BEMS systems give the developer a sixth sense

Duty-bound under contracts with partner NHS PCTs, independent primary care contractors, and other community stakeholders who lease healthcare premises from it, to ensure that the buildings’ energy systems and plant run efficiently and cost-effectively, Community Solutions, a leading investor in, and developer of, UK community-based health, social, and local authority services, is now standardising on Trend Controls’ building energy management systems to ensure that such vital equipment runs within defined parameters, and that facilities without FM personnel on site day-to-day are kept both comfortable to work in, and fit-for-purpose. HEJ editor Jonathan Baillie reports.

Established in 2001, Community Solutions’ principal business, via partnerships with local community stakeholders such as PCTs and independent healthcare providers on the one hand, and funding partners and construction companies on the other, is to design, develop, and lease to PCTs and local authorities, build, and then manage, the facilities occupied by PCTs, independent healthcare providers, and other local “stakeholders”. As the company itself puts it: “Community Solutions is responsible for a portfolio of well-equipped modern premises, many being local primary care centres or integrated health resource centres, throughout the UK”. 
    Having seen a significant expansion in its portfolio since 2007 particularly, the company now owns and leases over 60 healthcare premises to public and primary sector partners, split equally through the NHS LIFT initiative and directly to GPs and PCTs. There are now eight Community Solutions LIFTCos, each either already operating, or in the process of building, between two and 10 healthcare centres of varying sizes. These LIFTCos are in Barnsley; Doncaster; Bury, Tameside and Glossop; Solent – on England’s south coast and around Portsmouth; Camden and Islington in London; Plymouth; West Sussex, and Bradford. The company’s non-LIFT portfolio is spread across both England and Scotland.

Seasoned engineer
Brian Court, a seasoned mechanical engineer, joined Community Solutions in 2007 as the company’s first facilities manager, after spending over 25 years managing a portfolio of some 250 UK buildings, including air bases, for the US Navy. He elaborated on Community Solutions’ overall role: “Alongside being a provider of high quality public facilities, we see ourselves very much as a multi-disciplinary project development, building, and services provider. Since the company was established we have partnered with leading construction companies and equity partners to deliver an ever-expanding network of healthcare premises established regionally. Once these have been built, it is our responsibility to ensure they are as efficiently run and operated as possible for our tenant occupiers.”
    Community Solutions has property and business managers based locally to serve the facilities. These teams keep a close check on how well plant and equipment is operating, and strive to ensure that any problems are rapidly addressed. Day-to-day management of systems such as air conditioning, heating, and hot water systems, is also the responsibility of a number of external FM companies. In addition to entering into contract with the local public sector partner or GP practices for a typical term of 25 years, Community Solutions enters into maintenance contracts with each FM provider. 
    Brian Court elaborates: “While there are perhaps a handful of Community Solutions LIFTCo medical facilities where the FM service provider has staff on-site, generally the external FM personnel will be located at the regional base of the FM company. It is these FM personnel’s job to regularly visit the facilities to check that plant is operating to within pre-agreed parameters. Its efficient day-to-day running is increasingly dependent on the building energy management system installed within each facility.”
    He went on to explain that he first came across Trend Controls BEMS equipment during his long and varied spell in facilities management with the US Navy, where one of his key responsibilities was to ensure that energy and other plant operated efficiently and cost-effectively, and was properly maintained, across a large portfolio of buildings.

Impressed by design/ease-of-use
He went on:“My first introduction to Trend was in 1984, when I discovered that not only was the BEMS system from a rival supplier that an M&E contractor had installed for us at the US Navy’s administrative headquarters in London’s Mayfair virtually obsolete from day one, but had also rapidly proved unreliable. In seeking to replace it, I was impressed with the design and ease-of-use of Trend Controls’ equipment, and have been a firm advocate ever since. Subsequently, my estates and facilities team specified Trend BEMS systems for many of the US Navy properties we managed, and, on joining Community Solutions, I began, wherever possible, to specify the company’s BEMS equipment for our healthcare properties.” 
    For its LIFT portfolio, Community Solutions manages the lifecycle funds for each “FundCo”; thus decisions on when to renew and replace plant and equipment are as far as possible undertaken to be effective at pre-agreed intervals, or varied on a case-by-case basis. Brian Court said: “Since joining Community Solutions Management Services (CSMS) four years ago, I have initiated a process whereby older, more inefficient BEMS equipment from other suppliers is replaced by Trend BEMS components, and have also developed a BEMS strategy that will see all Community Solutions premises that are developed or updated in the future fitted with Trend equipment.” (see Fig. 1)
    One exception, Brian Court explained, would be were, for instance, a PCT, or the mechanical and electrical contractor fitting out a new building, to express a preference to use another supplier’s BEMS plant. Here it would generally be up to that local stakeholder, or the contractor, to come back, via the Energy Management Board established for each LIFTCo, to secure approval. To date, however, the majority of the M&E contractors and consortia with whom Community Solutions had developed new healthcare facilities had been “enthusiastic” about Trend systems.

Remote management facility
He said: “Within the various Community Solutions LiftCo premises we now have three Trend 963 Supervisor user interfaces – at the healthcare facilities in Radcliffe near Doncaster, Fareham in Hampshire, and Grimethorpe in Barnsley.” 
    The 963 Supervisor’s software not only allows live monitoring and remote adjustment of plant located within the building where it is located, but also of equipment linked to it in other facilities in the locality – via a dedicated broadband link. Each of the three 963 systems that Community Solutions has is a 963 Server system. These enable authorised personnel, such as engineers at FM companies servicing and maintaining plant, to monitor live data, and to make adjustments remotely. They also give Community Solutions property and business managers, and selected PCT or other building occupier staff, access to the data, but not the ability to adjust plant systems or performance. This ensures that any changes that are made are both controlled, and considered.
    Brian Court said: “The client web server facility within the Trend 963 Supervisors has proven invaluable. Our property and business managers get a detailed day-to-day overview of the operation of the plant and building services in the centres in their area, and my London colleagues and I can also monitor and review the data from any of the facilities linked to a 963. In tandem we can thus rapidly identify and rectify any potential problems, hopefully before a building’s occupiers even become aware of them.”

Hour by hour or day by day
John O’Leary, the key account manager at Trend Controls for the Community Solutions buildings fitted with Trend BEMS components, explains that, when viewing a page in a PC web browser using the Client Server facility, a property or business manager, or, say, a healthcare centre staff member with some basic engineering knowledge, can view data for particular times of day or, say, collected over the preceding week or month. They can also compare operating performance and parameters day-to-day, or hour-to-hour, over a set period, and identify any plant or equipment that may not be functioning at 100% efficiency. 
    He says: “When operating as a server, the 963 Supervisor automatically converts the data it has collected – via an Ethernet network that transmits the information to it from a series of microprocessor-controlled Trend IQ3 out-stations (also known as controllers) fitted either in its own building, or at web-linked remote locations – and makes that information accessible on a client PC or series of PCs.” 
    Each Trend IQ controller will have taken and processed data from a number of sensors each connected to key plant. No additional engineering is required to provide the 963’s benefits across a business; the PC simply needs to be connected to a TCP/IP network, and to have a web browser installed.

Detailed monthly reports
Brian Court explained: “I now receive detailed monthly reports, based on data collected by each BEMS, from the FM companies servicing and maintaining each of our LIFTCo buildings. These give me an accurate picture of how well plant and equipment is running, provide key performance indicators, and show whether or not the plant is working optimally.” Similar reports, and six-monthly “snapshots” of plant and equipment performance, also go to the company’s business and property managers.
    “Keeping a close eye on plant performance is critical not only because we have set parameters for each building in our contracts with the LIFT, but also to ensure that the buildings meet energy targets set out under, for instance, BREEAM, Part L of the Building Regulations, and those displayed on each premises’ Display Energy Certificate in accordance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive,” explained Brian Court. 
    “One of the main reasons I was brought in as Community Solutions’ first FM manager was because the company’s management recognised that, with our facilities likely to incorporate increasingly sophisticated medical and building services plant over the next 5-10 years, we needed an efficient energy management strategy. In addition, our agreements with both the external FM companies, and with the various buildings’ occupiers, stipulate that the premises be run efficiently and cost-effectively in terms of energy use.”

‘Pass-through costs’
Community Solutions, Brian Court explained, manages the payment of utility and energy bills at every building for each Fundco, and then passes the costs on to the occupier. He says: “We thus effectively act as a facilitator in the event of any query related to energy consumption and billing between the FM provider, the occupier, and the supply companies; another area where the data from the Trend BEMS equipment is extremely useful. A potential further example of drawing upon data from, say, the Client Server feature of a 963 Supervisor would be where staff at a medical centre claimed that the full use of a room or group of rooms (functional spaces) had been compromised during a given month stipulated period, in which case they would alert us first. We will then raise the matter with the FM provider, who will need to justify, say, any period where a room was too hot or too cold to use, or where plant was not working properly. If it can be shown that the occupier is right, and that there was no justifiable reason for, say, a power outage, or for a number of rooms being too hot or too cold for, say, more than a day, we may well have to compensate the healthcare provider via a rent reduction – a cost we would usually pass on to the FM company. 
    “However if the FM provider argued successfully that the reason why part of a building was unusable, for say, three days, was because the air conditioning had a latent defect, the builder or landlord (Fundco) would potentially be liable for any financial penalty. It is thus strongly in our interests – for ethical, practical, regulatory, and financial reasons – and to maintain a good working relationship with our tenants, that we purchase and install reliable, high quality BEMS and other plant, that can provide the type of detailed data we might need in such a scenario, at the outset.”

Potential for energy ‘pain-gain share’
Currently, he explained, Community Solutions has “pain/gain share” agreements with its tenants at very few of the 60-plus healthcare facilities, but, should this change, there would be an even greater incentive for it to scrutinise all plant operations for maximum efficiency, since any savings, for instance in electricity or gas costs, could then be shared between the Fundco and the occupier.

Looking at the practicalities
Looking at the practicalities of a BEMS, Brian Court explained that, in a typical set-up, a Community Solutions LIFT healthcare facility equipped with Trend BEMS components will incorporate a series of sensors installed around the building linked to plant such as the boiler, air conditioning, hot water distribution pipework, chillers etc, as well as room temperature sensors akin to domestic room thermostats. Some of the sensors will be mounted around occupied areas, and some “hidden” within, say, a basement plant room. 
    These sensors pass a wide range of data – on anything from boiler return temperature to pressure across pumps – to a series of Trend IQ3 “intelligent” outstations – compact, but sophisticated devices which then not only automatically control the plant connected to them to within set parameters, but also pass operating and performance data back to the 963 Supervisor system within the building, or, if an Internet link is in place, at a remote site.

Remote links
Currently, Brian Court explained, around half of the Community Solutions LIFT health and social care facilities feature Trend Controls BEMS components with a remote Ethernet connection to a 963 Supervisor, but, providing the funds can be found, he would like to extend this to all the centres in the future. 
    He says: “The IQ3 controllers take action to control the plant or equipment connected to them according to programmed operating parameters. In the case of controllers linked via the Internet to a 963 Supervisor, FM personnel visiting the centre where the Supervisor is located can fine tune plant operations both within that facility, and at any others linked to it, via a simple-to-use user interface.” 
    In addition to setting and monitoring a range of agreed parameters, including heating, hot water, and server room temperature, as well as electricity, gas and oil usage, the IQ3 controller and 963 Supervisor combination is also designed to provide useful data on water temperature and control, and how efficiently energy is being used. 
    Brian Court said: “Extremely easy-to-operate, with only minimal training, the 963 is one of the simplest BEMS interfaces I have experienced. The information that the software and hardware provide will, as I know from past experience, help external FM staff, and indeed our own personnel, to maximise the lifetime of plant, and optimise its performance, as well as providing information in accessible form on its operation over a period of hours, days, or months.

Lifecycle fund
“Although our lifecycle fund allows us to replace capital equipment at set intervals,” he says, “buying building energy plant can involve substantial investment, so we are always looking to get the most out of it, and to extend its lifetime. Using the data provided by the controllers and 963 Supervisor would, for example, enable one of our property managers, and/or the FM personnel serving the building, to easily identify that, where two heating pumps are operating within a plant room, such is the current configuration that one is running for much longer periods than the other. The Supervisor software will pick this up from the data fed to it, allowing an immediate adjustment, and in turn ensuring that both pumps operate for similar times, thus extending the likelihood that they will both continue to operate trouble-free for longer.
    “One thing I have noticed as an FM engineer and manager,” he adds, “is that, while many buildings incorporate BEMS systems, too often – perhaps sometimes because the interfaces appear complicated – they are simply put in and forgotten about. The beauty of Trend BEMS equipment is that it is designed to make monitoring and adjustment quick and straightforward, even for personnel with little specialist engineering knowledge.

‘Critical events’
One of the other advantages of the 963 Supervisor system, Trend’s John O’Leary explained, is that, should any of the “events” that Community Solutions or its FM providers have set as “critical” – such as excessively high or low heating temperature, gas valve trip, low hot water temperature, excessively low or high server room temperature, an electricity outage, or a lift or fire alarm – occur, the system’s critical alarm monitoring function will be initiated. This will see the nearest Community Solutions property or business manager alerted immediately via their mobile telephone. The developer currently has 23 sites already operational, and a further 11 under construction, either equipped with, or to be equipped with, this function. 
    Brian Court said: “On receiving the call, the individual can access the 963 interface wherever they are, identify the fault and its seriousness, and then, by calling the FM service provider’s helpdesk, get an engineer to site to rectify the issue quickly.”
    He went on to explain that, in many of the Community Solutions leased healthcare centres, plant rooms would generally be locked up, and only accessible either to, say, one or two of the occupying organisation’s staff, or, in some cases, only to the nearest Community Solutions business or property manager, or the external FM team. 
    He said: “Here, where we do not to have an efficient BEMS system in place, a fault on, say, the main boiler, could go unheeded until the point at which water either became very noticeably too hot or too cold. In one East London medical centre without a properly set BEMS system a water leak went undetected for two years, simply because nobody picked it up.”
    Trend adds that the 963 Supervisor Client / Server feature enables personnel with authorised client access (via a secure password), to monitor and scrutinise data from a particular Community Solutions facility not only on an office or home-based PC, but also on many PDAs and “smartphones”.

Regulation in mind
“The Trend BEMS systems we now have in place in many Community Solutions healthcare facilities are proving invaluable,” said Brian Court. “They are enabling us to optimise plant performance, and to ensure that plant and equipment is operated reliably and cost-effectively in accordance with our contracts, building standards, and legislation, and in a way that will allow us to meet our energy targets. The equipment also facilitates rapid identification of any plant failure, in most cases alerting us, or our FM providers, that equipment is likely to fail before it actually does so.” 
    While the FM companies are generally responsible for fine tuning the plant in each Community Solutions facility, a number of the centres incorporate override facilities that for instance, enable staff to operate, say, the air conditioning, or, in the winter, the heating, for an extended period over the originally pre-set hours. Individual or zonal room temperature controllers are also often adjustable in the range 15˚C to 25˚C by the building’s occupiers.

Ability to ‘drill down’
“Given our responsibility as the developer of the buildings for ensuring that plant is run as efficiently as possible, and so as to create a comfortable environment for users,” adds Brian Court, “it is particularly useful for us to be able, using the 963 Supervisor’s Client Server features, to view operating data and trend records whenever we wish to. In the case of a dispute, for instance, between the FM service provider and a building occupier, over how hot or cold particular rooms may have been over a set period, we can drill down to see whether, for example, staff turned heating up or down, or used hot water, outside the recommended parameters. 
    “I am also in a far stronger position to talk to our business development managers and the company’s asset manager, both about improved plant performance and about, for example, which boilers or air handling plant we might specify in future based on the data that the Trend BEMS system supplies. As energy legislation continues to bite, I can also sleep easy in the knowledge that our buildings will comply.”
    Brian Court added, as an additional illustration of what a high quality BEMS set-up could achieve, that hot and cold water temperatures at a number of Community Solutions healthcare facilities are now being especially carefully monitored, remotely by the Trend BEMS equipment in some cases, to ensure temperatures are maintained at above and below those that would allow Legionella build-up. 
    He added: “A number of the centres also incorporate server rooms where, should the temperature rise above around 25˚C, the server may overheat and shut down. Without its server operational, a multi-GP healthcare centre will generally have no access to its records, and is thus effectively out-of action until the server is back online. The Trend sensors and IQ3 controllers within these server rooms should ensure that such an event never happens.”

Documented BEMS strategies
Having visited many of Community Solutions’ healthcare premises during 2008 – one of his first tasks after joining the company – Brian Court told me he rapidly determined that it should implement a documented BEMS strategy which would see all centres in the future equipped with Trend Controls IQ3 controllers (or their successors), sensors, and, wherever possible, Supervisor software, either on the premises, or via a remote link. 
    He said: “This should mean that all the facilities we develop, whether single GP surgeries, integrated health resource centres, joint service centres, or community hospitals, should feature efficiently run plant to the benefit of the occupiers, the FM contractors maintaining them, patients and visitors, and us as a company with both strong local community relationships to maintain, and a reputation as an efficient, capable, building services provider to uphold. Trend also had a considerable track record in developing new products and systems as technology improves, which means that, as the clinical equipment and energy plant in our facilities is upgraded and improved, we will have the efficient, modern, BEMS systems to keep up.”

The 963 Supervisor in more detail
Trend Controls’ John O’Leary explains some of the 963’s key functions and features in more detail: “Once the system’s Device Viewer has ‘learnt’ about the system to which it is connected, it can display inputs, outputs, adjustment times, and any current alarms, without further engineering. The Device Viewer also enables graphs of parameters to be displayed, and shows any ‘value’ currently in alarm condition, and what that alarm is.
    “When an alarm occurs, an alarm panel can be displayed to alert the user. Any ‘actions’ that have been pre-specified to occur will then be automatically carried out.
    “The alarm panel will stay on the screen until the user has acknowledged all the alarms. Alarm acknowledgement and clearing can also be restricted to particular individuals, so that the alarm is seen only by ‘appropriate’ users. Colours indicate whether the alarm shown is a set alarm or a cleared alarm, with a red bell indicating a set alarm, and a green one, a cleared alarm. If the alarm has been actioned, a bell will appear with a tick over it.
    “The Alarm Viewer in the 963 Server software modules incorporates two ‘tabs’: Alarm History, which stores all the alarms in the database whether user-actioned or not, and Incoming Alarms, showing the last 100 alarms received,” he explains. “This combination of features ensures that alarm events can be quickly and effectively dealt with by the ‘right’ person.
    “The 963 Supervisor can also display video images and the ‘Event Scheduler’ enables events such as the recording of information or back up of data to be scheduled for a particular time, and also shows events that the 963 has been set to perform by the engineer.
    “In addition, the 963 can display live, logged, or recorded information from IQ or IQL controllers, which can then be retrieved either using compact logs for faster data retrieval, or precision logs for more accurate information. The graphs can be accessed from the colour graphics pages, to show and allow comparison of the operation and performance of particular plant, much as Brian Court and his colleagues are using the system for, and, once displayed, the graphs can be printed out.” 
    To prevent unauthorised use, the 963’s “multi-level” security system, which is accessed from the User Display, determines from the user’s “log in” details what pages they can display, what adjustments they can perform, and whether or not they can configure 963.