Seeing is believing

You may not have the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) website on your list of internet favourites, but it’s a site that you might want to take a look at. It offers a good example of the Government leading the way on tracking energy use to improve efficiency in its buildings.

The home page of the DECC website displays up-to-the-minute details on its energy use, as well as a graph of energy consumption over the previous 24 hours. Today, the graphs show that the Department’s London HQ is spending around £30 per hour on energy, and producing approximately 177kg CO2 every hour as a result.

The graphics are fascinating to watch, and clearly illustrate how monitoring energy use can also help building occupants reduce energy waste. According to the DECC, this graphical tool has three main uses. First, the DECC wants to be transparent about the amount and cost of energy used, secondly the information provides an incentive to energy saving and finally the aim is to encourage other building managers to use this kind of information to take control of their own energy savings.

The data is collected and collated through the DECC’s building management system. I think that sometimes, controls experts underestimate the power of showing energy consumption in this way. We observe data like this regularly, so perhaps don’t realise the really practical way that such a simple demonstration can help reduce energy. If people can see what they’re using, they become far more aware of what happens when they leave on the lights in unoccupied space, or turn up the cooling too high.

The DECC has already spotted spikes of energy use in the morning as boilers fire up to heat the hot water for sinks and showers. Getting the system up to temperature raises the load and may be an unnecessary drain on energy. As the website states: “The visualisation tells us a lot about the way the building works, and how the building is managed. “

The DECC has been smart about using the BMS more intelligently and has optimised controls for lighting, heating and cooling. Commenting on this strategy the website states: “These measures have had, and will continue to have, a significant impact on our carbon emissions, with a short payback period.”

The graphical interface, providing simple headline figures on energy and carbon, provides a link between the hidden benefits of building controls, and end-users. It is an important example of how controls can be used to encourage behaviour change in occupants, as well as reducing energy waste. By showing, not simply telling, a BMS can be at the heart of an organisation’s carbon reduction strategy.

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