Never underestimate the kids

When the IT revolution commenced in earnest it was evident that the most able section of our society to absorb the new technology were the kids.  Their intuitive approach to all things new meant that the learning process was fast and easy for them, leaving the adults building technophobia barriers of “yes, but…why….how?”  In general we adults have now caught up, but there is a valuable lesson to be learnt in not underestimating children’s ability to grasp large concepts, such as energy conservation, especially if it is presented in a child-friendly format.

Working alongside a number of schools and their consultants/contractors, Priva Building Intelligence is helping to educate the next generation of energy consumers using data from the school’s building management system (BMS), analysing and then presenting it in a selection of formats; either fed straight through to the classroom PCs or to a dedicated touchscreen.

Getting onto the network

Employing the inbuilt web server capability of the Priva BMS, the systems integrator responsible for the controls contract, AES Controls, successfully integrated the BMS at two separate schools within the premises’ IT networks. 

“Although such integration projects are becoming more commonplace,” said Mike Sims of AES Controls, “there is still a great reluctance by IT managers to allow the BMS to cohabit on their networks.  In this case, the project specification detailed the use of the IT network, which was incorporated within the design recommendation and fully supported by the schools as they could see that the Priva TC WebVision software could be utilised as a teaching aid to demonstrate to its pupils the effectiveness of the renewable energy systems.”                                                                                                  

Orchard Primary School in Sidcup and Upland Primary School in Bexleyheath are new schools constructed within a design and build programme.  The buildings take advantage of solar and photovoltaic technologies which provide free energy in the form of hot water and electricity, respectively. 

TC WebVision allows every PC in the school to access the solar and photovoltaic systems via a software window.  Currently, the children can monitor the energy being generated by both as a result of harnessing the power of the sun, thereby proving the effectiveness of renewable energy.  Each primary school has been installed with a Priva Compri HX8E controller.  From the outset the HX range was designed to support TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) as standard.  

Heating for each school is via an underfloor heating system with a dedicated air handling unit (AHU) providing additional ventilation to the kitchen area.  The Compri HX manages the hot water supply, incorporating energy saving routines, such as optimum start and weather compensated heating.  The latter takes advantage of the effect that the outside temperature has on the building fabric.  As the outside air temperature rises, the building mass absorbs the heat and this eventually permeates into the internal space.  The weather compensated heating program regulates boiler generated heat in accordance with any available ‘free’ outdoor heat.

Energy Eddie

At the Archbishop Ryan School in Dublin, Priva took this a stage further by supplying a dedicated touchscreen providing an interactive device that could be accessed by the children. 

For staff and students wanting to learn about the school’s construction, energy conservation measures and monitoring of the internal air quality conditions, a cartoon character called Energy Eddie is at hand to guide them through menus and answer their questions.  The wall-mounted touchscreen has been placed in a main circulation area, making it highly visible to all and encouraging its use.  The students can extract a wide range of information about their school by simply interacting with the touchscreen.  The data is supplied in a friendly format: for example, to show the amount of water used, rather than just display a total consumption figure, an illustration shows how many baths it would fill.  Remembering that this is a primary school, similar easy to understand illustrations are used throughout the system.

“The provision of data in XML format by the Priva BMS was vital to achieving reliable information transfer between the touchscreen and the BMS,” stated Chris Croly of BDP, the project M&E engineers, who programmed the touchscreen to gather information from the BMS.  “XML provides an open and easily understood method of communicating with a BMS and offers many interesting opportunities for increasing the user friendliness and flexibility of building management systems.”

This application clearly demonstrates the benefits of greater openness within the controls contract.  We supply the touchscreen as an optional display for the building control system, but it is capable of more than just displaying temperatures and plant status, as has been shown at the school.  With the correct software programming, it has the ability to educate and inform everyone, from energy managers to school children, of the importance of managing energy wisely in a format that is instantly recognizable and understood by the viewer. 

The last few years has seen a greater push by government to encourage all energy consumers to be more prudent.  I believe there is a great future for interactive touchscreens providing energy consumption data in a variety of formats suitable for schools, offices, factories, retail outlets, public buildings, and more.  It just requires a little imagination on the part of the user backed up by the technical expertise of the controls company.

Energy performance

Monitored energy results for the first year of operation at the Archbishop Ryan School indicate that its energy performance is twice as good as that of a school constructed to meet the good practice energy targets outlined in the CIBSE Guide F. 

The first step in meeting these impressive targets was the design of the building to maximise useful passive solar gain, daylight and natural ventilation.  The building was also air tested to meet a leakage target twice as good as that required under UK building regulations.  The building systems and controls were optimised to reduce the energy consumption of the lighting and heating systems, with particular emphasis placed on a direct boiler weather compensation routine that maximises the fully modulating, condensing boilers’ efficiency through direct control of its modulation.

Using Priva’s web browser approach to building control, TC WebDisplay enables the school’s headmaster to access information in an easy to understand web-based format from the PC on his desk.  This web based approach uses the structured cabling of the school’s IT network and removes the need to provide a dedicated and inflexible cabled front end.  For example, meters record building utilities (mains gas, electricity and water supplies) and the BMS allows them to be displayed not only on the Principal’s PC but on any PC within the school. 

“It is fair to say that everyone learnt something from this project, particularly in respect of sharing information with the people, no matter what their age, who use the building and are instrumental in its energy consumption,” commented Charlie Carson of Temperature Control Systems, responsible for the design, panel manufacture and commissioning of the BMS. “And now that it is complete and fully operational there is a proven controls template for future applications.”

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