Making the business case for building controls

BSEN15232, controls, Carlo Gavazzi, energy efficiency
Proving the economic benefits of controls — Alan Hickman.

UK Plc needs to cut carbon, yet many businesses will be unwilling to invest in energy-saving technology in a tough economic climate. Alan Hickman of Carlo Gavazzi UK, argues how the BS EN 15232 standard can be used to reveal the true value of building automation in the battle to reduce carbon emissions.

We live in uncertain times. How will the economy fare once Britain leaves the European Union? How will global trade deals be affected by the election of Donald Trump as US president? No-one yet knows, which leaves decision makers up and down the land uncertain as to future expansion or refurbishment of their buildings.

Yet, the UK is set on tough carbon-reduction targets. The fifth carbon budget commits the UK to a 57% cut in emissions by 2032, based on 1990 levels. The long-term goal remains a massive reduction of 80% by 2050. How do we square the circle? Can we meet such ambitious targets in the current economic climate?

I believe we can. There is scope for massive energy reduction in the buildings sector, and investment in energy-saving technology can be recouped relatively quickly. According to the Building Research Establishment (BRE), controls are the easiest and most cost-effective solution for saving energy in buildings. Buildings already represent 50% of global electricity consumption and, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), that figure is going to jump by 80% due to rapid urbanisation over the next 25 years.

The IEA argues that there is massive potential for improved energy efficiency in buildings. It says that up to 82% of energy-efficiency measures remain untapped in buildings today; up to half of this energy efficiency potential can be realised through improved control of the building and the integration of systems that work together. It’s worth remembering that energy is 40% of the life costs and 50% of the running costs of a building. Managing these costs effectively requires controls.

Building-services professionals and energy managers of course need to build a persuasive case for any capital spend, including controls — and the BS EN 15232 standard is a useful tool in this regard. BS EN 15232 describes methods for evaluating the influence of building automation and technical building management on the energy consumption of buildings. It details four efficiency classes from A to D for this purpose — from non-energy-efficient controls at Class D, through to a fully-programmable building energy management system (BEMS) at Class A.

The potential savings for thermal and electrical energy can be calculated for each class based on the building type and building purpose. The standard uses the values of the energy Class C as the reference for comparing the efficiency. Class C would be the level required by Part L of the Building Regulations.

BSEN15232, controls, Carlo Gavazzi, energy efficiency
Table 1: Indicative savings achievable by various controls strategies for non-residential building types. (credit: BRE)

According to the BRE, most of the building stock in the UK currently has controls at Class D or worse. Table 1 shows the indicative savings that could be achieved by upgrading controls from Class D for various types of building. For office buildings, installing Class C controls could realise 34% savings, while an additional 13% can be achieved through Class B controls. A pre-programmable BEMS would satisfy the Class B criteria. To achieve Class A of the standard and realise the final 7% of energy savings, a fully programmable BEMS would be required. A massive 54% saving in energy can be achieved by the installation of BS EN 15232 Class A controls.

Even greater savings can be realised in other building types. For example, in some wholesale and retail service buildings it may be possible to reduce energy by 62%, and that figure is only slightly less (60%) in lecture halls. These are considerable savings in running costs that mean that the expenditure on technology will pay for itself very quickly and make a significant contribution to cutting carbon.

Such savings will undoubtedly prove attractive to companies looking to cut costs in a tough economic climate. Yet building controls may not deliver on their promise unless they are backed up by an effective monitoring and targeting strategy. Over time, re-commissioning and optimisation of a BEMS to reflect a building’s current and actual usage can reduce a building’s CO2 emissions by up to 20%. Metering data will provide visibility of excessive consumption and identify opportunities for savings through simple BEMS strategy adjustments.

So, yes, times are tough, but BS EN 15232 should be embraced by the building-services sector to make a case for the installation of advanced building controls in all types of buildings. The economic picture may be uncertain, but what is certain is that building energy management systems will save your clients money, reduce their energy demand and cut carbon emissions.

Alan Hickman, managing director at Carlo Gavazzi UK .

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