A range of measures have already been introduced, such as the updated F-Gas legislation, which is aimed at eradicating HFCs from air conditioning equipment, and the Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme (ESOS) which will bring efficiency sharply into focus for large organisations. For many landlords the situation is also reaching a critical point with the looming deadline of 2018 for buildings which are let to reach a minimum energy rating of E. This means that landlords of F and G rated buildings will be unable to let them out after April 2018 unless they take active steps to improve the efficiency of the building.
The current thinking is that the overall approach to achieving zero carbon non-domestic buildings should be led by a 'fabric first' hierarchy of measures to reduce the demand for heating, cooling, mechanical ventilation and electric lighting in the non-domestic sector.
But hot on the heels of this is the requirement to ensure that the remaining demand for services is met with high efficiency equipment.
While these objectives may seem harsh, they make sense when you address the lifetime costs of a building because the vast majority of the costs which are associated with the running of a commercial building are swallowed up by the building services.
Therefore, in line with the quest for zero carbon and in order to meet the government’s overall carbon reduction target of 80 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2050, finding ways to make building services operate more efficiently has become a key focus.
Control the lifetime costs
The British Standard BS EN 15232 deals with the impact of building controls and building energy management systems (BEMS) on energy efficiency and provides a structured list of controls and building-automation technologies which have an impact on the energy performance of buildings.
The standard deals with a range of controls products such as automatic detection devices, demand-based controls such as CO2 sensors, and controls-based strategies such as night cooling. It also gives a method to define minimum requirements for controls for buildings of different complexities. Most usefully, the standard provides detailed methods to assess the impact of building controls on the energy performance of a given building.
The standard can therefore be used to demonstrate the energy savings of different types of building control, to compare against the costs. But while this may sound like a very easy win, the introduction of building controls brings with it a whole new problem.
One of the main issues with building controls in the commercial environment is that they are frequently used as a glorified on/off switch and as such they are not being used to their full potential. An additional issue is that every piece of plant comes with its own control system which invariably works in isolation.
It is clear that this needs to change. In order to get the best performance from a building there is a basic need for all of the building services to communicate through an effective control solution - a smarter solution that transcends brand boundaries and puts performance at the top of its list of objectives through an integrated approach.
An integrated approach
Furthermore, if all building services can be operated from the same central interface, this makes for simpler and more time-efficient building operation.
This was one of the driving forces behind the introduction of MelcoBEMS which provides an interface between Mitsubishi Electric air conditioning equipment and Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) via the Modbus or BACnet protocol.
This type of solution is increasingly being demanded in the commercial market by building owners and managers who recognise that the only way to achieve true energy savings and meet the legislative requirements is through the use of a flexible and intelligent solution which effectively joins the dots as far as building-wide control is concerned.
The enhanced capabilities that modern building services plant offers is something which the industry now takes for granted because the rapid evolution of technology means that we now expect a high level of efficiency from this type of equipment.
But even the most efficient piece of kit has its limitations if it is not controlled effectively because the ability to anticipate, control, monitor and report performance remains a key factor in achieving reductions in energy use and running costs.
It is clear therefore that the only way to get the best performance out of a building is to ensure that the building services are able to communicate and work together. This will become more important as building owners and managers seek to reduce their energy use to meet the increasingly tough environmental requirements being placed on commercial buildings.