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HVAC FEATURE Building management for the future


George Adams, director of energy and engineering at Spie UK looks at how predictive maintenance and building operations become possible using smart technologies


T


he country’s population and urban density is rapidly increasing every


week. In fact, ONS figures last year showed that the UK population is experiencing the highest growth rate in nearly 70 years. This adds to the vast impact of buildings on our society, the environment and the exploitation of the Earth’s precious resources that cannot be ignored at our current levels of consumption. Generally speaking, it is therefore


inevitable that building management in the UK is no longer fit for the future and must urgently change if we are to reduce the detrimental impact our buildings are having on the environment. Globally, cities consume up 75 per cent


of natural resources, with 50 per cent of humanity living within city metropolises. Building management in the UK is not ready for the future changes needed - it’s rather like cars where we need to stop using fossil fuels, but the infrastructure isn’t ready yet for the big change to EV. The use of natural ventilation is one


solution, but in cities with the inevitable issues of noise and air pollution this is not typically appropriate. In cities, most commercial and public facilities have to be sealed and, hence, mechanically treated. Fortunately, energy savings, resilience and product efficiency are the basic ingredients for the design of new emerging technologies within these buildings.


AIR QUALITY Of course, it’s important to consider air quality and thermal comfort, which are crucial for the productivity and wellbeing of the building’s users. A massive 80 per cent of Europeans dwell and work in cities, so we do require better answers for HVAC technologies in buildings to accommodate their needs. Lower fan power consumption is being critical, which means more efficient systems and better operations and maintenance of the equipment. Yet building management seems to be


stuck in basic HVAC planned preventative maintenance (PPM) tasks that, whilst traditional, do not produce the data and insight required for realising the potential benefits of improved building management and energy saving. Smart facility management definitely


has a role to play. It is important to identify the required goals when deploying smart solutions and what the return on investment will be in financial, operational and environmental terms. To do so requires sustainability to be considered as a complete concept and not in selected pieces. Energy use alone is not the correct metric to use for measuring performance maintenance.


CHALLENGES The challenges faced by people trying to achieve performance maintenance for sustainable facility management in the operational management of buildings are complex. To overcome them requires investment of skills, time and a financial strategy that moves away from year-on- year cheap cost cutting into a value for money, return on investment approach. Ultimately, the move toward the smart


management of buildings urgently needs to gather pace if the facility management industry is to contribute to reducing the impact buildings are having on the environment. This includes the recycling and improved efficiency of HVAC plants and equipment for longer life spans - avoiding major disruptions, vastly reducing embedded carbon, saving energy and reducing operational impacts of failures. Businesses need to be wary of poor or


cheap maintenance strategies, because these have been known to dramatically reduce a HVAC system or plant’s overall productive capacity by 20 per cent or more. However, studies show that unplanned downtime to renovate these systems has a cost impact that must be accounted for.


DILEMMA To determine how often a system or plant should be taken offline to be overhauled, as well as assessing the risks of lost or inefficient production time against those of a potential breakdown, can be a difficult undertaking. This dilemma can lead management teams into situations where they need to choose between increasing the useful life of a plant and the systems within it at the risk of operational downtime from frequent failures. The key to moving away from dumb maintenance into a smart sustainable strategy has to be performance data coupled with smart building operations.


/ ENERGYMANAGEMENT The main categories of maintenance


strategies are: • Do nothing - wait for failures and breakdowns with operational impacts. • Reactive maintenance - responding to failures when they occur. • Planned maintenance - project portfolio management (PPM) static activities following recommended maintenance tasks. • Proactive maintenance - a PPM approach coupled with trending analysis of repairs and faults to plan for potential failures. • Predictive maintenance - measuring performance and efficiency to tailor the maintenance tasks to what's needed and when. • The ecosystem design and operational approach is the basis of smart controlled mechanical ventilation and smart control systems that will respond to occupancy patterns in buildings, and with the appropriate data collection, will help to optimise the use of space and energy. This should be applicable to both new and retrofit buildings, hence contributing to overall carbon reductions.


SMART TECHNOLOGIES Predictive maintenance and building operations become possible using smart, connected technologies that unite digital and physical assets. While this is not exactly a new concept, the value for money investments in technology to handle the volumes of data required to achieve high performance buildings is a clear winner for those interested in sustainability and operational efficiency.


Spie UK


spieuk.com ENERGY MANAGEMENT | SUMMER 2019 17


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