We have 1.8 million non-domestic buildings in the UK. Many of them are old, but they’re being replaced at a very slow rate. In fact, 98% of existing commercial buildings in the UK are more than five years old. And if you’re reading this at your desk, it’s highly likely that the building you’re currently sitting in will still be standing four decades from now (it’s estimated that roughly 80% of the existing building stock in developed nations will still be around in 2050).
For companies that own and operate older commercial buildings, energy efficiency retrofits therefore perform a vital function: connecting structures of a certain vintage with the sustainability features incorporated into new buildings as a matter of routine. However, as a 2012 Carbon Trust study revealed, actual energy use after people move into a new building can be up to five times higher than the level estimated during design (the ‘performance gap’), largely due to the behaviour of the occupants, poor commissioning and lack of training. This finding suggests owners of even fairly new buildings may also need to pursue greater energy efficiency through retrofit measures in the coming years, and highlights the need for ongoing monitoring with proactive ‘tuning’ on a regular basis.
Last year, an article published on FacilitiesNet by Scott Muldavin and Roy Torbert noted that preliminary discussions around energy retrofits tend to focus almost exclusively on energy savings and the payback period, while ignoring the wider benefits and value created. In fact, energy efficiency retrofits for commercial buildings, particularly those that involve the installation of a building energy management system (BEMS), will typically have a wide-ranging impact on a building and its future.
Of course, installing a BEMS is not the only energy retrofit project available to building owners but it is significantly less capital-intensive than alternative investment options such as replacing inefficient plant or upgrading insulation, and offers very significant savings (10% to 40% and upwards). Our wireless solution, which has a lower cost than other BEMS options, typically offers a payback period of less than two years, which only a few other investment options such as LED lighting and variable speed drives can match.
So here are our top five benefits of retrofitting a BEMS:
1. Improved visibility of energy usage
Energy management systems can provide a huge volume of data about energy usage in your buildings, but it’s useless without the necessary analysis and tools to spot where improvements could be made and money saved. Our BEMS solution offers building owners real-time alarm reporting to help identify sudden spikes in demand and incidences of abnormal energy usage. Custom dashboards make it easy to compare consumption levels and access key metrics.
2. Reduced energy wastage
It sounds straightforward enough, but a large number of energy efficiency efforts fail because businesses simply lack the ability to turn things off when they aren’t in use. With a BEMS, such wastage is easily eliminated because control of lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems can be automated based on occupancy, season and other variables.
3. Greater comfort
An important but frequently overlooked benefit of energy retrofit projects is the creation of a more comfortable office environment for workers. We’ve previously discussed on the blog how conditions like temperature, lighting level and air quality – all factors that can be monitored and controlled with BEMS – affect the comfort of employees, and therefore their productivity.
4. Reduced maintenance burden
By achieving greater visibility of their energy usage and cutting out the unnecessary use of equipment, it’s possible for businesses to greatly prolong the life-span of their systems and respond to potential problems before they develop further.
5. Finance options
As the government continues to work towards meeting the UK’s legally binding carbon reduction targets, a number of financial incentives to encourage greater energy efficiency within commercial environments have been launched. Some of them, like the electricity demand reduction pilot scheme, offer the potential for business to access large-scale financial support.
Our solution is also the only complete BEMS that qualifies for the government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme, which enables businesses to write off the capital cost of purchasing new energy-saving equipment against their taxable profits.
There are two crucial differences between the system we’ve developed at WEMS and other building energy management solutions. Firstly, our system is wireless, which makes it much quicker to install and less disruptive to everyday business activities. Secondly, it is much simpler to engineer, which makes it easier to install and maintain. The fact that our customers also typically see payback on their investment within two years means that we’re confident our wireless BEMS will still be around years from now – just like the UK’s building stock!