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How building management systems manage the ‘triple threat’ this winter

Steve Rainbow, Senior Design Partner at Trend, explores how an effective building management system removes the age-old question of when to tinker with the thermostat

The leaves falling from the trees and a drop in the mecury in the thermometer signal the start of an especially busy period for facilities managers. In offices – if done inefficiently – it’s the time of year for constant tweaking of thermostats and heaters, and the opening and closing of windows. In this day and age, these analogue interventions should make way for digital solutions.

Facilities managers, developers and building owners have traditionally focused on management in terms of convenience and ease. It’s common practice for businesses to turn their heating on at the beginning of October and then off in April, regardless of how warm the weather may be in between.

Although it may seem like a convenient way to manage buildings, it certainly isn’t the most efficient. It has been reported that workplaces – 265,000 buildings – account for 42% of London’s emissions, and companies pay a total of £4 billion each year in gas and electricity bills. Off the back of this, space heating accounts for 49% of non-domestic stock’s energy consumption. Lighting, cooling and humidification follow at a combined 11%.

 

A triple threat
The Office for National Statistics recently reported that 85% of remote workers would support a hybrid approach for office and home working going forward, and an upcoming UK government consultation could give employees the right to request flexible working from the first day they start a job.

These long-term shifts are transforming the use of offices. We’re seeing that the needs, demands and expectations of building occupants have evolved. Although this change started before the pandemic, it has greatly accelerated over the past 20 months and buildings need to adapt their standard operating procedures quickly to better provide comfortable experiences for occupants, whether they be visitors, workers or customers. In doing so, they can operate buildings in a more cost-effective, energy efficient way.

Facilities managers are facing not just one, but several challenges this winter. The hybrid working model requires extra attention to support worker comfort, creating a healthier indoor air quality and meeting energy efficiency targets.

The UK government has suggested that working from home may be used as a mechanism in the event of an increase in COVID-19 cases over the winter. Of course, such changes are out of management and facilities managers’ hands, but in the meantime, they have a responsibility to try and keep offices as safe as possible – particularly as employees are suffering with work-from-home fatigue and require creative collaboration in teams, and ideally in person. In the face of this, building management systems and video analytics can help to improve indoor air quality based on building occupancy and manage compliance to social distancing and mask guidelines.

 

Multi-management simplified with BEMS
With these everchanging factors front of mind, we have optimised our Building Energy System (BEMS) offering with a focus on improved indoor air quality and energy efficiency, while creating an environment that supports occupant productivity.

If facility managers choose to opt for this, the system will provide an enhanced feature that delivers improved coordination between the operation of various systems within the building. This will gather data from light detectors, sensors that track occupancy, temperature, ventilation, filtration, pressure and humidity. Ultimately allowing the system to make intelligent decisions based on data and rules set by yourselves: the facilities managers. For example, a set rule may be to enable heating if building temperatures drop below 18 degrees Celsius for 50% of the day, rather than having the heating on for 24 hours.

 

BEMS in practice
A BEMS can potentially have a major impact on how energy is used and consumed in facilities. Our customer, Autostadt in Wolfsburg, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group, and the world’s largest automobile distribution centre, saw a 41% energy savings per year following a BEMS deployment by Honeywell. The programme enabled us to scrutinise all parameters of the facility by monitoring and reporting air quality, temperature and energy consumption. This allowed for continuous optimisation of Autostadt’s system, ultimately minimising its energy costs. Thanks to the key performance indicators (KPIs) highlighted as part of the programme, it has now become easier for Autostadt to take further action, if need be.

 

Ready for the challenge
Now winter is here, facilities managers are doing their best to keep ahead of another challenging season. Alongside unpredictable weather, they will wrestle the need to create healthier buildings while balancing the environmental impact of increased heating and ventilation. COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, and common colds and flu are also circulating as workers return to offices. Occupant safety and comfort are as important as ever this winter.

An effective BEMS can help facilities managers balance these factors, improving indoor air quality while optimising energy efficiency. Facilities managers play a crucial role in the bigger picture of enabling in-person working after 18 months of home-based employment. By creating a healthier working environment, they enable staff to collaborate and interact in person, supporting more creative and productive practices to thrive once again.

 

About Trend Control Systems:
With a worldwide distribution and support network covering over 50 countries, Trend Control Systems is a major international supplier of building energy management solutions (BEMS). The vast majority of Trend’s control systems are supplied, engineered and commissioned by approved systems integrators. Trend Control Systems is part of Honeywell Building Technologies. Learn more here.

Find out more about Trend solutions here.