to be reduced by 40%.

An energy-efficient platform was achieved, controlling the building in line with ambient and outside conditions. Combined infrastructure, sensors and information systems were attained. Importantly, a framework for ongoing planned maintenance to minimise unforeseen costs was achieved.

A number of factors influence the approach taken when considering the operational expenditure at the design, build and commissioning stage of a project. These include Government initiatives and regulations, end-user specification, consultant specification and manufacturer co-operation. Of these, the one that most imagine would drive a more considered approach to building controls is the imposition of legislation. Paradoxically, this has so far been shown to have little effect.

The Climate Change Levy has had little impact, and the associated Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme has had nothing like the uptake expected. The Building Regulations Part L were amended in October 2001 when the new L1 and L2 covering conservation of fuel and power were published. While these are excellent documents, there is no power that exercises actionable authority.

As recently as July 2004 Lord Rooker, Minister of State in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said in a written Ministerial Statement, ‘Energy used in buildings is responsible for roughly half the UK’s carbon-dioxide emissions.’ He added, ‘Driving up the energy efficiency of our buildings is critical to our success in achieving the carbon emission reduction targets.’ He concluded later that performance standards must be raised and that requirements for efficiency must be introduced. However laudable the words and the will of the ODPM, the real drive towards better building control will come elsewhere.

Logbooks

It is designers and end users who will ultimately make a difference. At present about 80% of building specification is brokered, but end users of a building are becoming increasingly aware of the need for efficient and intelligent buildings. This is one area where Government intervention is beginning to have an effect. Since the introduction of CIBSE’s TM31 logbooks, facilities managers are more focused on energy and building performance. The knock on is that eventually greater demands will be placed on the designers to create means by which the TM31 logs add value to the property.

End users will naturally resist additional costs, and designers will be placed with the dilemma of how to deliver better building performance without increasing capital expenditure. This is where the new role of manufacturers will exert itself, for only by early consultation will designers achieve their objectives at no additional cost, or even, as our earlier example showed, at a reduced cost.

Richard Hipkiss is with Schneider Electric, Stafford Park 5,

Telford TF3 3BL.



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