Do you recall the days, particularly around Y2K, when the IT fraternity were often accused of creating wonderful solutions and pieces of hardware for customers who had absolutely no need for them?
Anything with a chip in it became a potential enemy of the future of global civilisation.
There were lots of (very expensive) lessons learnt from all this, not least that technology itself and the way it is used have to be considered and a sense of the relative importance of each reached.
Energy technology, especially around control systems, has its roots in IT.
Theory and practice diverge in many places on the journey to energy efficiency. This emphatically applies in the energy world and nowhere more so than in building management systems (BMS).
The humble switch
A switch, in isolation, is as much use as a chocolate fireguard. It can be the most advanced and innovative switch design in the world but what matters is how that switch is used.
In the realms of energy-saving, the switch is of fundamental importance. It’s almost where energy demand management itself began, certainly for electricity.
But the management processes around the switch are of far greater importance – why is the switch turned on or off, who decides how long it should be on or off, what happens if it should ever go wrong?
In very simple scenarios, a switch or simple timeclock may be far more cost-effective than a full-blown BMS. However for more complex situations the BMS, used in the correct way, will deliver massive savings in energy.
This is where the owners/operators need to ensure they’re using the technology to its full capabilities. What is the point of only using 10% of its functionality where for a marginal cost they could reach 80-90% and save more energy?
Similarly, why employ a BMS at all if it’s not fully optimised and commissioned and subsequently checked/maintained?
The potential to use technology to its optimum performance level is often overlooked meaning that business cases become diluted and subsequently declined by investors.
So much time is spent looking at the insulation and material performance standards of buildings – maybe some of that should be about maximising technology benefits both for refurbishment of existing facilities as well as new builds.
As for “value engineering” out of key elements at the design stage – that is clearly a contradiction in terms, everyone loses for the foreseeable future.
What should change?
A meaningful move to life-cycle cost management whilst at the same time ensuring that best value is extracted from many of the superb technologies out there will help.
Any organisation that is serious about improving its efficiency surely has to spend a little time pondering this one or at least understand the risks – and costs – of not doing so…
Mervyn Bowden is the Managing Director of Intuitive Energy Solutions Ltd.