Seeing is believing — and a spur to action

BEMS, BMS, controls, Trend Controls
Involving building occupants — David Sadler-Smith.

With it generally being acknowledged that the users of a building have a significant effect on its energy consumption what is the value of putting information about energy use on public display? David Sadler-Smith of Trend Controls answers questions about displaying and acting upon the data produced by a building energy management system (BEMS).

I’ve heard about BEMS display panels being sited outside of the plant room. What are the benefits of having them in ‘public’ areas?

It is estimated that 50% of the energy used for lighting, heating and cooling is directly influenced by the way those in a building use it. Having a display panel positioned in a high-traffic area enables occupants to see the effect of their actions and how they impact on energy consumption

Think of a scenario where people don’t have local control over their environment and no visibility of energy usage. One person feels cold so they put a fan heater on under their desk. The person next door then gets hot and opens a window. This leads to the air conditioning fighting with the heating and, before you know it, a huge amount of energy is wasted.

The latest panels can display schematics that provide real-time information such as temperature, humidity and setpoints. Having this information readily available in real time helps stakeholders to actively participate in reducing energy usage, allowing them to view and adjust operating times, monitor alarms and make adjustments to controller parameters.

Another benefit that may not appear obvious is that it reduces the number of complaints to facilities managers. Why? Well, people seeing that, for example, it is not as cold as they think it is stops them taking the matter further. They might just put a jumper on instead!

How can displaying BEMS based information help achieve ISO 50001 related targets and objectives?

A growing number of businesses recognise the need to have a certified energy-management system in place in order to fulfil their objectives for carbon reduction and corporate social responsibility.

ISO 50001 is a good example of a standard that describes the requirements for an energy-management system that allows an organisation to address the systematic and continuous improvement of its energy related performance.

The key to successful stakeholder buy-in to ISO 50001 and similar schemes is to engage people in decision-making processes and make sure that information is accessible to all. Having a display that details how they are using energy achieves this and helps organisations meet their targets.

Knowing what the temperature really is via publicly displayed information might stop people feeling the need to adjust it.

Can giving too many people the ability to change the setpoints of a BEMS lead to it becoming inefficient?

Encouraging greater responsibility about how a BEMS is used and restricting who can modify it will usually address this issue. If problems persist, a report can be accessed which describes all the activity that has been undertaken over a specified period. It is then easy to identify who has been adjusting the setpoints and not changing them back again.

It is also best practice to have the BEMS audited on a regular basis by an approved systems integrator to make sure that it is fully optimised. This process will ensure that maximum energy and cost savings are achieved.

Isn’t the information displayed on these devices difficult to understand?

Not at all — the type and complexity of the information displayed can be configured so that anyone can use it and easily understand what the figures mean.

Can it even be configured to suit an environment such as a school, where children could use it?

According to The Carbon Trust, reducing energy consumption could help the average secondary school save £21 500 in energy bills — almost equal to the annual salary of a newly qualified teacher.

State-of-the-art display panels can be instrumental in raising energy awareness amongst staff and pupils. An intuitive device acts as a teaching and learning aid, as the information can be presented in an easy-to-understand ‘child-friendly’ format that can be modified to suit different ages and abilities. The display’s screensaver can even be customised to feature a logo, a message or even a particular schematic page.

It can also be used as an educational tool, whereby pupils extrapolate and analyse the data to investigate options for improvement, and make recommendations to reduce areas of waste in their school.

We’ve just had our office redecorated. Won’t having a display panel on the wall ruin the effect?

Unlike the display panels of old, modern units are stylishly designed to complement modern office layouts. With full-colour 16:9 touchscreen display they offer superb resolution, contrast and clarity.

With an IP65 dust-and-water ingress protection rating they can maintain their operation in a wide variety of environments. What’s more, installation is also straightforward, and they can be flush, surface or panel mounted almost anywhere.

David Sadler-Smith is marketing manager at Trend Controls.

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