Building Controls – A question of common sense

The drive towards energy efficiency has led to a number of new products and services entering the market, but sometimes there is a lot which can be achieved by applying a small amount of common sense.

Building controls are a case in point because the introduction of a building control system is one way in which many companies are saving energy. But what you need to bear in mind is that it is the simplicity of operation which is the key to achieving these savings as well as the versatility of the system involved.

One company that knows all about this is CambridgeHOK who were responsible for the installation of a site wide building management system at the Eden Project. But their experience stretches over a much broader range of projects and installations and as a result their knowledge of how to get the most out of a control system is extensive.

Meeting demand

Building Management Systems are just one part of this business, which also specialises in technically advanced glasshouses which are designed to meet the rigorous demands of modern commercial horticulture. As a result of this the team has developed a considerable amount of experience in working with many of the issues associated with environmental, heating and irrigation control.

Ross Hibbs, Director of CambridgeHOK says: “We have worked on numerous different projects over the years which include colleges and universities, prisons, hospitals, horticultural centres and zoos, but regardless of what the installation is, the requirements remain the same – the need to control energy and make savings.”

The introduction of carbon reduction targets by the government has meant that many companies are faced with a need to make energy savings and as a result the installation of building control systems is hitting an all-time high. But while some companies may believe that the installation of a control system will result in automatic savings, Ross argues that it isn’t as simple as that.

The fact remains that in order to achieve meaningful savings the technology must be applied correctly otherwise it is just another burden to add to the everyday workload. Ross says: “We have worked with numerous different clients on a variety of projects, but whether the installation takes place at a zoo or a prison the end result remains the same. What our clients want is closer control, ease of use, versatility and flexibility and it is only by meeting all of these requirements that the customer will achieve the savings which they are hoping for.”

A partnership

The issue of energy efficiency is something which must be dealt with on a day to day basis and while some companies have the luxury of an energy manager who has responsibility for energy use, it is far more common to see a member of staff who has this role tagged onto another job. What this means for companies like CambridgeHOK is that the technology which they install has to be easy to use and not add to the burden.

As a Priva Partner they have access to the full range of Priva building management systems which allows them to work with the client to achieve the right results. Ross says: “We work with our clients from the design stage right through to completion which means that we are able to fully integrate the control system and ensure that everything is covered.

“Every installation which we design is bespoke and therefore the control system needs to be flexible and versatile – and that is exactly how I would describe the Priva solution because every element, from heating and cooling to energy monitoring and measuring, can be programmed in.”

Monitor and measure

It would be a mistake to think that energy management is just about consuming as little energy as possible because it isn’t. It is in fact about using energy wisely and achieving a level of comfort for the occupants of a building which is acceptable while at the same time consuming as little energy as possible.

This is one area where the Priva solution comes into its own because the user screens provide an easy to use and intuitive interface which allows you to see, and understand, what is happening within a building at a glance. Ross says: “One of the main benefits of the Priva system is that it is easy to understand and interpret. The use of graphics and images on the user interface means that even if you are not a trained energy manager it is very easy to work with and as a result make changes to maximise your efficiency.

“In addition, because we carry out all of the system design and integration in-house, we are able to customise the solution to meet the needs of the building and the client.”

Energy saving innovation

One recent project which CambridgeHOK has been involved with is the installation of a Priva BMS in a new, purpose-built, energy-efficient facility for JZ Flowers, a leading producer of floral bouquets for UK retailers.

Located on the outskirts of Hull, the 60,000 sq ft pack-house contains a number of energy saving innovations, all controlled by the latest Priva hardware and software technology. Duncan Grant, Technical Manager at CambridgeHOK said: “From the outset, it was a prerequisite that the control system at JZ Flowers should be about maximising efficient use of energy as well as creating a comfortable working environment for the staff and ideal conditions for the cut flowers and bouquets.”

The Priva BMS controls and monitors all aspects of the building, from the 11kV electrical power supply to the machinery plant and lighting in the offices and the factory. However unlike many other buildings, at JZ Flowers, the biggest energy user by far is the chiller plant which provides 24/7 cooling to the goods-in and goods-out areas, which are typically kept at 5?C.

“Traditionally, with this sort of plant, the heat produced by the ‘condenser side’ of the chiller is dealt with using a dry cooler to get rid of the waste heat,” explains Mr Grant. “However, at JZ Flowers, this heat is instead diverted to a buffer tank. The hot water in the tank is then used to provide the heating for the offices, amenity areas and the production area.”

What is particularly unique about this installation is the fact that the Priva BMS decides on the optimum temperature at which to maintain the buffer tank, and therefore the buffer temperature is only calculated as high as it needs to be. The advantage is that the chiller condenser temperature can be kept as low as possible when conditions allow, which improves its coefficient-of-performance (COP). The BMS also takes into account the outside temperature and the various heating demands of the offices and production area, and this calculation is updated every second.

The complete installation at JZ Flowers encompasses the use of a Priva Compri HX8E intelligent BMS and around 15 modules. There are also two HX4 units serving approximately 35 Priva Comforte CX modules. Priva Comset CX display units are located in each office, and there is a supervising PC running Priva TC Vision for onsite and remote control, and Priva TC History, which retrieves selected logged data online and saves it to an open database. In addition, extensive use of the graphics features of TC Vision enable operators to easily visualise the state of all plant and the environment in the facility with just a couple of mouse clicks. The Priva system also has an email messaging service for the JZ Flowers maintenance team, and Cambridge HOK.

And finally

I have seen a lot of building management systems in action and the more I see the more I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a typical installation. Yes all of the solutions work along the same lines but it is the ability to integrate the systems and build it around the needs of the client and the
building which makes each and every one unique.

But one thing which is very clear is that it isn’t just about the products which you install because as Ross was keen to stress, the installation can be very easy, it is how you apply the products that counts – and that is the key to a satisfied customer.

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