I’m Andrew Paddock, sales director at Trend Control Systems Ltd and I’d like to welcome you to the first in a series of blogs where I examine the issues affecting the building controls industry and the use of Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS)
For my very first blog, part of a series of four, I’d like to address a subject that I feel very strongly about. With building owners and managers under immense pressure to reduce the amount of energy used by their premises, I find it incredibly frustrating that some of the very same people are failing to maximise the potential of a resource that they’ve already paid for and have right under their noses.
Given that up to 84 per cent of a building’s energy usage can be under the control of a Building Energy Management System (BEMS), optimising it so that building services operate in strict accordance with demand can avoid unnecessary use of energy and, just as importantly, save money.
When a BEMS is first commissioned it is configured around an existing building layout and occupancy patterns. Anyone who has worked in modern offices will know that these can soon change and incorrectly configured time clocks and set points, new layouts, repartitioning, and the addition or moving of equipment can quickly lead to inefficiencies. The overall quality of the control offered will also gradually deteriorate due to factors such as loss of sensor accuracy and unnecessary system overrides. As a result a BEMS needs constant attention and should always be considered a work in progress
Unfortunately, all too often, the perceived enormity of such a task overwhelms people and it becomes one of those ‘we’ll do it tomorrow’ type jobs. This shouldn’t be the case though and I believe that breaking down the entire service regime into bite-sized chucks can make the task less onerous.
To offer some practical advice I have teamed up with my colleagues at Trend to devise a monthly schedule of activities that, if adhered to, will achieve lower energy bills and enhanced comfort conditions. In this blog I’m going to outline activities that are ideal for the first quarter of the year and I’ll tackle the other months in subsequent blogs.
The return to work in January is an ideal time to think about the year ahead. When it comes to a BEMS, this means identifying events such as forthcoming bank holidays and knowing when the clocks will change for British Summer Time (BST) and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Planning ahead means that energy use can be reduced by accounting for these changes.
The beginning of the year is also a good time to identify when occupancy patterns will change. For example, schools and other educational establishments will be unoccupied for extended periods of time, so there’s no point heating being on 24/7 when they are only occupied between 8am-5pm during term time and not at all during holidays. A BEMS can make changes to lighting and heating times – all of which can also be set up in advance – offering a chance to pick the ‘low hanging fruit' of energy wastage.
February is usually the coldest month of the year and so the ability of a BEMS to achieve the best possible comfort conditions will be tested. Please note that comfort conditions don’t just apply to people – they could affect IT equipment, paintings, drugs or even animals, depending on a building’s use.
It is vital to take the time to think about and understand how a building is used in order to utilise the full functionality of a BEMS. I would also advise asking questions about whether occupants are happy with their environmental conditions – but be warned, people are often sensitive to different temperature levels, so they might not all agree! At the very least such an exercise will help identify any immediate areas of concern.
Looking at the month ahead, during March I would suggest looking at whether all plant is being controlled by the BEMS and if alarms are correctly configured to warn of any unnecessary plant overrides. This isn't as complicated as it sounds and there’s some excellent software based solutions that can help.
To illustrate my point, last year a customer called me who was experiencing a high number of lamp changes and he’d also received a large energy bill. I offered to investigate the problem using a Trend 963 Supervisor, which I was able to remotely configure online. In no time at all I was able to identify some internal lighting circuits that were being overridden by way of an electrical switch found locally on-site. The switch was returned to its normal position and the bills and maintenance levels showed a significant reduction in the months that followed.
The moral of this story is that no matter how effectively a BEMS is configured and serviced, there will always be the potential for site based engineers and occupants to alter the system. Therefore, carry out regular checks to make sure that plant is being controlled to the designed performance specification and achieving the desired environmental conditions.
Although the activities I have outlined do not replace the need for a structured support agreement, they will make a significant difference. I firmly believe that BEMS are at the forefront of the drive towards greater energy efficiency, and the benefits that can be experienced as a result of investment in this technology are considerable – but only if they are correctly configured and maintained.