Be an active controls user

Regular readers of this column will know just how important building controls can be when it comes to reducing energy use in buildings. Figures are now widely available that show how much more energy efficient buildings are when controls and building management systems (BMS) are applied and used.

One of the major advantages of building controls is that they now come in a wide range of sizes and capabilities. Consultants and installers can specify as complex or as simple a system as the building and budget demand. Retrofitting controls into existing buildings is also now made easier with open systems such as BACnet, KNX and LonWorks, along with wireless technology that makes fitting faster and cheaper.

But there is an important point to bear in mind with building controls – they are not a fit-and-forget solution. Building controls and BMS should be regarded in the same way as software for an IT system. It needs to be used correctly in order that an organisation sees the full benefits.

Controls should be used to measure, monitor and manage energy in buildings. This is a cyclical method for tracking energy use and responding to it. Energy consumption should be monitored and then evaluated and assessed to find out where is energy being used, when the peak-usage times are and do they always coincide with times when the building is occupied?

Energy management starts with a plan to identify where can energy be saved quickly. One of the most common problems is that heating and cooling are running at weekends when they are not necessary. Lighting a building at night may also be an unnecessary use of energy but steps can be put in place to address these issues.

The important step is to then keep monitoring energy use. This will show how well energy-optimisation plans are working, and measure exactly how much energy, and money, are being saved as a result.

There are also benefits beyond energy saving. These include better comfort levels for occupants, extended life of other building services equipment such as boilers and air conditioning plant because it is not operating when it is not needed and increased reliability of those systems since constant monitoring will help to identify potential failures before they happen.

Continuous measuring, monitoring and managing also means that your business has a much better idea of how and where energy is being used in the organisation. Whether or not your energy consumption is high enough to oblige you to take part in the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme should not matter – knowing that you can save operational costs in the long-term is enough of an incentive for any business.

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