Demystifying eu.bac certification
Chris Irwin of Distech Controls, looks at a pan-European standard raising initiatives driven by the eu.bac organisation.
For those of us who have been working in the building-controls industry for a long time, the issue of how do you ‘prove’ that good controls save energy and, therefore, money is a very familiar one.
Whilst it is well understood that lowering heating set-points (or raising cooling ones) and switching off energy-consuming equipment when it is not needed will reduce bills, quantifying the savings and assessing the impact of more sophisticated measures to reduce energy consumption has often proved difficult. It’s also especially hard to successfully communicate to non-specialists who are sceptical of the sometimes inflated claims made by suppliers.
To address these issues, an organisation called eu.bac was formed. This body pulls together much of the research, experience and expertise that already exists, covering the realities of achieving better energy efficiency in buildings.
Eu.bac is an acronym for European Building Automation & Controls Association. Founded in Brussels in 2003, eu.bac now represents 95% of European manufacturers of building-automation and control systems manufacturers; their combined market is about €4.1 billion a year.
The aims of the association are to promote home controls and building-automation technologies, and to develop and manage a certification process that defines energy efficiency in controls solutions. Whilst EU legislation sets the overall parameters for the energy performance in buildings, and CEN (TC247) is responsible for establishing the standards; eu.bac has taken on the task of ensuring the directives are achieved in practice.
|Eu.bac has developed procedures to determine how controls can contribute to the Energy Performance Certificate for a building.|
A European standard, not widely known about in the UK, sets out methods for calculating the energy savings achievable by building-automation systems. This standard, EN 152332, is based on many research projects undertaken around Europe, and forms the basis for the eu.bac certification. For those interested in demonstrating the value of good controls, EN15232 is worth reading. It is a comprehensive document which helpfully identifies the percentage savings that can be expected when various energy-reduction measures are adopted, such as occupancy-based control, daylight harvesting etc.
The eu.bac organisation is governed by a management board and general assembly. There are three sector specific groups covering home automation, building automation, and energy-service companies. Each sector has technical panels in addition to advocacy and marketing and communications functions. The technical panels cover everything from electronic radiator valves and room controllers to the energy efficiency of complete systems.
Companies involved in eu.bac are seeking to promote the utilisation of integrated and intelligent controls systems, and, by creating certification processes for products and systems, improve the energy efficiency of control systems. In 2012 eu.bac launched a new system audit, which includes a check list and a set of technical recommendations to enable a quick assessment of an existing building-automation system. The audit must be carried out by a certified person who has received sufficient training to ensure they can properly assess the building against the many different criteria included in the check list.
The eu.bac product-certification process aims to guarantee compliance with standards and regulations, as well as ensuring excellent quality and higher energy savings as a result of using the product. There are several certification bodies involved in the scheme — Intertek in the UK, CSTB in France and WSPcert in Germany. The UK test laboratory is managed by BSRIA.
The existence of eu.bac certification now provides a way for specifiers and end users to demand that products supplied to their projects achieve a good standard with respect to their energy efficiency, in terms of the control algorithms they provide to minimise the consumption of energy.
For example, Distech Controls, a major manufacturer of lighting and fan-coil controllers, has achieved eu.bac certification for its RCB-PFC-207 range of configurable terminal-unit controllers by including sophisticated control strategies for integrated management of the fan-coil or chilled beam, lighting and sun blinds according to ambient light level and occupancy as well as time schedules and user adjustments.
The certification process does not yet cover all aspects of control products. When developing our latest generation of programmable controllers we established, from dialogue with the manufacturers of the fan-coil units themselves, that they were achieving very high energy efficiency regarding the fans. In some cases, these fans were consuming only around 1 W of power —So it mattered to them that the controller for the fan-coil unit was also very energy efficient. As a result, we designed our new ECL/ECB-PTU range so that it consumes only 1 W, making it the most efficient in its class. Saving just a few watts many not seem like much but when these devices are on 24/7 and also generate a cooling load, any reduction in power consumption is good news for energy efficiency. That said, the energy usage of the control products themselves is not currently covered by the eu.bac certification.
|Verifying the performance of controls .|
Eu.bac is also actively promoting EPC (energy-performance contracting) as an effective way to increase the efficiency of buildings. The organisation has developed procedures to determine the potential for EPC in a building — answering the questions, ‘How much energy can be saved and with what level of confidence?’ A separate group within the organisation has been established called the European Association of Energy Services companies (ESCos), to support and encourage this growing sector.
In conclusion, eu.bac is working to ensure quality and validation of claims regarding energy efficiency. The new audit process offers an approach to more accurately assess a building’s current efficiency. It also provides quantified recommendations showing where improvements can be made. The ultimate objective is to raise standards and provide better quality information to building operators. At this time of rising energy costs, and with the challenge we all face in reducing CO2 emissions from buildings, such initiatives should be welcomed by all.
By certifying and labelling products that comply to the eu.bac criteria, controls manufacturers can ensure that specifiers know the quality of the products they have designed. Specifiers, by explicitly requiring eu.bac certification, can ensure that contractors are not substituting poorer-quality, less-efficient products on a project as a way of cutting costs. Such economies at the build stage are false ones. The energy costs of operating a building far outweigh the initial capital spend, and purchasing products that are less energy efficient will incur a significant cost penalty for the lifetime of the building — at least until that equipment is replaced with a better-performing solution.
Chris Irwin is business development manager, northern and eastern Europe, at Distech Controls