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Last edited 10 Dec 2015
Energy management strategies for disparate buildings
It is obvious that all organisations should be looking to optimise their energy use in order to reduce their carbon footprints and save money. Yet developing a cohesive strategy that will achieve this objective is usually considered easier said than done, especially when a number of disparate buildings are involved. It can be enough to strike fear into the hearts of those charged with such a task, but by tackling the issue systematically, immediate savings can be made.
Healthcare estates and educational establishments are two prime examples of environments where it is necessary to monitor and manage energy use across buildings of different shapes, sizes and ages. However, the chances are that each building on an estate will have some kind of Building Energy Management System (BEMS) already installed and one of the best ways to review the way they are being used and identify ways to make improvements is through a comprehensive energy audit.
A thorough and professionally conducted audit should ask probing questions, drill down to the finer details and provide guidance about implementing appropriate new technologies like variable speed drives (VSDs), for example. It is often the case that adjustments can be made to the BEMS during the audit visit itself that will deliver immediate savings, while component parts can be checked to make sure they are working correctly.
Where having an audit really comes into its own though is in its ability to help construct an energy management plan that features a prioritised summary of activities that should be carried out in the short, medium and long-terms. It will help break the project down into ‘bite sized chunks’ that initially focus on gathering utilities based data, identifying wastage, and then prioritising ways to reduce overall energy consumption.
An energy audit can lead to some outstanding results, such as those experienced by Sidmouth Hospital in Devon. During a Trend engineer’s time on-site, improvements to its BEMS settings were made which included altering heating times in intermittently occupied areas from 24 hours a day to only between 06:00 and 22:00, and reducing heating setpoints to 21°C. These relatively simple actions resulted in an estimated £7,000 of savings per annum and a reduction of over 43 tonnes of CO2.
The ability to control and monitor energy use from a central location makes life much easier, and one way that this can be achieved is by using an existing IT network infrastructure. As all buildings on an estate will usually be able to ‘talk to each other’ via a campus area network, it should be possible for the BEMS to operate over this medium.
Rather than putting it off, get the ball rolling by recognising the need for an energy management plan and configuring targets that are achievable. BEMS are at the forefront of the drive towards greater energy efficiency, and the cost savings and environmental benefits that can be experienced as a result of investing in and optimising this technology are considerable and may be in easier reach than initially thought.
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