The drive to return to the office amidst growing environmental concerns means air quality and energy management have never been more important. Ross Baxter, Partner Sales Leader at Trend, explains how a modern BEMS can offer potential solutions
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience will certainly keep health issues top of mind. From travel and transport, to workplaces, schools and social venues, many of us have never been more sensitive and aware of our surroundings. In fact, a recent Honeywell survey revealed that nearly half (48 per cent) of UK respondents would consider leaving their job if employers didn’t take steps to create a healthy indoor environment.
Put simply, the pandemic made us all accustomed to a new environmental experience that centres on safety measures and wellbeing. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the office, a location that has regained its importance as a result of the government easing regulations around workplace attendance.
A HEALTHY WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Although hybrid working has become an established part of the employment mix, for many businesses the balance is starting to tilt back towards office-based operations. Returning staff will want to be reassured that their office environment is ‘healthier,’ a concept that is based around interrelated pillars:
- Indoor air quality
- Occupant comfort
Taken in combination, these can deliver a workspace that supports the needs of its occupants by providing demonstrable physical benefits. Over two thirds (68 per cent) of respondents to a recent Honeywell survey believe that safe indoor air quality leads to better overall physical health.
Sometimes bringing this all together can be problematic. That’s where a Building Energy Management System (BEMS) comes into play. It can deliver the required level of control and the detailed insights needed to help create the best possible working environment. A BEMS can also help to reduce energy consumption, another major concern given rising fuel bills and sustainability commitments.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
The importance of proportionate and effective ventilation for helping maintain a safe and effective working environment has been highlighted by the UK Government. According to its guidance, employers and building managers should “identify areas of your workplace that are poorly ventilated” with special attention being paid to CO2 levels. The advice states that an average CO2 concentration of above 1,500ppm is an indicator of poor ventilation. For areas of high occupancy, a level below 800ppm is ideal.
By investing in a fully featured BEMS it is not only possible to monitor CO2 levels but also to track and control a range of other factors that can impair air quality, such as fluctuation in temperature and humidity and the presence of particulate matter. Also, an HVAC system doesn’t need to depend wholly on external fresh air, which could need heating and cooling, to refresh a building; air filtration and UVC cleaning, combined with measures to control CO2, can provide a more cost-effective alternative while helping to improve indoor air quality.
PLUGGING INTO ENERGY REDUCTIONS
Taking control of a building’s energy use is an incremental process – it can be all about a series of small gains that when taken together, can quickly add up to a big win. Facility managers need to keep the big picture in mind: Taking a holistic view will deliver the best possible results. That’s why it’s essential to have a fully implemented BEMS in place – it will help provide the maximum benefits and value can be realised, now and in the future.
The simple truth is that a lot of buildings – especially older ones – aren’t performing as well as they could. As a result, energy is often wasted on maintaining the environment in empty rooms, temperatures fluctuate, and lighting levels may be less than optimal. The result: avoidable costs and a far from ideal working environment that could negatively impact productivity. Fortunately, when properly managed and maintained, a building’s energy consumption can be further reduced using techniques such as motion detectors to dim or switch off lights in vacant rooms.
It’s not just about reactive management; sensors can also be employed to identify building usage patterns, which in turn can help to develop more cost-effective occupancy planning, especially if hot-desking is in play. This doesn’t just reduce energy consumption, it can also help improve the occupant experience providing that the most appropriate facilities are made available, cost-effectively and efficiently. From a building management perspective, that’s a double win.
KEEPING TRACK WITH REGULATIONS
The widespread growth of environmental awareness has transformed our approach to resource management, including energy usage. As a result, we are identifying and quantifying waste in far greater detail than ever before. This is partly being driven by government initiatives to tackle climate change, such as the UK’s Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) regulations, which aims to increase business and industry energy productivity by 20 per cent over the next 10 years.
The UK Government also estimates that if rented commercial buildings were to operate at Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band B there would be a £1 billion per year saving on energy bills. Legislation to mandate this target by 2030 is currently being discussed. This, combined with the fact that the European Union’s Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) is proposing to make the use of a BEMS mandatory for buildings above a certain size, means it’s never been more important to think about adding next generation building controls.
REALISING TOMORROW’S BENEFITS TODAY
The way we use buildings and how they’re regulated is changing. Having access to the right tools, in combination with a bespoke plan tailored to your specific needs, sits at the heart of an effective BEMS installation strategy. This will not only deliver a healthier work environment, it will also help cut costs by reducing energy consumption. Building managers needn’t wait for the legislation; it’s possible to realise those energy reduction and efficiency targets now, stay ahead of the game and boost bottom line performance. All while helping create a better working environment for your staff.