Is your building fit for purpose?

Chris Monson of Trend Controls explains why having the foresight to specify and install a building energy management system (BEMS) at the construction phase will ensure long term savings for the occupants and reduce the burden imposed by environmental legislation.

It’s a sad fact of life that despite the various initiatives and drives towards greater energy efficiency within buildings, too few developers recognise the long term value of installing a fully featured building energy management system (BEMS) at the construction stage.

BEMS facilitate greater energy efficiency and the cost savings and environmental benefits that can be experienced as a result of investment in this technology are considerable. A fully integrated solution can have up to 84% of a building’s energy consuming devices directly under its control, offering greater visibility of energy use by monitoring services such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting. As buildings become more intelligent and fully networked via structured cabling, the scope to include even more services is eminently feasible.

Forward thinking

Developers tend to fall into two broad groups – there are those that configure buildings for others to inhabit and there are those who design and build premises for their own use. For the former group the main driver is to save costs at the construction phase and therefore little thought is given to the building’s future occupants and how they use the building and the energy consumed in doing so. As there are no regulations stating that a BEMS must be installed, there’s a strong possibility that it won’t be. However, this lack of forward thinking leads to future occupants having to cope with inadequate visibility and control of their energy usage and, therefore, higher overheads and a larger carbon footprint.

When it comes to the second group, the lack of a BEMS often comes down to the failure of owners to specify their needs at procurement stage and make sure that they have systems in place that will maximise the potential of the building. While this type of developer will also have one eye on the cost of the project, the increased capital costs of installing an energy management system is easily countered by the return on investment, with an average simple payback of typically 3.5 years.

Implementing a full BEMS in a new build can form less than 1% of the total construction expenditure and energy savings of 10-20% can be achieved when compared to controlling each aspect of a building’s infrastructure separately.

Lighting accounts for 23% of a building’s energy use, and it is estimated that around a third of the energy consumed for lighting in non-domestic buildings could be saved by utilising technology that automatically turns off the lights when space is unoccupied. In addition, of the 57% of energy used in heating and ventilating buildings, some areas are still being heated and cooled when vacant, wasting even more energy.

By applying a range of control and monitoring initiatives building services can operate in strict accordance with demands and prevailing conditions, thereby avoiding unnecessary use of energy. The data produced allows building managers to better analyse, understand and improve their site’s energy usage and costs by having them presented in an organised and informative way with clear signposts for improvements.

Carbon reduction

Despite the controversy that greeted the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC), it hasn’t been the only driver for energy reduction. The Climate Change Levy (CCL), Air Conditioning Assessments, Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) also affect businesses, while compliance with voluntary certification standards such as ISO 50001 put the onus on companies to address energy use and carbon reduction.

Energy management isn’t a niche interest – building occupiers are now demanding greater visibility and transparency of their energy consumption and need access to energy data. Building managers are looking for more sophisticated applications to help analyse and manage their infrastructure and demand platforms that can handle broader integration of other building systems.

There are those who feel that regulations are the only way to make sure that BEMS are installed at the point of initial construction, although others are reluctant to see the introduction of more onerous restrictions on an already pressured construction sector. The point is that regulation shouldn’t be necessary if a long term approach to energy efficiency is factored in and the benefits of a BEMS in being able to achieve savings are considered.

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