Creating windows into your world

Schneider Electric, controls, BMS, building management system
Having reports which detail hidden costs and inefficiencies, and providing a list of actionable recommendations is the key to effective-energy-saving actions.

With legislation and the ever-present need to reduce costs Steve Harris of Schneider Electric looks at why data needs to be organised into relevant, actionable reports that are tailored to suit a particular user.

As the new Energy Efficiency Directive looms, the pressure is on for UK building managers to make significant operational changes and, in essence, make buildings more efficient — often with little budget. One of the biggest issues to overcome when it comes to achieving this is having access to the right, actionable information at the right time. What is needed is an holistic view of how a building is functioning, how much energy it is using, and importantly, where savings can be made.

With such focus on improving our buildings’ energy usage, the tide appears to be turning in the uptake of smart technology. A recent report published by IDC Energy Insights revealed that the global smart buildings solutions market is expected to reach an impressive $10 billion by 2016.

However, for many building managers, the prospect of installing smart or intelligent technology in their buildings may still seem somewhat daunting. In addition to this reticence, budgets are still some way behind where they were before the economic downturn, with businesses tasked with doing more for less. What’s more, a clear gap exists between the ability to extract and generate data and the ability to translate this into actions.

Many of the UK’s commercial buildings must now display an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) or comply with the government’s CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, or at least meet minimum Building Energy Performance Standards. To add to this, from 2015 onwards, all commercial buildings will be expected to undergo a full energy audit every three years under the new Energy Efficiency Directive in the UK. For facilities or building managers, taking stock of their building’s energy consumption has never been more pertinent than today.

Currently, many businesses monitor their building’s energy usage via a series of spreadsheets and disparate systems, all working in silos. This disjointed approach makes the whole process of monitoring energy usage far more complex and time consuming than is necessary.

The notion that building managers should be looking at each building application, such as HVAC and lighting, as separate from on another is one that Schneider Electric is keen to dispel. The only way to truly become more energy efficient is to take an holistic view of the building, or even an entire estate, and bring all systems together on to one platform. This approach enables the end-user to have a complete overview of how the building or estate is functioning.

To get that overview, simplicity is key. Data needs to be organised into relevant, actionable reports which are tailored to suit that particular user.

Today’s building-management systems can draw information from all parts of the building, as well as from numerous sites, and incorporate external factors, such as weather predictions. For example, if warmer weather is predicted, an intelligent BMS can utilise this information to engage with the HVAC system and change the building’s settings to maximise efficiency.

Traditionally, this level of integration has come at a premium cost, during both the installation and operational phases, as well as being slow to roll out. This has meant that only larger enterprises have adopted such solutions and, even with significant investment, it hasn’t been possible to fully integrate it into the existing system.

To address these challenges, Schneider Electric recently launched two building-management systems that meet the requirements of small and large buildings. Called SmartStruxure and SmartStruxure Lite, both solutions are made up of hardware and software that combine engineering, installation and services, ensuring that facilities are energy-efficient and easily manageable. The completely open nature of SmartStruxure also means that it can be seamlessly integrated into any building’s existing infrastructure, making the transition quick and simple.

The solution’s interface means that the BMS can be easily controlled via a standard PC or from a smartphone or tablet, so building managers have complete control, even when they are away from site. Not only is the system highly cost effective during both installation and operation, it has the ability to provide the right information to the right people at the right time, maximising energy savings by clearly illustrating areas for improvements.

With building managers focused on reducing energy consumption, access to in-depth, but easy-to-understand, reports is a must. Complementing SmartStruxure, services such as Schneider Electric’s Building Analytics give even more detailed insights into the efficiency of a building. This service takes real-time energy usage data and generates reports which detail hidden costs and inefficiencies, providing a list of actionable recommendations. By implementing such changes, end-users can optimise the building’s operational performance, manage maintenance proactively, reduce energy bills and improve employee comfort. All of these will make a positive, tangible difference to any business’s bottom line.

Transparency is the key. Pulling all of the building’s systems together makes it possible to create a complete picture of the building on one easy-to-use platform which can be viewed from anywhere at any time. This means that everything from power monitoring and energy contract management, to the energy monitoring aspect of a building, can be seen on one interface, offering building managers a window into their world.

Steve Harris is sales and marketing director for the buildings business of Schneider Electric.

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