Find your controls champion

It has been said before in this column that one of the benefits and disadvantages of building controls and building energy management systems (BEMS) is that they are hidden energy savers. Operating largely unnoticed by building occupants, controls may be overlooked and as a result building managers may not see the full energy saving benefits these technologies are capable of delivering.

Ideally, building controls and BEMS in any building would have their own champion – an individual to take responsibility for ensuring that the performance of controls is regularly monitored and recorded. A controls champion would also be responsible for tracking the output of data from a BEMS to report on building energy performance, anomalies in energy use or the results of energy saving strategies adopted by the organisation.

If one person can take on the role of controls champion, there are many benefits. Perhaps one of the most important is that at least one person in the building will know how the BEMS operates, and they can take responsibility for ensuring that their training is kept up-to-date.

For the controls champion, there is a logical sequence that can be followed, creating a continuous feedback loop that ensures energy-use and carbon emissions are minimised.

Firstly you need to determine what your energy management requirements are, for example is it to reduce energy consumption, minimise carbon emissions or a mix of both. The next step is to assess how effectively the existing controls and BEMS are meeting these requirements.

You then need to carry out a technical assessment of the BEMS and controls. This might include simple steps such as examining sensors to ensure they are operating correctly or checking that manual overrides have not been left on.

It is also important to be able to anticipate how energy management requirements might change, so liaison with the wider business is important, as is selecting appropriate energy controls strategies such as demand control.

Finally, once implemented you need to establish a programme of continuous assessment and performance monitoring.

Active use of controls and BEMS always gives the best results in terms of efficient and effective operation of building services such as heating, ventilation and lighting. By ‘active’ the BCIA means that controls are not a fit-and-forget technology because no matter how intelligent the BEMS is, the real brains of the system sit in front of the screen.

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