Safety on University Campuses: Power Reliability and Operational Efficiency

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The changing world of energy is making it increasingly challenging to optimize power reliability, energy costs, and operational efficiency in critical power environments such as University Campuses. Utility power grids are becoming more dynamic, facility power distribution systems are becoming more complex, and cyberattacks threaten network stability. More competitive pressures and environmental regulations are pushing expectations for energy efficiency and business sustainability higher than ever. Addressing these challenges requires new digital tools designed specifically to enable faster response to opportunities and risks related to power system reliability and operations.

With more power-sensitive loads and less tolerance for downtime, smarter tools are needed to manage power reliability. On average, universities might lose around 40 minutes of downtime due to network disturbances. As with any other establishment, Universities want their buildings systems running, while keeping operations and maintenance costs minimized.

For example, laboratories typically consume 5 to 10 times more energy per square foot than office buildings. And some specialty laboratories, such as clean rooms and labs with large process loads, can consume as much as 100 times the energy of a similarly sized commercial structure.

Moreover, the electrical infrastructure of a campus needs to keep people and property safe and be secure from cyber-attacks.

University Campus

Operational costs and power reliability on campus

In recent years, teams managing medium and large sized facilities such as university campuses, have recognized that energy represents a significant line item in their operational costs. For instance, precision-controlled environments within labs are required to meet codes, standards, and safety regulations for indoor air quality, which drives this high consumption of energy.

Many have also experienced how the quality and reliability of their electrical power impacts operational uptime and, in turn, has negative impacts to their bottom line.

Therefore, many organizations have established power and energy management programs, as a variety of information and analysis tools are now available which help facility teams use a balanced approach to mitigating risks of every aspect of their power supply, from energy efficiency to power quality and reliability.

Furthermore, while a relatively small percentage (11%) of issues are caused by faults in installations or by people not using installations properly, 9 out of 10 (89%) electrical fires are caused by electrical equipment. Thus, by having the electrics on campus checked regularly and by taking some simple precautions with your electrical appliances, you can reduce the risk of power cuts and chance of fire.

To keep up with this changing landscape, new kinds of power management tools are emerging that deliver:

  • Connected intelligence to reveal every risk and opportunity
  • Highest possible metering accuracy for greater precision and certainty
  • Modular, customizable platforms to adapt to changing needs
  • Cybersecurity best practices to protect the power network
  • Simplified power quality analysis using embedded intelligence
  • Smart power event analysis to reduce response time

Here you can find out more about the tools to keep power reliable and efficient

Final distribution

The electrical infrastructure is the backbone of electrical distribution for any building including university buildings, schools, halls of residence and accommodation blocks. The electrical infrastructure not only allows the distribution of energy throughout the building, it can prioritize the health of the system and occupants, providing comfort, and supporting productivity of the occupants while maximizing energy efficiency and sustainability, when used in conjunction with connected solutions.

The 18th edition IET wiring regulations made significant progress to further increase safety around the above electrical installations. Installers can ensure the highest levels of safety for their clients with a comprehensive system approach using a combination of miniature circuit breakers (MCBs), and residual current devices (RCDs) including residual current circuit breakers with over current protection (RCBOs) and socket outlets with RCD protection. The new regulations further advise on SPD (Surge Protection Device) requirements and recommendations on AFDDs (Arc Fault Detection Devices) to give a complete circuit protection solution.

The regulations also focus on the requirement for SPDs and take into consideration possible transient voltages through the network supply. The 18th Edition now requires a surge protection risk assessment on installations in many cases, unless it is decided to install SPDs irrespective or there is an outright requirement to install them in the regulations. The risk assessment can potentially bring its own challenges, as the CRL (Calculated Risk Level) formula involved requires identification of the lengths of high and low voltage overhead lines and underground cables in the last km of the supply network to the premises.

The SPD topics are related to university environments, whether deployed in labs and teaching environments to protect equipment or accommodation buildings to protect student’s electronic equipment.

The latest regulations also introduce new technologies such as arc fault detection devices (AFDDs), which help to increase safety as a means of providing additional protection against fires caused by arc faults. This is a new technology for the UK providing an additional protection level beyond what has been previously available.  We can see in multi occupancy buildings that this new technology can bring increased levels of protection above the existing MCB, RCD and SPD protection that can add a peace of mind to university campus buildings and accommodation blocks.

The emergence of smart buildings is about to fundamentally reshape the way modern buildings are designed, built and operated. Developers, contractors and electricians can position themselves to benefit from the changes taking place in the market.

The 18th Edition sets out to increase the safety of electrical installations for occupiers and end users. For electricians to comply with these changes while still delivering fast and competitively priced installations, Schneider Electric knows that connected products need to offer ease of installation and time-savings.

Harnessing the power of connectivity, connectible distribution boards cut installation time by 50 per cent and leverage connected technologies to help users monitor device health and energy usage.  Learn more.

Increasing demand for LED lighting and other semiconductor technology has created the need for an improved contactor that can cope with the large energy surges which semiconductors are sensitive to. To deliver this while ensuring safety under the 18th Edition, Schneider Electric now provides the Acti9 iCT 3P+N Contactor. This is a smart switch controlling a group of circuits, which is also compatible with connected solutions such as PowerTag and Isobar P. Learn more.

‘The 18th Edition presents both challenges and opportunities for installers’ said Deepak Sharad, Marketing and Offer Development Manager Home and Distribution at Schneider Electric. ‘While the focus of the 18th Edition is to increase safety, installers equipped with connected solutions are not only safer but more energy and time efficient. We’re confident our new products will support our customers and partners with full compliance, increased productivity and smarter energy consumption.’

The challenge for architects, engineers, and other building professionals is to design and construct the next generation of laboratories with energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and sustainable construction practices in mind. Laboratory security is everyone’s responsibility; a good laboratory security system can lessen a number of risks. New technologies and connected solutions will increase the safety of electrical installations.

To learn more about how to protect your student accommodation read Yasin’s blog: ‘Protection that safeguards your home and family’. If you want to know more about how you can optimize your campus, make it smart and learn about how we have helped other universities, visit our Education page.

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