Learning from experience

BCIA, controls, BMS, BEMS
Sharing ideas in the networking lounge at the BCIA National Conference.

Speakers at the BCIA National Conference 2012 on 10 May emphasised the crucial role that building controls play in achieving energy-efficient buildings.

The presentations covered a range of sectors — including retail, office, education and leisure. The common message was clear: controls and building energy management systems (BEMS) should be at the heart of energy-management strategies.

What all energy and facilities managers should be doing — Ian Ellis.

The theme of the first BCIA national conference was ‘Efficient, sustainable and profitable buildings’. Introducing the speakers, BCIA president Ian Ellis said: ‘The BCIA believes that using controls and BEMS to measure, monitor and manage performance is something that all energy and facilities managers should be doing.’

ASDA’s energy manager Louise Hall explained that this retailer has set tough targets for reducing carbon emissions and is focused on cutting energy waste in its stores. She demonstrated how estate-wide sub-metering was providing vital data, but pointed out: ‘Sub-meters don't achieve reductions on their own.’

Using information from the BEMS in weekly performance reports is an important part of ASDA's energy-reduction strategy — helping stores manage and control their energy use.

Getting employees involved — Louise Hall of ASDA.

ASDA's store managers are targeted on the energy use of their stores, so delivering information from the BEMS to them in an understandable format has been an important strategy for the retailer. ‘This enables us to issue weekly performance reports to store managers, and to identify variances as well as energy use reduction opportunities,’ explained Louise Hall.

She also highlighted the importance of harnessing employees to help reduce unnecessary energy waste. ‘Our colleagues are responsible for energy management too, and that is why we give the stores practical tools to help them manage and control energy use.’

Tom Yearley, energy manager for Reading University also emphasised the importance of using the BEMS to draw out information for the staff who can best influence energy use. ‘Providing detailed and meaningful data is very important, because it is increasingly recognised that occupant behaviour has a strong influence on energy consumption in buildings,’ he said.

The importance of detailed and meaningful data — Tom Yearley.

Citing the example of one building on the campus, Tom Yearley explained that the university's energy-management team has installed state-of-the-art electrical monitoring across the whole building. Energy use is monitored round-the-clock in detail. This enables the team to analyse how different areas of the building perform and to identify unnecessary use.

The university, which has several large buildings across its campus, has set up a league table to promote friendly competition among the building managers who can track who has saved the most energy. ‘We use a simple star rating system to allocate points to each building energy team based on energy use. It has proved very motivating to create this friendly rivalry.’

A number of speakers highlighted the value for money that building controls and BEMS offer in terms of payback through reduced energy costs and payments into the CRC Energy Reduction Scheme.

The Eden Project in Cornwall is a large energy user, and maintenance manager David Moore explained that, like many organisations today, Eden has to consider the rising cost of energy: ‘We asked ourselves what would the current Government-predicted energy price rises of 14% to 60% mean for Eden. The answer was a potential extra cost of £345 000 a year for energy and an additional £94 000 for extra carbon dioxide emissions payments. That was unacceptable.’

Improving control at the Eden Project — David Moore.

David Moore and his team undertook a refurbishment of the controls system, with the aim of reducing energy waste. Although this was a significant financial investment, Moore pointed to the resulting energy and cost savings: a reduction of 20% in gas intensity; electricity consumption cut by 13%; savings of almost 600 t of carbon dioxide per year; and an annual energy cost saving of £105 000.

Cardiff Council also undertook a significant investment in refurbishing its building controls for its schools, but in the words of the council's energy manager David Mundow: ‘It was worth it.’ Not only have the new controls enabled the energy team to reinstate optimisation and weather compensation on school heating systems, they are also supporting better fault detection — saving money on energy and maintenance in the long-term.’

The BCIA National Conference 2012 demonstrated the growing importance of building controls and BEMS for energy, facilities and maintenance mangers. But speakers also highlighted how important it is to ensure that the people who can make a difference to energy management receive data that is usable in a format that can empower them to help achieve energy-saving goals.


Key points from the BCIA National Conference

The main points from BCIA National Conference speakers

1. Building controls and building energy management systems (BEMS) are key to energy efficient buildings.

2. It is important to fully understand the BEMS in order to get the most out of it and to optimise building performance.

3. Data produced from a BEMS is a valuable business tool. Ensure it is in the right format for the people who need it most. From complex graphs and charts to a simple star-based system, put the information in a usable format with the user in mind.

4. Winning buy-in from other staff is a key ingredient for achieving energy efficiency. Many studies have shown that occupant behaviour has a significant impact on energy use.

5. Continuous commissioning and maintenance of your controls and BEMS should be considered obligatory to maintain optimum energy efficiency levels.

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