Increasing numbers of premises of all sizes are turning to bureau services as a cost effective way of leveraging maximum gain from their BMS installations, advises Marc Harrison.
Reducing energy use makes perfect business sense: it saves money, enhances corporate reputation and helps everyone in the fight against climate change. With this in mind, building management systems (BMS) have long been hailed as an optimum way to cut energy consumption and maintenance costs. According to the Carbon Trust, in premises with well-controlled systems, heating bills can be up to 35% lower than in poorly-controlled buildings.
A BMS has many functions, controlling services such as heating, hot water, ventilation, cooling, shading, air conditioning and lighting. However, even in premises with the latest BMS, there is widespread failure to get the most from the technology. Many systems are now so sophisticated and complex that customers are missing out on many potential benefits. Or, in cases where key people have left, new employees are often unaware of where the hardware is located, how the controls are set and when/how often they are checked. For these reasons there is a growing trend towards the use of BMS bureau services.
When installed correctly and when working properly, building controls have a range of benefits. They can: minimise running costs, energy consumption and pollution associated with energy use; improve comfort for building users; prevent the unwanted or out-of-hours operation of equipment; limit excessive wear and tear on building systems and plant; and minimise maintenance, repair and replacement costs.
Outside expertise can be the key to maximising previously-unrealised energy and maintenance savings from a BMS. Importantly, this is not just about having a service contract and receiving routine maintenance, it’s about sharing knowledge (typically through training days) and helping bureau users better understand their BMS, particularly regarding usage and maintenance.
BG Energy Solutions has over 100 UK sites using its bureau services. Client BMS systems are monitored remotely 364 days a year, with 99% of issues resolved over the telephone or internet. Each remote bureau subscriptions and service contracts can be tailored according to requirements. As well as telephone/IP support, plans can include: engineer call-outs; pre-planned maintenance dates with diagnosis of potential failure points; preferential hourly rates; discounted spare parts; and proactive visits to identify potential energy savings and advantageous upgrades.
“Our plan embraces an emergency call-out service that spans 364 days a year and a service maintenance contract covering 16 annual visits,” explains Keith Wilson, Facilities Manager at Leek-based Adams Foods, one of the UK’s largest suppliers of pre-packed hard cheese, and user of bureau services from BG Energy Solutions. “The latter equates to one visit every month, leaving four ‘spare’ days which can be allocated to fit our project requirements as they change throughout the year.”
Ample added advantages
Fault management is another area offering benefits to bureau users. A reputable bureau service will be able to collate data and relay any issues to the site facilities team and mechanical contractors accordingly. Similarly, regarding maintenance, a bureau service can be of enormous assistance to on-site engineers. A case in point is where heating or cooling valve actuators fail to operate in accordance with BMS instructions. Stuck valves can be problematic as just 1°C out-of-synch with the BMS can result in 10% excess energy use.
Other common fault situations involve engineers manually overriding switches to turn on heaters for example. These are easily forgotten and are frequently left on for extended periods. A bureau can set up alarms to monitor and address such situations.
At Adams Foods, the emphasis is very much on temperature control, particularly in the warehouse where millions of pounds worth of cheese is stored. Both the high care and low care areas of the company’s £30 million Leek factory are also subject to issues if the temperature fluctuates beyond its designated limits.
“There is a safety aspect where temperature becomes a risk factor,” says Mr Wilson. “For this reason, the ongoing attention of BG Energy is a vital part of our ongoing production and business operation.”
Regarding energy use, if supplied with two years of energy data, BG Energy Solutions will happily produce a free-of-charge energy reduction survey, identifying various proposals to make savings. At Adams Foods, BG Energy installed energy metering, monitoring and targeting technology on the company’s Trend BMS in the form of Target and Monitoring software.
The Target and Monitoring software illustrates energy consumption data in real time and demonstrates wastage that would be otherwise impossible to see. It establishes baselines and targets, and aids in forecasting future energy budgets. The software also monitors carbon emissions, which is important because Adams Foods can claim a government rebate against any reductions. However, all the figures declared in order to claim the rebate must be verified; which is where the Target and Monitoring software comes in.
“We’ve used BG Energy’s bureau services for some years now,” concludes Mr Wilson. “Yes, their costs are very competitive, but mainly we retain them because of their systems knowledge and experience. They’ve become part of the business fabric here.”
Using a bureau overwhelmingly pays for itself. Problems can be remedied swiftly and issues identified before they become failures. Over 90% of those using a bureau service for the first time renew year-on-year – a statistic that speaks for itself.