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The value of not value engineering
Published:  04 February, 2016
BMS, Building management system, controls, Building Controls Industry Association, BCIA

The construction industry has long suffered from a disproportionate focus on the capital cost of a project. Steve Harrison of the Building Controls Industry Association explains why this needs to change and how this year’s Building Services Summit aims to address the challenge.

Numerous studies have found over the years that a concerted effort is made to keeping the initial spend on a building project to a minimum, while comparatively little regard is given to the long-term operational costs. It's not an unrelated fact that a lot of work has gone into examining why buildings do not perform as they should. A raft of tools has been developed to try to remedy the issue, but although methods such as BSRIA’s Soft Landings tool and BRE’s BREEAM assessment methodology are well-known, they are still not universally applied.

This focus on capital costs represents one of the controls industry’s greatest challenges — to raise awareness among construction clients of the importance of operational costs, particularly energy efficiency but also including issues such as occupant comfort and maintenance costs.

A lack of investment in these areas at the construction stage is almost certain to create extra costs for building owners and managers. It is far too easy to shave off a few pounds off expenditure by reducing the quantity of sensors, for example. But this means that a building energy management system (BEMS) cannot respond fully to occupant requirements or to the changing internal environment. A seemingly harmless cut at the start of a project leads to long-term discomfort and added costs.

This is why the 10-80-10 ratio, representing the costs of construction

• 10% construction

• 80% operation

• 10% decommissioning

is such a useful way to make construction clients aware of the importance of considering the operational costs of their building at the design stage. The ratio shines a light on where the true cost of a building resides, and also highlights the benefits of investment up-front.

The point must continue to be stressed that controls have a huge impact on the operational costs of a building. They provide effective automation and control of heating, ventilating, cooling, hot water and lighting systems that lead to increased operational energy efficiencies and a better working environment.

BCIA, BMS, Building Controls Industry Association, building management system, Controls

The most cost-effective approach for facilities or energy managers is to use their existing building controls as effectively as possible. This may seem an obvious point, but it is surprising to many in those roles how much energy wastage a straightforward audit of areas such as sensors and detection devices can be identified and solved quickly.

BS EN 15232 (2012) is a British and European Standard that can help with this. It features a structured list of controls and building automation technologies which have an impact on the energy performance of buildings and 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.

For new-build projects, this type of data can offer insights into the long-term value of not ‘value engineering’ out even the smallest element of a BEMS. Each part of the controls can be shown to contribute to optimised long-term efficiency — helping to keep that 80% of costs at levels that are acceptable to building owners and managers.

The 10-80-10 concept will again form the theme for the 2016 Building Services Summit in London on 23 November at the British Library. It will provide a chance to learn from energy managers who have achieved great savings through a focus on control of operational costs.

It is highly significant that the summit is being jointly organised by the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA) with the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA). It is only by working together with other parts of the construction industry that we can all meet the challenge of moving the focus towards operational efficiency. This is an event by associations for their memberships, which aims to encourage discussion about helping construction clients achieve better outcomes in the long-term.

As we move towards an era of tightening legislation on energy use, including minimum energy performance standards, building services professionals are going to have to step up to offer practical advice and guidance. This is an opportunity to encourage clients to think long-term too.

Steve Harrison is president of the BCIA and business development manager for Belimo AG.