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With continued pressure on facilities managers to reduce costs whilst meeting environmental issues editor of PFM Magazine, Dennis Flower asks why many buildings still have little or no adequate control regimes?

With so much attention given to the speed with which technology is developing, it’s tempting to believe that every facilities manager (FM) has access to this and is using and controlling their systems it in the best way possible, to increase efficiency in all areas – saving money on costs and reducing the carbon footprint of the facility in question.

I’m pleased to say that in my time as editor of PFM Magazine, I’ve seen numerous examples of the above, relating to both brand new and refurbished HVAC systems, but I’ve also had conversations with engineers and others who state that these cases are the exception, rather than the rule.

How do we ensure everyone is using these systems to full advantage for their company’s running costs and for occupant comfort?”

Dennis Flower PfM Dennis Flower editor of PFM Magazine

Technological advances

There have been major advances in control systems over the past five years, whether in a full-blown building energy management systems (BEMS), or in the increasingly sophisticated in-built equipment controls that many modern HVAC systems include.

These control regimes will monitor and report, track trends and highlight areas for improvement and help automate energy efficient comfort throughout a building in ways that are designed to aid the role of the FM, rather than add to the workload.

So how do we ensure everyone is using these systems to full advantage for their company’s running costs and for occupant comfort?

Two of the best examples I’ve seen since joining PFM Magazine have been provided by secondary educational establishments – one in the North of England and the other in North London.

Both of these were making optimum use of their BEMs, using remote online monitoring to make adjustments or spot faults that could then be quickly rectified to ensure minimal energy waste and maximum occupant comfort.

Don’t forget changes in equipment

The other side of this conversation was provided by one of the BEMs providers, which had recently completed the installation of a comprehensive system in a new building that included controls for lighting, security and HVAC, with the potential to increase its scope in the future.

During our conversations, company representatives explained how they were being constantly called to look at systems in older buildings (typically more than 10 years old), which had seen numerous additions and changes to the HVAC systems over the years.

These additional bits of equipment were seldom joined up to any central control system resulting in in the all-too-common issue of heating and cooling plant both working at full capacity in direct competition with each other.

Not the most sensible use of energy and not a system designed to deliver the best occupant comfort.

An easy business case

With increased concern over environmental issues combining with the ever-present drive to reduce costs, one of the easiest business cases to establish for investment must be to improve the use of HVAC controls or upgrade if necessary, with the resulting gains in efficiency providing rapid return on financial outlay for either new equipment or expert services.

The added benefit for FMs is that many of these systems make reporting easier, delivering evidence of energy use and trends which can justify further changes if and where necessary, as well as helping manage and monitor maintenance regimes.

That has to be good for everyone, doesn’t it?

Dennis Flower is Editor of PFM Magazine