Modern Building Services

Walls can hear — and talk

Published:  08 May, 2014

BMS, BEMS, control, t-mac
It’s good to listen — Lisa Gingell.

A building can tell you a lot about how it uses energy. The secret is to ‘listen’, as Lisa Gingell of t-mac explains.

Cutting carbon emissions and reducing energy waste would be a lot easier if the building could tell you when and where excess energy was being used and wasted. Yes, if only walls could talk, energy saving would be simpler. Talking and listening to an inanimate object like an office, shop or warehouse would seem on the surface a ridiculous concept — but in fact it isn’t.

Walls can indeed ‘talk’— it’s just about learning to listen to what your building is trying to tell you. From ‘listening’ to thousands of buildings we have picked up on the most common topics of ‘conversation’.

• Air conditioning and lighting are on in the shop when no one is in — everything is being turned on when staff arrive at work for the day, almost all of the switches are on unnecessarily.

• Cooling the shop down is impossible when battling with the over-door heater.

• Portable electric heaters have been plugged in for no reason in the office.

• Settings on the air-conditioning wall controller in the warehouse keep being changed .

Finding out what energy stories are lurking behind the walls will reap not just energy savings but financial savings too, but how do you hear what your building is trying to say?

Start by listening via metering. This will enable you to look at and map the mains consumption of the building to see the whole energy profile. By doing this you can see what the building is doing now and how much can be changed for the future. Targets can then be set through the software, and performance can be monitored against those targets.

BMS, BEMS, control, t-mac
Listening to a building using metering and monitoring systems will reveal energy-saving opportunities.

You can then continue the dialogue with your building by setting up an efficient building energy management system (BEMS).

Keep in mind also when listening to your building that you need to talk to your staff. It might seem obvious, but much of the energy consumed by a business is actually under the direct control of the staff that work within it; that fact is often forgotten when planning energy-management strategies, as the sole reliance on technology is often the norm. Staff engagement and getting employees to understand the role of energy saving for the business that they work in is just as important as having the right technology to monitor, meter and control your energy consumption.

Employees play a crucial role in saving energy as they can instigate change with small every-day actions that can ultimately benefit the environment and the bottom line. At t-mac we feel that it’s all in the light switch; just by turning off the lights when leaving a room is a key way to save energy.

Often the issue is that businesses don’t explain to staff why they are saving energy or what measures they want to put in place to cut carbon, according to new research released by the Carbon Trust: ‘Less than a quarter of UK employees have been asked to help save energy at work, and fewer than half are concerned about the cost of energy for their employer.’

Ideally you want to engage and inspire your workforce in your energy saving agenda. It’s all about creating awareness of what parts of the business are sapping energy and how that can be easily reduced — the ‘it’s all in the light switch’ is an important concept to explain.

Don’t forget that even though the building can’t physically talk, it can through metering and monitoring systems certainly tell a story.

Lisa Gingell is a director of t-mac Technologies.

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