Give FMs the information they need
By Ian Ellis, President of the Building Controls Industry Association
Think about how much information the modern vehicle can provide to the driver. It’s no longer simply a case of distance covered, but also miles remaining on the current tank of fuel or miles per gallon of fuel consumption. The latest ‘green’ cars now inform drivers when to change gear for maximum efficiency, and even display a trophy symbol on the dashboard when the driver is achieving optimum fuel usage – encouraging and recognising the green champions of the road!
Yet even though this type of information and feedback is available on the road, we still sometimes seem to expect facilities managers to operate buildings energy efficiently with far less information at their fingertips than they might see on a drive to the supermarket every day.
The growth of metering and sub-metering has been encouraged by legislation, but I think that this has misled many organisations into thinking that installing a meter is the answer to their energy efficiency challenge. It’s not.
Meters track energy used, but they are only part of the story. Providing facilities and energy managers with information on the success of energy saving measures not only shows what works, it also encourages further energy saving behaviour by occupants.
The BCIA promotes the concept of a continuous loop of energy management. Measure your energy use (don’t simply rely on your utility bills: they can be estimated) and then put that information into a usable format. What constitutes ‘usable’ will depend on who needs to see the data. Reading University introduced a simple star rating system for its facilities teams – allocating more stars for more energy and carbon saved. This very simple headline information created a sense of friendly competition, driving interest in energy efficiency measures.
Introducing users to the notion of energy efficiency in a simple way is very likely to have them requesting more detailed data such as weekly consumption or highlights of anomalies in energy performance. Good information creates interest in energy use and that drives efficiency.
Linking meters to the building energy management system (BEMS) means that data can be presented in a usable way – and also provide the means to make changes to building performance. It’s not simply a case of metering but also monitoring and managing: that is the way to create energy efficient buildings in the long-term.