Building services can make an environmental difference

The pressure is on all of us to reduce energy consumption both at home and work and for those involved in managing a building’s services this involves the double challenge of keeping costs down whilst doing our bit to save the planet.
At the same time, increasing legislation places pressure on companies to ensure high levels of both air tightness in buildings and air quality, so can these apparently contradictory requirements be met? And can you save both money and the planet at the same time?

Mitsubishi Electric (Living Environmental Systems Division, UK) is calling for a radical overhaul of the way we heat and cool our buildings and highlighting how we can all help achieve annual savings of over three million tonnes of CO2 by 2016, whilst potentially saving money on the fuel bills.

Like many other companies, we at Mitsubishi Electric are focusing on how we can minimise the environmental impact of our operations. In doing so, we realised that we are in a fairly unique position which allows us to look beyond our immediate corporate self to try and help influence the way others actually install, use and maintain mechanical heating and cooling.

In looking at the important role a building’s services play in modern commercial life, we realised that if we can get attention focused on this area, we can help everyone reduce their energy consumption, thereby saving money on fuel bills and reducing CO2 emissions.

We have developed a 10-point action plan which points the way to the reduction of over three million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year by 2016 – that’s the equivalent of taking more than 830,000 cars off the road.

Called the Green Gateway Initiative, the plan looks at how we can challenge engrained thinking and develop new approaches to support others in achieving their own CO2 goals.

As a manufacturer, we realise that the future must be sustainable and that is why we have announced that we will no longer sell cooling-only equipment in the UK.

What we have also realised, is that there are ways that all companies can play their part, some needing additional capital outlay, but many requiring only a new way of thinking combined with simple behavioural changes such as better maintenance regimes.

How many times have we all seen filters and screens clogged with dust or leaves? Even partial blockages to a system will cause the machinery to consume more energy as it has to work harder to suck air through whatever obstruction exists. Increasing the regularity of simple maintenance such as cleaning filters shouldn’t increase costs but can really make a difference to the energy levels consumed.

Better control

Better controls for a system can also make a huge impact, as they could finally stop the never ending battle between the ‘too hots’ and the ‘too colds’ within a building.

A programmable controller will allow you to keep temperatures within a defined band, regardless of how your staff play around with the thermostat. There are still too many buildings where the thermostat is used as an off/on button and that can’t be good for your fuel bills or the environment.

All of the ten initiatives are focused on creating a significant impact on CO2 reduction in the UK’s buildings, by reducing energy consumption and the energy bills of both consumers and businesses.

Even where we are calling for people to consider spending money on new equipment, there are sound economic arguments for doing so.

One of the central planks of our 10-point initiative is the idea of combining as much ‘free’ cooling with the recovery of wasted heat, to keep the level of energy a building needs to consume down to a minimum, whilst ensuring that the occupants have a comfortable internal environment.

Building regulations

We have already touched on the Building Regulations, but just how can you balance the need to keep as much heating or cooling energy inside your building whilst at the same time ensuring that you can provide a fresh and healthy working environment for the occupants? Thankfully help is available in the form of heat recovery ventilators, which allow you to extract and replace stale air whilst efficiently recovering the heating or cooling energy.

This energy is then used to treat the incoming fresh air to reduce the overall energy consumption, thereby helping comply with air tightness of buildings regulations and the requirement to keep air fresh.

Systems such as Lossnay air-to-air heat recovery units have all received ECA (Enhanced Capital Allowance) approval because of their advanced energy efficiency.

By investing in such equipment, you will begin to reduce your energy consumption, but more immediately, you can also offset the capital investment against your annual tax bill, so not only are you saving energy and reducing your monthly bills, you can also use the capital costs to reduce the level of tax you face.

Incentives

Similar incentives apply to a lot of modern air conditioning equipment, so not only can you use any investment to help lower your overall tax bill, modern, inverter-driven equipment is just so much more energy efficient than older, fixed speed units that you will quickly notice the difference in energy used. Dare I say that you may even notice a reduction from the ‘too hot, too cold’ brigade as most modern equipment is much more flexible and controllable.

That said, capital cost is just one aspect and many companies struggle with the idea of the downtime they may face if they upgrade their mechanical plant.

However, there are now also replacement systems that allow you to keep all existing pipework and electrics and these can bring the work required down from weeks to days in many cases.

With our green gateway initiative, we are trying to raise awareness of the important role that the built environment plays in modern life and the many ways that can easily be found to minimise energy consumption.

To find out other ways in which you can play a part in this campaign, visit www.greengatewayinitiative.co.uk.

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