The target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions set out in the Climate Change Act passed in November last year can easily be seen as a remote and abstract benchmark, one which we have plenty of time to take action to achieve. But with the first key deadline fast approaching next month, where the government will be laying down the levels for the first three Carbon Budgets, the task is quickly becoming a more immediate concern.
Of course, as an industry, we are already answering to several government legislation and energy saving benchmarks / schemes; Part L of the Building Regulations, BREEAM and the Code for Sustainable Homes for example. But as a collective, we need to take responsibility for the influence we can have in making changes happen, and apply our ‘knowledge bank’ together in the most effective way. And this must begin now.
As an industry we are very traditional in our ways and tend to stick to solutions we have used in the past as a safe option. In some ways this may be good practise, but it does not allow new innovation through the door, and if we are going to see a step-change towards sustainable building services design we must look beyond what has been done in the past.
One big change that must happen is to evolve the traditional approaches not only to the way we specify products and systems but, more importantly, the way projects are tendered and procured. The phrases ‘joined up thinking’ and ‘holistic approach’ are often bandied around in this context, but in fact they do represent the best way to move forward. In order to find the best building services solution for a project all variables must be considered from the very beginning, and inform the entire process. Knowledge from all parties involved must inform the procurement process, and issues such as maintenance should be considered at the very inception of the project. A new open and integrated approach to viewing a project can be the only way forward.
And more than this, if the most energy-efficient and cost-effective solution is to be achieved; perceptions of monetary investment and perceived paybacks must change. At present, the prevalent practice seems to be that investors cannot look past the immediate bottom line outlay of a project. But in order to invest in the technologies which will help achieve big changes in energy saving, payback periods and cumulative energy reductions must be considered over initial outlay. For instance, cutting-edge building control technologies can be perceived as a costly investment if you take the short-sighted view that stops at the bottom line. The payback periods, however, are proving to be astonishingly short, with substantial energy-saving benefits being realised.
As a case in point, Andromeda’s integrated control solutions are achieving payback periods of well under five years, and realising significant carbon reductions for major projects, proving that investing in cutting-edge technologies can in fact give reliable returns, and make tangible differences to carbon reductions from the outset. The integrated approach to building services that Andromeda’s solutions adopt also encompasses the holistic view suggested above.
The open protocol KNX systems create a common platform on which all of the building’s services can communicate, unifying disparate systems into a single, stream-lined approach. As well as reducing cabling, this also creates a central point of control for the maintenance team to interface with the system. Such a system can also respond to the changing needs of the building, by offering more simple maintenance and flexibility, and full future-proofing capabilities by not being tied down to a single manufacturer. Andromeda’s control solutions offer an investment in the future of the building and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions. All with tangible payback results.
Yet it still seems that cutting-edge technologies such as this are not being procured on projects as a high priority, as they should be. As an industry, it is our responsibility to reach the key decision-makers in the procurement and tender process, educating them about the benefits of these technologies, aiming to alter pricing perceptions so that people begin to see past the bottom line, and consider investments over immediate capital cost. It is up to us to identify and target decision-makers within the companies associated with our contracts and build trust with them directly. They must be educated and informed of the practical, environmental and financial benefits of investing in control technologies. Only when this process begins to take effect will we, as an industry, be on our way to playing our part in meeting the Government targets fully.