Drawing on the expertise of facilities management

Keith Gilliver
Ongoing carbon reduction — Keith Gilliver

Intelligent facilities management is the key to the continuing long-term reduction of carbon emissions from buildings argues Keith Gilliver.

Accelerating climate change and the rising cost of energy is putting sustainability at the heart of facilities contracts across the UK. Despite national and international policies aimed at driving down their carbon footprint, buildings still account for over 50% of the UK’s carbon emissions. At the same time, BREEAM and other standards are primarily designed to regulate the performance of new rather than existing buildings — even though buildings are replaced at an extremely slow rate.

The key to reducing carbon emissions lies in intelligent facilities management and an integrated approach to building services to deliver sustainable economic and environmental value.

Clients are increasingly looking towards energy efficiency and are keen to partner with firms which combine ongoing management of existing infrastructure with the design, installation and maintenance of new and innovative technologies. The technical expertise of specialist facilities-management companies gives the breadth and depth to tailor an appropriate solution. We offer a ‘through-the-line’ service offering cost-savings, operational efficiencies and an in depth knowledge of the building and its integrated services that is second to none.

Some of the latest technologies are, of course, capital intensive and may or may not be appropriate in terms of the life of the building in question. The good news is that there are lots of small steps a company can take in terms of its technical facilities management which will make a significant difference to environmental performance.

Minor alterations to plant operations and equipment, together with a proactive and planned maintenance programme, can make a real difference — both in terms of cost control and long-term eco-benefits. As ever, the devil is in the detail, and the poor design and installation, together with a lack of adequate maintenance of many mechanical and electrical services is often the root cause of excessive energy use. Simple steps, such as setting the correct temperature levels for heating and hot-water systems, help to reduce energy consumption. In the same way, refrigeration units, fans, blowers and cold-water pumps can all be adjusted to ensure optimum performance.

Air-handling units are often incorrectly set, calling for the most simple of solutions. Lighting should be controlled wherever possible to maximise effectiveness while minimising energy consumption and waste. These may sound like small changes, but they are at the heart of an efficient and eco-friendly facilities-maintenance programme which makes a positive contribution to the reduction of a company’s carbon footprint.

For those prepared to invest in long-term ‘hardware’ and/or technology-based solutions, there are a number of different options. Here are some of the steps that EIC has provided to our clients to deliver quantifiable improvements in environmental performance:

Solar thermal: Roof-mounted panels used to pre-heat hot water services resulted in energy savings of about 5 MWh per year, reducing gas consumption by 12%.

Photovoltaics (PV): These roof-mounted panels were used by a client to supplement its electricity requirements. While PV has a high capital cost, it resulted in energy savings of about 100 MWh per year and enabled the client to export excess energy to the National Grid.

Rainwater harvesting: The capture and storage of rainwater can provide clean water for use in toilet areas and to irrigate gardens. This solution saved one client (a school) up to 900 000 l of water per year.

Underfloor heating: Underfloor systems provide a more even source of heat, and an intelligent system will use the thermal mass of the floor slab to further improve efficiency. By optimising flow and return rates, boilers can always run in condensing mode, ensuring optimum energy efficiency.

Hot-water system: Traditional hot-water systems run at 60°C to prevent legionella. Blending valves are then installed to prevent scalding at the taps. A more eco-friendly solution might be a biocide disinfectant system using chlorine dioxide to enable the hot water system to operate at 43°C, resulting in an energy saving of about a third.

As with all capital outlay, true value can only be extracted by optimum performance and ongoing maintenance and enhancement. We recommend that a facilities-management perspective is applied earlier rather than later — ideally at the planning and design stages. An intelligent and holistic approach from the outset invariably reduces long-term running costs by delivering ongoing energy savings. It also avoid costly remedial work further down the line.

Simple tweaks such as introducing passive infrared (PIR) lighting controls and maximising natural ventilation and light sources can make a huge difference in reducing energy waste. Thereafter, ongoing and attentive management by the facilities-management company dramatically reduces the costs of reactive and, even, planned maintenance. As ever, prevention is not only better; it is also cheaper and more environmentally friendly than cure.

Increasingly UK and European legislation, including the 2008 Climate Change Act which sets tough standards for carbon emissions for the next 40 years, means that ‘greenwash’ will no longer be enough to satisfy those with a genuine energy-saving agenda. The question, therefore, is not what can FM companies do to help deliver these objectives, but how technically adept and creative that company can be in delivering improvements to any building’s environmental performance.

Keith Gilliver is a director of EIC.

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