Specifier Review

Learning a lesson

Mark Glitherow of Trend Controls explains how obtaining the financial resources to install a building energy management system (BEMS) in an educational establishment may be easier than you think.

With education budgets being squeezed left, right and centre, it may appear that now is not the right time to consider spending precious financial resources on a building’s infrastructure. However, with energy prices on the increase along with ever growing pressure to reduce carbon emissions, it is in fact the perfect opportunity to invest in technology that can save energy and, therefore, money.

As we move towards a carbon neutral future, schools and other learning establishments have to do their bit to reduce carbon emissions. Occupiers of public buildings with floor areas of more than 1000m2 are required to have a Display Energy Certificate (DEC), which is designed to raise public awareness of the need for carbon reduction by displaying the actual energy use and efficiency of a structure. Out of over 40,000 buildings that require DECs, a large proportion are schools and the regulations apply to individual buildings, so school sites with several large buildings will need more than one certificate.

Not surprisingly, those that are not achieving a good grade are being pressured to do something about it. Reducing energy consumption is one of the quickest and simplest ways to deliver direct savings and, according to The Carbon Trust, could help the average secondary school save £21,500 in energy bills – almost equal to the annual salary of a newly qualified teacher.

While measures such as double-glazing and energy efficient light bulbs all help, the most effective way to achieve a significant reduction in the use of energy is via a building energy management system (BEMS). A BEMS offers greater visibility and control of energy use by monitoring services such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting. A fully integrated solution can have up to 84 per cent of a building’s energy consuming devices directly under its control.

These systems are at the forefront of the drive towards carbon reduction by making sure that building services operate in strict accordance with demand, thereby avoiding unnecessary use of energy. The data produced allows facilities managers to better analyse, understand, reconfigure and improve their site’s energy usage and costs by having them presented in an organised and informative way.

While the benefits are clear, the cost of installing a BEMS may seem prohibitive. However, this is not necessarily the case due to the existence of government funded bodies such as Salix Finance, which aims to accelerate investment by public sector bodies in energy efficiency technologies through invest to save schemes.

Salix is funded by The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), The Welsh Assembly Government and The Scottish Government via The Carbon Trust. It provides funding for proven technologies that are cost effective in saving CO2 and that can maximise the potential of any further energy saving technologies.

To date it has engaged with around 725 organisations and has funded 7,500 projects, valued at £178m, which will save the public sector £53m annually and £700m over the lifetime of the projects. The projects themselves have an average payback from the energy savings of 3.5 years and an average expected lifetime of 13 years.

The many projects that Salix funds are used for include insulation, lighting upgrades, IT improvements, swimming pool covers, voltage reduction and more efficient heating. One area where it is seeing significant interest and focusing its attention is in BEMS, due to its ability to make on-going savings across the entire infrastructure of a building.

In order to qualify for funding for a BEMS, an audit must be carried out that justifies the reasons for the project and outlines what can be achieved by its implementation. A comprehensive report is then submitted, identifying and detailing the expected energy savings. If granted, repayments on the loan are made from the money saved on energy bills and, once the loans are repaid, the organisation continues to benefit from the low carbon equipment and the savings it delivers.

This public sector specific scheme is already proving to be a hugely popular way of funding energy reduction activities within an educational establishment that might not otherwise be possible. Salix also recently received an additional £20m to allocate to energy efficient projects activated before the end of March 2012 and completed before the end of December 2012. The funding will be allocated on a first come first served basis – so projects submitted early will benefit.

The pressure upon the education sector to make energy efficiency and carbon reduction improvements is enormous. BEMS are at the forefront of the drive towards greater energy efficiency and the cost savings and environmental benefits that can be experienced as a result of investment in this technology are considerable and now within easy reach.

For further information please call Trend Marketing on 01403 211888 or email marketing@trendcontrols.com.