Seven quick wins for commercial building operators to improve building management, sustainability, and occupant comfort

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With wholesale gas prices rising by an estimated 250% since the beginning of 2021 and 70% since August, any company on a business energy tariff is likely to have seen a hike in costs this year, with the prospect of further increases should the regulator adjust the price cap upward next April. Even if you have the option to switch to a cheaper energy deal from one of multiple providers, it’s always worth reviewing some simple actions which could help to control energy use and costs. The good news is that even a few small adjustments to your Building Management System (BMS), room control, and other devices can sometimes bring welcome savings and happier occupants.

building management

As discussed in my last blog, according to the Greater London Authority, London’s buildings are a significant source of carbon emissions, of which a large proportion are generated by heating, lighting, and other forms of energy consumption incurred in the operation of buildings. According to UKGBC, built environments contribute to around 40% of the U.K.’s total carbon footprint. Energy management is, therefore, a vitally important subject.

7 tips for adjusting Building Management Systems

Accordingly, I’ve put together my top tips for better energy efficiency for people operating commercial real estate. If you’re paying a bill for electricity or gas, implementing any of the following could make a welcome dent in your costs, and they could also lower your carbon footprint and bring you closer to net-zero building operations.

Tip #1: Adjust temperature setpoints

Adjusting the temperature of your building just marginally can yield great reductions in energy consumption: even a 1°C change can translate into impressive long-term savings for you and reduced carbon emissions for the environment. A 2019 study found that properly tuning your setpoint – the target temperature of your building – can produce energy savings of up to 60% without compromising occupant comfort. So, while it may be tempting to tune your setpoint well above or below outside temperatures, this behaviour will not likely translate into happier occupants, nor will it help you reach your sustainability goals.

Tip #2: Adjust temperature dead bands

In the same vein, a slight adjustment to the temperature dead band – the temperature range deemed suitable for building environments and where HVAC turns off – can greatly affect how much energy a building uses. Typically, temperature dead bands are set to ±2°C of the setpoint, causing many HVAC systems to work inefficiently as small temperature fluctuations cause the system to cycle on and off. To prevent this, I recommend increasing the dead band range to ±3°C of the setpoint, which can save more than a third of HVAC energy use with no drastic effect on occupant comfort.

Tip #3: Synchronize time clocks

Ensuring your building management system operates when the office is in use is an easy win for you and your wallet. Accounting for the thermal lag is one possible way to achieve this. Ensure your BMS systems are configured to automatically have HVAC systems shut down in advance of closing, or at least consider having your HVAC switch off an hour before closing and allowing building temperatures to slowly change. The approach has been shown to have a minimal impact on occupants and can yield significant savings over keeping your HVAC active for the whole working day.

Tip# 4: Use modern building automation

Automating your building management system offers some great prospects for saving energy with minimal effort. Integrated presence detectors, for example, work by detecting whether a room is in use and adjusting heat, ventilation, and light accordingly. I also recommend daylight harvesting light sensors, which dim internal light in relation to ambient light, saving you energy on brighter days.

Integrating HVAC, lighting, and booking systems also offer opportunities for reducing energy use. Even things as simple as automatically warming conference rooms 10 minutes before meetings can improve the lifespan of your equipment and cut energy costs. If you are considering installing integrated presence detectors into your real estate, there are many flexible and affordable, multi-function analogue sensors available that are compatible with both Schneider Electric and third-party building management controllers.

Tip #5: Automatic local shutdown to end “hot” desks

Empty hot desks – often with computers and monitors left on standby – can add to your building’s parasitic load. While legislation across Europe has sought to minimize the energy use of non-networked appliances left on standby, networked appliances can still use up to 12 watts per hour in this mode. Some sources even claim that idle computers are costing businesses £30m per day in the U.K. However, it can be a simple process to isolate hot desks and cut the localized supply of energy using widely available technologies including presence detectors, access cards, or computerized booking systems.

Tip #6: Add demand-based ventilation

The pandemic has made the importance of ventilation much more apparent: Insufficient airflow increases the likelihood of contagion, which endangers building occupants. However, mechanical ventilation is costly, and opening windows is no longer an option for many office spaces since most new buildings have sealed windows. Air quality monitors are a sure-fire solution to ensuring that mechanical ventilation does not become a burdensome cost in the current health context. Air purity monitors can be used to alter ventilation levels to suit the number of people in a room, simultaneously cutting energy costs, and keeping you and your occupants safe.

Tip #7: Commission a robust energy audit

Lastly, systemic issues might require a more rigorous approach, so if you feel that the changes outlined here are insufficient for more glaring problems, Building Management System Health Checks, or, better yet, Detailed Audits, examine obsolete equipment and offer solutions to modernize your building management system, to improve building efficiency in the long run, and to help you meet your targets for Net Zero Carbon operations. (Learn more about energy and power audits here.)

For more information

As a Master-level BMS EcoXpert™, we partner with companies like Schneider Electric to deliver the best expertise and solutions to help you improve and modernize your building management systems. The better your BMS system, the easier it is to improve sustainability and to ensure the comfort of building occupants. For more information, visit the Lloret Group website.

Schneider Electric has been recognized as the world’s most sustainable corporation in 2021 by Corporate Knights Global 100 Index.

Global100 Schneider Electric has been recognized as the world’s most sustainable corporation in 2021 by Corporate Knights Global 100 Index.

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