Short term gains and long term strategy

Increasing numbers of organisations of all sizes are now choosing to take a more comprehensive view of carbon reduction because that’s where the real savings lie, says Paul Summers, CEO of WEMSinternational.

The popular approach to carbon reduction over the last few years has been to target the low-hanging fruit or fast fixes of energy saving. However, it’s now becoming clear that organisations risk missing out on long term energy savings by neglecting to take things to the next level. By gaining insight into how premises function, the behaviour of people who work there and the trends in building use it’s possible to not only make short term gains in carbon reduction, but also ensure that those energy savings stay locked in.

Fostering real energy efficiency

Once, long term energy management strategy was the preserve of energy intensive users. Now, however, attitudes are changing, and non-energy intensive companies are developing energy reduction strategies that span the long term. In some cases, it is environmental legislation and CO2 targets driving the change; in other cases, the drive to reduce energy consumption (and, correspondingly, energy bills) is overwhelmingly financial.

For one major retailing and fitness business, carbon reduction has become a board-level issue. “At a board level, DW Sports is committed to energy reduction and sustainability in a very real and proactive way,” comments Dan Hubbard, Utilities & Property Systems Manager at DW Sports. “We had made some inroads by addressing the low hanging fruit, but knew the real energy efficiency solutions involved taking greater control of the plant.”

Taking control

The key word is control. An organisation that doesn’t control how energy is used across its premises is almost certainly wasting energy. For this reason, Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS), with wide functionality for monitoring and controlling energy use for heating, cooling, lighting and more, are growing in popularity. What’s more, advances in technology mean that BEMS are no longer a blunt instrument; they are intelligent, intuitive systems that are capable of overcoming common barriers to carbon reduction.

Perhaps the most common source of energy waste in organisations is people. They leave the lights on in empty rooms. They mess with carefully programmed controls. People may be a company’s greatest asset, but they’re also a liability when it comes to saving energy. Indeed, many organisations find that the initial savings they make after their first big push towards energy efficiency are undone in the long term as a result of human error.

For DW Sports, addressing this ‘people problem’ was a core part of its energy strategy. In fact, according to Dan Hubbard, the company wanted to remove human error from the equation altogether, in order to create more efficient operation and control of the estate.

Gaining insight

Another vital part of unlocking long term energy savings is gaining insight into your premises – and using that insight to run the estate more effectively. Almost every organisation collects data about energy use in the company, yet few are able to use this mountain of data effectively. This is where technology comes in.

Extensive refurbishment and rewiring for an expensive wired BEMS may be the mainstream approach to gaining crucial insight into how your estate operates. Yet, for most organisations, the reality is one of inherited estates and limited budgets. This means working with what you have to achieve the greatest on-site energy efficiency. Often, this involves taking advantage of the latest technology.

Indeed, advances in wireless technology mean that simple retrofit installation of a wireless BEMS is now a reality. By using a frequency below the regular range to avoid interference with other office or retail wireless equipment, a wireless BEMS signal can cover distances of up to 8km, accommodating unusual building structures. What’s more, removing the cost of installation cabling, plus the lower cost base, makes wireless BEMS commercially viable for even the smallest buildings.

A safe investment

When DW Sports made the decision to improve the energy efficiency across its extensive estate of fitness centres, wireless BEMS technology from WEMSinternational was selected for the job and WEMSystem was trialled at three of its locations.

DW Sports’ Dan Hubbard explains: “For us, technology must be a safe investment, must not affect the customer experience in our fitness centres, and must go on in the background so as not to cause distraction or disruption. For these reasons, the installation of a wireless solution such as WEMSystem made perfect sense.”

Valuable environmental data

At the centre of the WEMSystem is the WEMSprogrammer, which communicates with wireless controllers and sensors placed throughout the estate to create a virtual ‘mesh’ network across the controlled space. The programmer is constantly receiving valuable environmental data from sensors that enables the building stock to consume energy in as lean a manner as possible.

DW Sports’ initial energy savings as a result of the WEMSystem were impressive, with an immediate reduction in energy use of over 17%. However, for DW Sports, this is just part of the equation. Now the company’s thoughts turn to long term carbon reduction.

Dan Hubbard and the team at DW Sports have worked closely with WEMSinternational to scrutinise the initial data and optimise the trial sites to achieve maximum savings. Wherever waste is identified, a solution is presented to rectify the situation.

“The WEMS wireless install was very clean and non-disruptive,” confirms Dan Hubbard. “In fact, intelligent control and the integration of ventilation and air conditioning systems could soon deliver even greater savings. We are now looking forward to an exciting future of energy savings as we move forward in the process.”

DW Sports is far from alone in using wireless BEMS technology to reap massive energy savings. BT, Matalan, Tui Travel and Schuh have also achieved 15-30% energy savings using WEMSystem. Their success stories prove that regarding energy saving as an on-going commitment is the most effective route to real carbon reduction. Naturally, there are substantial energy savings to unlock in the short term – but the biggest returns come from a long term plan of action.

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