Big data, better results

Jon Belfield, Building Controls Industry Association, BCIA, Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard, MEES, Building Energy Management Systems, BEMS, specification
Jon Belfield

Jon Belfield, President of the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA), reflects on some of the key developments from 2018 and discusses the importance of good specification to ensure long term performance of a BEMS.

The topic of energy consumption in commercial buildings took on even greater prominence last year with the introduction of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES), which came into force in April 2018. In times past, many businesses might have considered their ‘green’ credentials to be secondary to running a business. Some might even have considered it detrimental, but for others being environmentally friendly was something they could use to attract more environmentally conscious customers. Now it can offer more than that – it can be good for your business’ bottom line too.

As a result of government legislation, standards and potential cost savings, savvy building owners, managers and landlords are taking this in hand to ensure their buildings are benefiting from innovative and smart controls that are well engineered to enhance energy efficiency. The MEES legislation might be a driver for investing in building automation and smarter controls but ultimately it is a win-win scenario as not only will energy consumption be lowered, but consequently overall running costs will be reduced too.

The latest figures from the BCIA’s Market Information Services (MIS) showed that Q3 2018 set a new annual Quarter 3 record for the value of the total controls and Building Energy Management System (BEMS) market in the UK at £680.4 million. The figure for Q3 2018 is higher than the previous year market high of Q3 2017 which reached £655.9 million representing an increase of 3.7%.

There are many effective building control and energy monitoring solutions on the market to help reduce your building’s energy consumption. Energy reduction is much easier to address when action is taken to continuously monitor, manage and control energy usage and iron issues out, rather than turning a blind eye and letting energy consumption take control of you. However, simply installing a system without proper planning or good specification will not magically make your building run more efficiently on its own. Detailed monitoring is vital in allowing an organisation to develop a long term energy reduction strategy.

Planning your BEMS

Before upgrading or installing a BEMS it is important that you clearly identify the requirements of your BMS; What do you want it to achieve? Which systems do you want to connect to the BEMS? A BEMS allows us to take real-time control of a building’s plant and once programmed it will run through the control cycle with great efficiency. But by using a BEMS to manage your building’s energy you can create a longer term energy strategy for your building.

It is also important to consider the building type, its end users and their ability, and willingness, to use the BEMS effectively. Building controls are an excellent way of ensuring efficiency in a building, but they are only effective if the engineers operating them have the skills and expertise to extract the optimum performance. If end users are engaged in using the BEMS to its potential it can lead to further benefits, such as behavioural change, as they become more conscious of their own responsibilities and encourages them to make ‘small change’ adjustments to their workplace habits. Continuous engagement by the occupants and BMS engineers is key to ensuring the controls work for the occupants and the occupants play their part by seeking to change behaviours and habits to keep energy consumption under control.

Maintaining your BEMS

Jon Belfield, Building Controls Industry Association, BCIA, Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard, MEES, Building Energy Management Systems, BEMS, specification
There is an important link between data gathered from the BEMS and energy effiiency

A poorly maintained BEMS will not continue to operate at the required level, so it is best to determine at an early stage what sort of maintenance your BEMS needs, how often it has to be carried out, and by whom (on-site facilities team or an outsourced service). Maintenance is crucial in order to keep the BEMS up to date with the changing demands of the building. The information programmed into a BEMS when it is installed and commissioned is likely to be very different to a building’s information a year or two later.

Regular maintenance of a building’s plant will keep it performing to a high level over a longer period of time, and keeping an audit trail for the facilities management team or third-party maintenance provider will also make it easier to identify where or why particular plant might be underperforming.

Getting the most out of your BEMS

Specifiers and building managers should play close attention to the objectives of their BEMS and examine their priorities, which include occupants’ comfort, energy efficiency, legislation plus the collection and analysis of data. We have already touched on legislation and efficiency, but there are many studies that have proven maximum occupier comfort and productivity is best achieved if due consideration is given to human wellbeing during the design. Data, meanwhile, is now a significant tool in ongoing energy management programmes, as it can be analysed and used to identify patterns and trends in energy consumption to help create a more effective controls strategy for the future. The old adage remains as true as ever; ‘data is of no value unless it can be turned into information’.

BEMS Performance Specification Guide

In October 2018 the BCIA launched its BEMS Performance Specification Guide with the aim to provide an insightful overview on controls and operation for those working in the building controls industry. The BCIA Technical Committee produced the BEMS Performance Specification Guide (available on the BCIA website) to provide a useful one-stop source of information to assist contractors and engineers to go about their daily work and achieve their desired outcome. The guide provides helpful detail on topics such as boilers, air conditioning units, utility and energy metering, domestic hot water supply systems and many other areas of HVAC.

Most BEMS manufacturers’ equipment today offers cloud based technologies that allow additional services to be provided, such as Energy Analysis, Asset Management, Remote Fault Diagnosis, and Predictive or Condition Maintenance, etc. The manufacturers’ route to market for a BEMS is still via national networks of specialist controls companies, the majority of whom are members of the Building Controls Industry Association. BS EN15232 remains an excellent standard for ‘Energy Performance of Buildings’ and is making a significant impact on raising the quality and standard of BEMS design and performance. As a reminder, the BEMS Performance Specification Guide is available to download in PDF format via the BCIA website, along with other valuable resources.

Energy efficiency in buildings will remain under scrutiny for the foreseeable future and it is only with the utmost professionalism in planning, design and implementation of BEMS will we make the progress required. The technology available now gives us a great opportunity and with the changes that are coming with the supply chain, I believe we are very much moving in the right direction.

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