Major culprit to super hero?

It seems strange that the transport industry is strictly regulated regarding emissions and efficiency, yet nothing similar really exists for buildings. Even the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) doesn’t set a particularly high bar for the energy performance of buildings and, furthermore, only affects the rental sector.

However, it is relatively simple to significantly improve the energy efficiency of a building through the effective integration of existing plant and control systems. The BS EN15232 Standard outlines the methodologies for this and quantifies the resulting energy savings based on the building’s type, e.g., domestic dwelling, office, school, hotel.

Lack of integration and poor levels of control have long been identified as a major culprit of wasted energy. The white paper, “A Review of the Energy Performance Gap and Its Underlying Causes in Non-Domestic Buildings”, identifies “changes after design, poor commissioning, poor practice and malfunctioning equipment, and measurement system limitations” as being some of the major reasons behind this, often huge, energy performance gap.

Regarding “changes after design” the paper states, “During building design and construction, often products or changes are value engineered, affecting building performance, while not being fed back to the design team for evaluation against the required performance standard (ZCH, 2014a,b).

These changes can occur due to site constraints, not well thought of integration of design modules, problems with detailing and budget issues…”

It goes on to state that “Good communication and coordination by the contractor are essential to prevent changes in design changes to influence the energy performance.”

It seems ironic that the contractor who should be responsible for this “good communication and coordination” that strives to prevent changes in design that could influence energy performance is often the same person who will “value engineer” essential equipment out of a project that will impact this very same performance.

Of course, “well thought of integration of design modules” is the crux of an effective and efficient building control system; it is fairly certain that any modern building will contain effective controls for its constituent plant and services – such as heating, air conditioning, ventilation and shading – but who is responsible for integrating these controls together and overseeing their effective implementation? It is a positive fact that there is a growing number of people who understand the requirements for integration. Specifiers and installers are continuing to respond to the need for better defined integration such that when an M&E specification states that all equipment must have the ability to communicate via a common protocol, perhaps BACnet or Modbus, it also defines the ‘rules’ for the integration that are deliverable. This is still work in progress as the skill sets continue to catch up with ‘smart’ technology but we will see a shift from ‘major culprit’ to ‘super hero’ as the energy saving opportunities of good control and integration are unleashed.

It would be interesting know of our members’ experiences regarding this issue. What are your thoughts?