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Features|December 13, 2016 16:18

Built in efficiency

Mike Burke, business development director at Unidata Infrastructure, looks at the challenge of making existing buildings more energy efficient in order to meet future low carbon requirements.

For some organisations, making carbon savings is part of fulfilling their sustainable policies. For others, reducing energy consumption is a purely commercial decision.  Over time, it is accepted that an office block or a factory starts to become inefficient in terms of its energy usage relative to modern buildings.  The challenge therefore is to find a practical and workable solution that delivers carbon savings and reduced energy costs, yet is not prohibitive in terms of the capital investment required.

Energy management specialists like ourselves are increasingly being called upon to advise on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from existing buildings.  As large public and private organisations will have to comply with the requirements of the Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme from 2016 onwards, there is a desire to achieve greater energy efficiency sooner rather than later. This scheme aims to cut emissions from organisations with an average electricity bill of approximately £500,000 per year. In doing so, it is anticipated that it will cover 25 per cent of the total business sector emissions within the UK

Businesses that will be affected by the CRC are looking to implement effective energy management programmes that often include integration of renewables in order to reduce the cost of CO2 allowances. Those that don’t will likely have to pay a considerably higher price for allowances that cover their emissions. Even organisations outside the current CRC remit are looking to reduce their carbon emissions, as legislation will become tighter for them too.

As a result of the ever more stringent legislation, building owners are looking for solutions to their energy reduction requirements that have a positive benefit on the environment and make good business sense too.  Renewable energy can be seen as a sound business investment for the building owner and carefully choosing an optimised energy solution can avoid upfront costs, as well as providing a guaranteed return on investment in just a couple of years.

Return on investment

With so many different renewable and energy saving systems available, it is essential to work with an energy management partner who is skilled and experienced in selecting an integrated set of products and services that will ensure long term energy efficiency and lower running costs. What is fundamental is that these systems must be able to guarantee reduced energy consumption, whilst providing a predictable and attractive return on investment, which makes it even more attractive to building owners.  It must also be the case that these systems can be implemented within a busy working environment to ensure any downtime is minimised.

When it comes to assessing an existing building for the viability of renewable systems, it’s necessary to first conduct a survey, which can be done using a smart meter monitoring system, or creating a Thermal Profile of the building utilising digital thermal modelling software. Elements such as the building’s shape, form, orientation and openings are linked to the surrounding climate and its thermal, light and airflow properties.

Building owners then have the option to commission a more extensive survey of the services that illuminate, heat, cool and control the occupied building. The survey is designed to identify areas of improvement within the premises in order to recommend energy saving solutions that will meet the client’s short or long term goals.  The subsequent report produced should highlight the main recommended technologies to be incorporated and potential electrical and HVAC system upgrades required to maximise savings.

Using the latest technology available, this means that a precise profile of energy usage and loss can be developed to enable quantifiable opportunities for savings.   The detailed energy usage report provides a basis for designers to make recommendations relating to integration of energy saving renewable products, plus any aesthetic changes that the client may require to the building, either as a result of the work, or requested as part of general improvements.    The final proposal incorporates energy usage findings, carbon emission legislation compliance, details of Government-funded schemes, tax benefits and incentives as well as the cost implications and overall return on investment.

Specific energy efficient measures that we often recommend include lighting control products that are capable of reducing energy costs by up to 80 per cent and a range of LED lamps that will give the same Lumen output as a standard lamp, but use just 40 per cent of the energy.

Other measures include an innovative sun tracking control system for solar shades, which will help to reduce heat gain and the need for air conditioning, whilst controlling the amount of daylight entering the workspace.

Many building owners also choose to incorporate a solar PV solution, which allows them to earn revenue and reduce running costs. IMOP (inductive motor optimisation panel) units are also becoming more widely used and these are an essential part of reducing reactive power requirements.

Once upgraded, a fully optimised building energy solution involves the installation of smart metering systems throughout its infrastructure. This means the building owner can monitor the system, which can report back on how well the energy efficient upgrades have performed – an essential part of ensuring the accuracy of the ROI calculation.


Long term payback

When it comes to assessing renewable energy systems, the challenge is to balance the need to invest upfront in such systems, against the long term benefits of doing so. The issue is often the capital investment that is required, for example, for renewable systems this can be significantly higher than investing in a conventional energy system.

However, it is essential to consider return on investment when it comes to choosing an optimised building energy solution. There are also many different ways of financing the upgrade, such as a scheme that avoids any upfront costs in the form of a business loan, which has the added advantage of making energy efficient improvements accessible to all sectors of the market.

Latest optimised building energy solutions are leading the way in helping to cut carbon dioxide emission from the UK’s existing building stock, which are by far the largest contributors of greenhouses gases.   Government schemes like the CRC mean that it is now more important than ever to address energy management in existing buildings and to look at the options of upgrading to renewable technologies which offer a reduced carbon footprint.

For more details, contact www.unidatauk.com

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