Buy cheap, buy twice   

With some private finance initiative (PFI) hospital contracts coming to an end, Bob Blincowe, strategic account manager UK healthcare at Trend Control Systems, explains why many end users should have considered backwards compatibility when originally installing their Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS), and what solutions are available now.

Although a subject of some controversy since they were first implemented in 1992, the National Health Service (NHS) currently has more than 100 PFI hospitals. Some of these are based on 25-year contracts, which means that they are getting ready to be handed back to NHS trusts and must be presented in a well-maintained and functional condition. 

Money matters 

Lots of these facilities were constructed using the concept of value engineering – something I think is one of the most misguided and misused terms in the building services sector. Instead of helping to create a systematic and organised approach to providing the necessary functions for a project, it has simply turned into a way to base product specification on lowest price alone. 

Then, as now, when faced with a squeezed budget the temptation to try to save money might be understandable. Yet ignoring the bigger picture can compromise the effectiveness of a BEMS, leading to poor building performance, energy wastage and unsatisfactory comfort conditions – the latter of which is particularly problematic in healthcare environments.

Predictive maintenance 

The result of this short-sightedness is that many BEMS installed 25 years ago are no longer fit for purpose and need to be upgraded due to legacy issues and devices that are no longer supported. 

Ripping out and replacing an entire BEMS infrastructure requires significant capital expenditure and can disrupt the smooth running of a hospital. Noise, the health and safety of staff, patient privacy and restricted access to various parts of a building are logistical nightmares. Yet, if there had been greater forethought employed at the start of these PFI hospital projects, such unwelcome scenarios could have been avoided.

The point is that when it comes to a BEMS, backwards compatibility is crucial. Trend is unique in this respect and one of our latest cutting edge controllers is able to communicate with the very first device that we manufactured back in 1982. For example, an IQ®4E can communicate with any IQ®3, IQ®2 or even IQ®1 controller, meaning that integrating new products into an existing BEMS can be carried out quickly and easily, with minimal cost and disruption. This ethos of backwards compatibility also means that Trend is ‘connected ready’ for software as a service (SaaS) functionality going forward – even for older products.

Lesson learned?

The fact is that if a PFI hospital currently having to upgrade its entire BEMS had chosen Trend originally, instead of a value engineered option, it would be in a position where it only needs to upgrade selectively where needed to benefit from the newest technologies such as IQ®VISION. Therefore, end users need to think hard about what’s best for their hospitals in the long-term and I sincerely hope that those in this position don’t make the same mistake twice.

Bob Blincowe is Trend’s healthcare sector specialist, and a member of the new Demand Generation team. This blog is part of a series of sector spotlights, from our Demand Generation subject matter experts.

To find out more about how Trend can help your healthcare facility, please contact or visit our case studies for application examples. 

Published  on  05/03/2019  by  Jenny Morris
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