Mission control

The world of advanced building controls is an evolving one that is becoming an integral part of total facilities management service delivery. Paul Thompson, General Manager of Dalkia’s Controls Division considers the options for building managers and FMs.
How often do staff or colleagues reach for the thermostat on temperature controls, leave meeting room lights switched on or complain the air conditioning is too cold in the summer? Building controls are an inevitable necessity in the development of the modern workplace environment, whether this is a commercial office, retail outlet, hospital, school or civic building. However the specialist knowledge required to ensure that controls are managed effectively with a view to the long-term, and not simply maintained, calls for specialist input – often from outside the organisation.

Building controls in the modern working environment are commonplace. However, their misuse often leads to expensive mistakes where controls are not set correctly and are consequently not being used to get the best performance and efficiency out of the building. Such unnecessary expense is fuelled by a misunderstanding of the function of building controls, no dedicated servicing or a lack of education as to the importance of the efficient, joined up approach to their operation.

Both FM and building controls as part of an overall building management system (BMS) are indispensable in the modern business environment. The building control industry has come a full circle in recent years with building managers weighing up the benefits of outsourcing to an FM company or dealing with controls in-house. The process is partly driven by the need to establish a comfortable working environment for staff, as well as to maximise cost efficiency of the building infrastructure.

Facilities management and building intelligence are starting to shed their image as carefully scrutinised, short-term expenditures, and are becoming increasingly viewed as strategic investments with real impact on business performance. Finding an FM partner that can self-deliver all its services is the holy grail in these terms. Only through an integrated approach can a building manager or boardroom director really see the individual cost savings of implementing a more efficient controls system – combined with lighting, M&E, energy management and other building services.

Using an organisation such as Dalkia that can self-deliver all FM functions across a contract will promote the integration of services to ensure a joined-up approach where information can be shared and used to benefit the entire operation, maintenance and management of a building.

Legislative measures such as the Building Regulations Part L – under the umbrella of the European edict the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD), combined with the latest price hikes in gas and electricity have led to a heightened awareness of energy at boardroom level. This awareness is not only of the impact energy efficiency can have in terms of saving money through cost savings but also the effect energy and efficiency measures can have on a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy.

Dealing with the development of an effective controls system, its maintenance and management, often becomes part of an integrated mechanical and electrical (M&E) programme, tied to core FM services, all driven by energy efficiency. Where energy forms an integral part of an existing contract, building controls can be used to work in conjunction with other deliverables such as utilities procurement, lighting, refrigeration and M&E to create a through the line solution that sees energy savings taken to the bottom line on behalf of the client organisation.

Where reducing energy consumption is the fundamental driver Dalkia will undertake an audit of the client site prior to making a guarantee to deliver quantifiable energy savings, with cost savings against that. In such instances Dalkia will even fund the capital outlay of a new building controls system, based on the savings the client can expect to see in the longer term, ensuring an overall reduction in cost to the client.

Underpinning a joined-up approach to BMS or advanced building controls is interoperability which must be maintained as a protocol throughout the entire system. Enabling building controls to work, not as individual silos but as an integrated system, can offer the building manager or FM valuable opportunities for information sharing between elements of the BMS.

An example of BMS systems being used to effect has been put into practice by Dalkia at leading high street retailer, Zara, where an all encompassing energy programme across 19 stores is designed to manage the organisation’s energy costs for plant, air conditioning and lighting. Zara was one of the first organisations to enter Performance Partnerships, a unique energy contract. This ensures fixed price energy procurement, combined with guaranteed reductions of 5% in energy consumption and emissions delivered by Dalkia. Extensive investment in a BMS system with a controller in each store provides Dalkia with the means to remotely monitor and control energy usage from plant, air conditioning and lighting. In addition new lighting solutions have been introduced by the specialist lighting service division of Dalkia, Parkersell, and upgraded door controllers have been installed to reduce heat loss and enhance planned preventative maintenance regimes.

Interoperability has been developing since the 1980s when the first direct digital controls (DDCs) were introduced. Largely incompatible with one another at the time, IT has been deployed to great advantage for BMS and controls systems so that now controls use the same user interface monitors to control independently controlled DDC products. In real terms an outsourced FM will be able to link air conditioning with electrical services, lighting and even security to enable ease of use for full-time in-house FMs or building managers and operatives.

Such energy engineered solutions are one aspect of advanced building controls that an outsourced FM provider can implement as part of a total facilities management service. In this way controls should not be seen as an individual area to be tackled separately from other operative responsibilities. Controls are an integral part of service delivery and one of the fundamental issues for an FM provider operating under best practice to implement change for the better in terms of energy and cost savings via greater efficiency within a building.

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