Taking control of carbon emissions
Derek Duffill reflects on the role that building-management systems can play in saving energy and reducing a building’s carbon footprint.
Setting an example —the potential of the integrated control system in Millennium Point in Birmingham has been exploited to reduce energy costs by 12% in just 18 months.
The last 18 months have seen a colossal shift in the way people view the environment and their own impact on it. The environment and corporate social responsibility is becoming big business, particularly to big businesses. A major employer without an up-to-date environmental policy is seriously risking the wrath of shareholders and customers. Now we are seeing good intentions being supported by legislation, too, as the changes to the Building Regulations have proven. The message has reached its audience, so our work here is done. Or is it? If only it was that simple. We are only at the start of the process of making a serious impact on the way people use energy, and we are only just seeing the effect that new legislation can have on the way buildings are put together. Controls
Also, crucially, the Building Regulations do not cover building controls — so how do systems like this fit in and what role can they play in helping achieve everyone’s targets to save money and reduce energy usage? In short, the role is still a huge one, and it needs to be made clear that simply obeying the new-look Building Regulations will not have a sufficiently significant enough impact on energy use. The aim of the changes to Part L of the Building Regulations makes perfect sense. They are looking to force improvements to the very fabric of a building through better design, improvements to the materials used and enhanced construction methods with the aim of improving air and heat tightness. Less air and heat escaping means more efficient buildings. However, Part L focuses mainly on the end result — the ‘emissions’ of any given building and how well the building prevents unnecessary leakage. Purely aiming for Part L compliance will not necessarily mean a building has reached its potential in terms of reducing energy use and fails to take into account the fact that colossal amounts of energy could be wasted through inefficient use of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Impressive
A building may well comply with Part L, but the way to achieve truly impressive (and by impressive, I mean having the desired effect on shareholders, potential investors, utility-bill payers and anybody interested in the carbon footprint of a building) levels of energy use is to ensure there is as little energy waste as possible at every possible stage — not just by preventing air escaping, but also by making sure that all heating and ventilation equipment is running as smoothly as possible. However, if Part L only requires a well-sealed building, why would people bother doing more? To use a car analogy, this is like owning a vehicle that passes its MOT but only achieves five miles per gallon. Such a vehicle may be road legal but it is a colossal waste of fuel and hugely inefficient. Buildings are much the same; the foundations and walls may be perfectly solid and in line with the Building Regulations, but the inner workings need to be efficient and well managed, which is why the Building Regulations alone are not enough. There is a side issue here, too — the education of the people who use the building. You could have a fantastically well sealed, immaculately constructed building, but if staff sit there with the air-conditioning or heating on while the windows are open, any measures taken are completely undermined. Yet, because the Building Regulations are based around the performance of a building when all the doors and windows are shut, this is not taken into account. From that point of view it is essential that building users — whether they are employers, schools, housing authorities or hospitals — go further in their bid to save energy than simply complying with the Building Regulations — and this is where building controls can play such an important part. TAC Satchwell has carried out countless projects that prove that a well-managed building control system can make a significant difference to the running costs of a building — which in turn fulfils the increasingly urgent need to be seen to cut energy costs. More accessible
The technology is becoming more accessible, in line with the increased demand across all industries to be seen to be cutting the carbon footprint of buildings. For example, TAC Satchwell has recently launched a product (Xenta 555) that enables smaller employers to enjoy the benefits of a full building-management system and which is fully scaleable to handle more complicated tasks. The information it processes can be accessed through standard Internet software, which has brought building-management systems within everyone’s reach. Not having the manpower or the know-how is not an excuse any more; the solutions available are so user-friendly that virtually anybody can manage their energy outgoings effectively. The benefits of building controls are as relevant as ever and should be embraced as part of a 3-pronged approach to cutting energy use, alongside adherence to the stringent new laws laid down by Part L and the all-important education of staff and other building users to ensure everyone is helping to keep both financial and environmental costs to a minimum. Derek Duffill is managing director of TAC UK Ltd.