Now is the right time for an energy-efficiency drive

Trend, BMS, BEMS, CRC Scheme
Enlisting the help of a BEMS — Sean Brook (left) and Yasar Butt

The UK is facing an energy crisis and, with the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC) and other initiatives piling the pressure on building managers to reduce energy consumption, Yasar Butt and Sean Brook of Trend Controls explain why a building energy management system (BEMS) can help.

The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is here to stay and likely to be extended in scope to incorporate more businesses in the future. The Government announced last year that the first allowance sales for 2011-12 emissions are to take place in 2012, giving companies which have been slow off the mark an opportunity to do something about reducing their energy use in the meantime.

The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is not the only driver for energy reduction. In conjunction with promoting corporate and social responsibility, recent fuel and energy price increases have heightened interest in energy efficiency. Air-conditioning assessments, Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are also a fact of life, which, along with compliance with voluntary certification standards such as ISO 50001, have played their part in putting carbon reduction in the spotlight.

For organisations demanding greater visibility and control of their energy use, a solution can be found in a building energy management system (BEMS). The system controls and monitors multiple systems within the building such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting. A fully integrated solution has 60 to 84% of a building’s energy consuming devices directly under its control. A system’s software-based tools provide the ability to extrapolate and analyse energy-usage patterns in detail across an entire building and instigate changes where necessary.

Not so long ago integrating disparate systems within a building proved a significant challenge. Few consultants and end clients truly understood the benefits and potential that could result from a holistically designed building — and only a small number of construction companies were confident enough to specify and configure a BEMS.

That has all changed and now it is now mandatory for new and refurbished buildings — as outlined in Parts L2A and L2B of the Building Regulations. However, there is still a huge number of buildings where retrofitting such a system can offer significant ongoing cost savings.

Implementing a BEMS in a new build forms less than 1% of the total expenditure. According to CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers), energy savings of 10 to 20 per cent can be achieved when compared with controlling each aspect of a building’s infrastructure separately. With the rollout of smart metering underway, it will also enable building managers to incorporate factors such as tariff changes.

It is estimated that around a third of the energy consumed for lighting in industrial and commercial buildings could be saved by utilising technology that automatically turns off the lights when space is unoccupied. In addition, some areas of buildings are still being heated when vacant, wasting even more energy.

By applying a range of control and monitoring initiatives, building services can operate in strict accordance with demand — thereby avoiding unnecessary use of energy. The data produced allows building managers to better analyse, understand and improve their site's energy usage and costs by having them presented in an organised and informative way.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from this technology, and modern systems are fully scalable — utilising anything from one to many thousands of controllers.

Trend, BMS, BEMS, CRC Scheme
For organisations demanding greater visibility and control of their energy use a solution can be found in a building energy management system

Choosing a system that allows easy upgrading and reconfiguration is a key consideration; not all systems are the same and the costs of installation can vary depending on the protocol used. When retrofitting or updating a BEMS, backwards compatibility is crucial. For example, one of Trend’s modern controllers can talk peer-to-peer with the very first device made by the company back in 1982.

Too many businesses only make token moves to enhancing energy efficiency, without considering the fundamentals of their patterns of energy. A BEMS truly fulfils its potential when it forms the backbone of a defined energy-management strategy.

However, companies that have already invested in this technology are sometimes failing to experience the full benefit. When a system is first commissioned it is configured around the existing building layout and occupancy patterns. These can change over time; new office layouts, repartitioning and the addition or moving of equipment can lead to some areas being too warm or too cold — subsequently having a massive effect on the energy consumption data produced.

Far from being ‘fit-and-forget’ a BEMS must be regularly monitored, maintained and, where necessary, adjusted to ensure that it is fully optimised.

It is clear that a much tougher line is going to be taken to encourage businesses to reduce their use of energy. The current raft of legislation signifies that the Government is taking its carbon-reduction responsibilities seriously and that unless there is a decrease in the overall levels of CO2 being produced there will be more regulation to come. Now is the time for building managers and owners to do something about it.

For further information please contact or call 01403 211888.

Yasar Butt is energy solutions specialist and Sean Brook is energy and support solutions manager at Trend Controls.

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