Pearls of Wisdom from the Building Optimisation Webinar

Building Management Systems (BMS) present both a challenge and opportunity for reducing energy use in council buildings.  The opportunities are enormous and when approached the right way, the challenges can be overcome!

Building Optimisation Webinar -  held on Monday 25th July 2016

Some smart operators in the local government sustainability world have identified solutions to reduce energy consumption by as much as 40% in some of their major buildings, often at no or very low capital costs.

This is a major improvement given that most building infrastructure has incorrect control settings and is wasting vast amounts of energy. Of surveyed councils 94% say there's room for improvement when it comes to getting the most out of their BMS systems, and 69% have no protocol for managing their BMS systems.

If you want to get the inside information on how our champion council panelists reduced energy costs by reviewing and tuning their BMSs then download the Building Optimisation Webinar presentation or our information sheet, and read our article below.

Panellists included:

  • Stuart Nesbitt, Moreland City Council - How to get the most out of your BMS, and BMSs for different building types.
  • Anne Fitzsimmons Bankstown City Council - Saving money and energy at a push of a button: Fine-tuning HVAC and lighting operations at Bankstown City Council's library.
  • Sally Welbourn, Bayside City Council and Lucy Carew-Reid, Ironbark Sustainability - Finding the balance between comfort and efficiency: Results of a Building Optimisation Program at Bayside City Council's Corporate Centre.

Ironbark's Building Optimisation Program

Ironbark can assist you to identify and implement improvements to your BMS systems and assess improvements to heating and cooling systems (HVAC) and other building technology such as lighting and hot water, etc.

Expected outcomes include: up to 20-40% in energy savings, efficient building control systems and processes in place and a thermal comfort policy to support those processes.

For more information download the Building Optimisation information sheet or contact us.

What is a building management system (BMS)?

From our perspective it can range from something as simple as a timer that switches lights off at a certain time through to a highly sophisticated computer controlled system that controls and monitors the building's mechanical and electrical equipment (e.g. air conditioning and ventilation, lighting, power systems and fire systems).  These systems have based sensor feedback and pre-programmed feedback, and sometimes they can even respond to data inputs such as external weather data. 

Examples for various sized buildings include:

  • A $100 light timer;
  • A push button timer for lighting, hot water systems or air conditioning systems;
  • An inexpensive (~$400) programmable logic controller (PLC) that can be linked with your power board to switch equipment on and off;
  • A bells and whistles BMS computer system to control time and temperature settings.

 BMS Opportunities Are Clear

BMSs can help councils reduce energy whilst improving building comfort by removing the potential for human error and controlling the heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting to respond more precisely to the building usage needs. Small changes can result in huge savings, particularly when they are considered cumulatively over time. 

They also allow councils to speedily identify any equipment failure or unusual patterns of energy usage (e.g. equipment operating out of hours), and can be used to monitor the effectiveness of any energy efficiency efforts.

BMS Challenges

Councils sometimes face:

  • A different range of legacy technology and systems leading to a lack of continuity and consistency within settings;
  • Lack of in-house knowledge on how to manage the systems;
  • Lack of knowledge on what is the right approach when adopting a new system;
  • New technology can be considered to be expensive to install;
  • Difficulty in getting reliable contractors to manage them;
  • Lack of BMS management procedure (e.g. for managing staff indoor comfort complaints) leading to ad hoc and inefficient alterations to equipment settings.

Choosing the Right BMS System

The key to successfully selecting and managing a fit for purpose BMS solution is to first identify what objectives council wants to achieve such as resource efficiency, comfort, safety and minimising the potential for human error. All buildings with lighting and other energy consuming equipment can benefit from some kind of control.

Consider the following rules of thumb:

  •  Establish protocols for systematically managing and adjusting the system (rather than simply responding to ad hoc requests from staff). For example, establish a Thermal Comfort Policy that outlines council's temperature and time setting protocols and complaints management;
  • Establish protocols for ongoing procurement of technology and operation and maintenance providers, e.g. set up minimum BMS specifications for all new buildings and major upgrades;
  • Identify which buildings would benefit from BMSs and what type and size of system is appropriate for each;
    • For smaller buildings, install a simple PLC-type BMS and either link it to the alarm system or set the time-clock to hours of use.
    • For buildings or rooms that are used sporadically, use light motion sensors to switch off lighting and push button timers to control HVAC.
    • For larger complex buildings, set up a comprehensive BMS.
    • Establish a suitable protocol for cyclic reviews of the larger BMS systems to ensure they are operating at their full potential. 
  • Limit building occupant access to temperature controls that are outside council's acceptable parameters;
  • Ensure the solution can be integrated with current and future building equipment and infrastructure (are you getting solar soon!?);
  • Consider the operational requirements, costs and savings up front as part of your planning;
  • Make sure building users and operators are trained appropriately and ensure a manual is saved in a central and logical location;
  • Know when your existing BMS is out of its depth and its time to cut and run.

These are some of the key aspects to maximise the benefits of new or existing BMSs and ensure that council gets the right solution for the purpose.

For more information download the webinar presentation and our information and case study sheet.