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EXCLUSIVE The experts on how FMs should save energy

24 June 2013

From the dead cold obvious to the most unlikely possibility, there's always ways to keep cutting your energy costs. And as pressure increases for FMs to find ways to do so, they have a vested interest in listening to what the experts have to say about wastage and consumption.

''The most important piece of advice for FM's looking at saving energy would be to ensure it isn't ignored,'' says David Carr, MD of Bouygues. ''It needs bravery and a lot of hard work to get it onto the strategic agenda, so perseverance is key.''

James Stander, MD for Sustainable Advantage, says information is key to saving energy. ''Without detailed information - not data - you won't achieve your clients' objectives. You need a budget per building that is reported on monthly but then analysed at the next level down in two ways. You also need to compare apples with apples in order to understand what the driving factors are such as sales, square footage etc, so you can benchmark.

''You then need sub-metering to drill down into the key components or drivers such as HVAC and lighting etc. So many people have expensive pieces of kit that aren't functioning as they were meant to.''

Phil Smith, commercial director of Facilicom Cleaning Services, adds that saving energy is now a primary focus within the cleaning industry - ''more so now that our end users and FM clients consider low energy solutions as an essential selection feature in their procurement process.''

Smith says there are several tried-and-tested options available to the facilities management sector in order to minimise energy consumption - either through their own in-house cleaning activities or via their chosen supply partners. ''These all focus on being smarter in the way we think about service provision. The simple change from an input-based, prescriptive cleaning specification to the more flexible and focused approach of an output measurement can deliver significant energy savings as areas are only cleaned if and when they need it.''

Couple this approach with a move towards scheduling cleaning activities within core hours - thereby reducing potentially unnecessary energy usage for lighting and heating at times when buildings are only occupied by the cleaning team - and you're already making a significant impact on overall energy consumption, says Smith.

''Further fine-tuning is possible with the identification and selection of the right cleaning equipment; with many machinery manufacturers now providing low wattage vacuum cleaning technology capable of delivering more than a 30% reduction in equivalent energy usage.

''Cleaning services are already relatively low in their energy requirement however these simple but effective changes can make them even lower and provide an attractive contribution towards overall strategic energy reduction targets.''

Tony Willis, technical sales director with Sabien Technology, says that tasked with the need to reduce the cost and environmental impact of energy consumption many FMs are looking for 'quick wins' with a fast payback. Following some simple procedures will help to ensure the best option is selected.

''The first step is to check that what's already there is operating efficiently. For example, are the boiler controls/BMS configured to optimise heating performance in line with the way the building is currently used? If they are, then are there actions that can be taken to deliver further efficiencies - perhaps by retrofitting additional controls and integrating them with the existing BMS and other controls?

''For instance, remaining with the boiler example, boiler dry cycling happens in virtually all commercial boilers, wastes significant amounts of energy and isn't typically prevented by a standard control/BMS configuration. Our experience of controlling boiler dry cycling in over 6,000 boilers shows energy savings of 10-25% with a typical payback in under two years.''

But, Willis says, what is the best way to tackle it? Reprogramming the BMS is often cost-prohibitive and may not be available. There are many retrofit products on the market but some cause conflicts with the existing control strategy and compromise comfort levels in the building.

''So 'caution' and 'diligence' are the watchwords when considering retrofit technology. Investigate the market, understand how the technology works and, in the case of boilers, avoid controls which use a time delay or artificially lower the boiler's set point. Also, talk to the supplier's customers about the products, the savings and the project delivery. Only then can you be sure you'll get the results, and the benefits, you're expecting.''

With lighting accounting for about 20% of global electricity consumption, Andy Smith, sales director at Gamma UK, also has strong views on how FMs can save energy. The company designs and manufactures low energy lighting solutions from its purpose-built factory in West Yorkshire. It says it manufactures a range of standard, bespoke luminaires for the retail, healthcare, hospitality, leisure and commercial sectors. ''With energy bills continuing to rise, a trend which looks set to continue, it is essential for FMs and energy managers to take appropriate steps to reduce consumption,'' says Smith.

First, review the lighting design. ''Probably the biggest payback, in terms of energy efficiency, is making sure you have a well-planned and thought-out lighting design. Ask yourself, is our lighting doing its job? Could we reduce the number of fittings and still obtain the required output?''

Second, switch it off. ''It may seem obvious but ensuring occupants are switching lights off when they leave a room is a simple and effective way to reduce unnecessary energy use. How many times have you been past an unoccupied room with all the lights on?''

Third, use motion sensors. ''If it's not possible to change the mind-set of the occupants then it's worth installing and integrating PIRs into your lighting system. They can be programmed to suit your needs and take the onus, of switching lights off, away from the occupants.''

Smith points out it's not about changing existing fittings for LEDs, but rather about truly understanding where you need the light and how much you need, then ensuring the luminaires used are suitable for achieving your requirements. ''Time again we speak to FMs who say 'someone suggested replacing the existing fittings with an LED alternative'. LED might be the most energy efficient option but a straight fitting replacement often isn't."

Noel Clancy, CEO of Shepherd FM, says that while energy is never far from the headlines nowadays, 10 years ago it wasn't even included in the list of challenges faced by businesses. "Rising energy costs, combined with environmental pressure to reduce energy consumption make the need to become energy efficient a strategic necessity.

There are two ways to approach the problem, says Clancy. One is from a broader, corporate perspective with plant managers, facilities directors and operators, building information modellers, heads of energy services firms and financial directors working to determine energy management frameworks based on energy domains and energy systems.

"The second approach is to ensure all stakeholders, especially everyone using the buildings you own, manage or maintain, appreciate how their behaviour affects energy efficiency. You can agree a strategy, you can work out the best deals with energy service providers in terms of finance and systems integration - but your actions can be totally undermined if you don't ensure your people are totally engaged with the energy efficiency agenda. That's why we stress the importance of a totally flexible approach to accommodate different requirements, the various buildings within a portfolio and the needs and behaviours of the end-users."

Control systems is the ideal way to save energy says Gordon Fry, KNX technical specialist of Wandsworth Group. "While promoting good energy saving behaviours among occupiers can help to reduce energy consumption, a control system that integrates lighting, heating, cooling, blinds and A/V is the most effective and flexible way to save energy.

"KNX is an open building control protocol which means FMs can cherry pick controls and monitoring and visualisation tools from more than 300 suppliers. The system can be programmed to link events, so, for example, when presence detectors switch off the lighting in the boardroom the heating is turned down and the A/V equipment is put on standby. A KNX control system can also be pre-programmed with 'scenes' that reflect the different requirements at different times or day or days of the week so, for example, there might be a cleaning scene, a security scene and an out-of-hours scene.''

Fry says a KNX system of this kind has been proven to offer energy savings of up to 60% in a commercial office environment while providing the flexibility required to ensure the building adapts to the end-user's needs. Furthermore, a KNX visualisation and monitoring tool can provide accurate, realtime information to help identify energy wastage so it can be addressed."

Alastair Ramsay, sustainable development manager for Legrand says the first target for energy saving in any commercial building should be lighting as it's normally one of the easiest to tackle and can account for as much as 40% of consumption.

"The standard response to reducing wasted energy from electric lighting has become installation of a lighting control system which can sometimes seem daunting and complex. However, it's possible to make a dramatic difference simply by thinking intelligently about where to site light switches and how to place them.

"Unhappily a single switch is often installed to switch lights on or off for an entire office or floor, which means that desks near the window with natural light may be lit unnecessarily. Similarly, there may be a bank of switches to control a number of luminaires in an open plan office, but as it's not obvious which switch controls which light, the tendency is to switch them all on, whether they're needed or not.

"Simply planning the appropriate zoning for manual switching that corresponds clearly to lighting units can encourage good energy saving behaviour and FMs can achieve this without a significant capital outlay. It is then an easy task to add sensors to the plan to deliver the extra savings achieved from automatic absence detection and dimming light levels in day light areas where budget allows."

Tony Longstaff, marketing manager for e-fficient Energy Systems, says there are three guaranteed ways to reduce electricity bills.

"Many of us will have fallen to the latest diet craze and invested time and money in trying to lose weight and create the perfect body - but in reality we know deep down there's no simple fix - and that the only real solution is to eat less calories than we burn during the day. Crazy Cabbage Soup diets, two-day fasts or no-carb diets have only a momentary effect and unless we reduce our intake to a level below what we're burning off the reality is the pounds will pile back on.

"Reducing electricity usage is exactly the same,'' Longstaff says. ''And with continually rising energy prices there is renewed focus on how to identify proven ways to drive down electricity use. The problem is there are too many 'magic bullet' and 'snake oil' salesmen banging on your door with their latest cure-all solution to the urgent objective to reduce your electricity usage.''

Investing in the latest new fad rarely delivers long-term results, Longstaff adds, "but there are three guaranteed ways to reduce your electricity usage and reduce your electricity bills: monitoring and targeting; VSDs and voltage management."

Kenny Green, technical services manager at UPSL, a Kohler company says facilities such as data centres have three major contributors to their power consumption - the IT load, the cooling system and the UPS. ''In the past, the spotlight has been on cooling systems, which have been recognised as inefficient. However the situation has changed; cooling system efficiency has greatly improved, so now the opportunity for energy saving is based on improving UPS efficiency.

''The first step is to invest in a modern, transformerless UPS system. Because UPS systems almost always include built-in redundancy to improve resilience, while data centres often operate at partial capacity, UPSs typically operate on a 40-50% load At this level, a transformerless system can provide up to 96% efficiency, while a transformer-based implementation could be as low as 91% efficient. Transformerless systems also reduce reactive load through reducing input power factor and THDi.

''Next, choose a transformerless UPS system with modular topology. This allows capacity changes down to ±10 kVA, allowing the UPS to remain right-sized to the facility load, even if it is much lower than expected. Efficiency is optimised, while these small increments also allow N+1 redundancy with minimal excess UPS capacity. All energy savings made are amplified by corresponding reductions in cooling energy requirements.''

Victoria Hughes, head of sustainability at VINCI Facilities says it's important to realise buildings and equipment don't 'use' energy. It is the building occupiers who are responsible for tweaking up the thermostat, leaving equipment on standby and rooms with the lights and heating on but with the window open.

"My top tip would therefore be to use technology where appropriate and involve all the users of the facility, otherwise that investment will not yield the results anticipated in a business case.

"Staff, security, cleaners and maintenance operatives all have a part to play to ensure a successful energy saving campaign. It is important to have advocates in each peer group, but a successful FM knows that you need advocates to be made up of the converted and the sceptics. It is only by successfully engaging those who think energy saving is only about 'saving the planet' and changing their viewpoint that energy saving can help make a business more profitable.

"Building occupants need to be 'trained' on why energy savings are important, how it links to the overarching goals of the business and why it's important that everyone contributes to meeting every facilities goal to reduce energy reduce costs and become more profitable as a result of positive behavioural change."

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Stuart Greenwood, product marketing manager at Eaton says the use of variable speed drive (VSD) technology in the FM sector isn't new. "It's well-known the technology is especially suited to the variable energy demands of fan, pump, compressor and cooling applications. However, recent research by the Carbon Trust indicates there is significant scope for more widespread use of VSD technology and that UK industry could make significant savings of more than £630 million every year simply by using more efficient electric motors and VSDs. With this in mind, it's definitely an area FMs should consider revisiting,'' says Greenwood.

"After all, incorporating VSDs into the aforementioned applications can reduce energy use by as much as 50%. Added to that are the benefits the latest developments in VSD technology offer such as pluggable modules which enable the drives to be incorporated quickly and simply into the latest connection and communication technology, eliminating the need for conventional control circuit wiring.

"As a result of these developments, drives such as those in the PowerXL series from Eaton, offer an easy-to-install, operator-friendly solution that enables FMs to ensure they can make the most of the available energy efficiency savings VSD technology offers."

Another company which specialises in VSD technology with FMs in mind is ABB, which asked engineering managers and their financial associates what their preferred way to reduce energy was.

"We were shocked by their reply - 'Change energy suppliers', says Carl Turbitt, area sales manager for HVAC Drives. ''You may have expected this from finance, but engineers, really? When all suppliers are raising their prices, changing to another is merely moving the problem, not solving it. Staggeringly the use of VSDs was well down the list of priorities. Yet, VSDs have proven to be the one product that can have the biggest impact on energy saving and CO2 emissions reduction.

''Consider that while all lighting (residential, commercial, industrial combined) accounts for about 5.5% of total electricity consumption, electric motors in industrial applications alone use nearly five times as much,'' explains Turbitt. ''Traditionally, gas or liquid flow would be restricted using dampers or valves while the motor is run constantly. VSDs - which can be used on many HVAC applications - allow motor speed to ramp up and down with demand instead of being run at a constant speed. Now here's where physics really closes the deal.

"The relationship between a motor's speed and the amount of power it uses in a variable-speed application such as fan or pump is not one-to-one (ie linear). In fact, power varies with the cube of the speed. Doubling the speed means increasing the power draw 8X. It works in reverse, too: reducing the speed by half means reducing the power by a factor of 8.

''The average home uses around 1,600 kWh per year for lighting. In a best-case scenario, switching the whole house from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents (CFLs) would yield about 1,200 kWh per year in savings. However, a moderately sized supermarket of 50,000 square feet (4,645 m2) will use about 143,000 kWh per year for cooling. Applying VSDs to the HVAC system can reduce energy consumption for cooling by 20%, which equates to 28,600 kWh in savings.

Thus, says Turbitt, it would take 24 "average" homes to convert entirely to CFLs in order to produce the same energy savings as one drive system in a relatively small application. ''So, would you rather convince thousands of families to change tens of thousands of light bulbs, or would you rather convince one business to invest in an efficiency technology that can pay for itself in less than two years?''


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