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As governments look to reduce emissions, and energy prices rise, businesses are under even more pressure to minimise their energy consumption and carbon footprint.

A survey of Facilities Managers (FM) has found that Building Management System (BMS) technology will play a pivotal role in addressing this issue in the next 10 years, and it has been suggested that an effective BMS can manage up to 95% of a building’s energy consumption.

The Need for Smarter BMS

Business owners and their FM teams are now having to address the question: could our BMS be better?

Often, the answer is yes. Many outdated systems fail to effectively monitor and manage their building equipment, resulting in higher maintenance costs. Marshall Institute suggests that as much as 60% of such costs are in fact, unnecessary and preventable.

As organisations look to improve the management of their energy, they encounter the most common trade-off between completely replacing their existing infrastructure versus migrating to a more effective platform through retrofits and upgrades.

But what are the benefits and drawbacks for each of these approaches?

BMS Upgrade or Refit?

There are two main approaches to the upgrading of a site-wide BMS system. The first approach is a head-end down, full system refit during which the entire system infrastructure is replaced in one go. The second option is a phased refit – also known as a retrofit.

By completely replacing existing infrastructure, a company will benefit from the flexibility of being able to create a fully custom system. But this is the more expensive option, and not always feasible because there is a high chance of disruptions to business operations.

A retrofit presents the ability to quickly remove points of failure which cause problems for the business. This approach allows companies to keep HVACR equipment that is still in good working order, instead of having to replace fully functional equipment as it would be the case during a full system refit. The challenge of BMS retrofits is that they are wholly dependent on the ability of existing HVACR devices to integrate with third-party systems. Third-party integration is necessary to allow a systematic and phased retrofit to take place over time.

Choosing an approach requires decisions to be made on the project budget and timescale. The capabilities of existing equipment need to be taken into account and the client’s overall objectives also need to be considered. Which component of the project is most important to them?

  •               Cost-efficiency
  •               Project duration
  •               Increased control and monitoring capabilities

Since a full system refit involves a cost that may not be feasible for many organisations, they decide on the incremental process and integrate their legacy product with today’s smarter systems. Gradually retrofitting and upgrading controls spreads installation and equipment costs and the project becomes easier to finance.

But what are the challenges and best processes when retrofitting a building energy management system?

Overcoming Retrofit Challenges

The most common issue when considering a retrofit is the integration with existing or third-party equipment. Often faced when a system fails, and pieces of equipment that may no longer be in manufacture break down, facility managers are forced to follow a set upgrade path. Before the upgrade can take place, they may even be forced to pay thousands of pounds to upgrade the system front-end in order to diagnose the issue - a huge cost and cause of significant disruption. This is extremely costly when the failed device may simply control an air-handling unit and it could be replaced, and the problem solved, by installing one of RDM's Intuitive Controllers.

RDM's control solutions have purposefully been designed to not lock customers in by providing the option to integrate with existing equipment using open protocols. 

Working with new controls can be challenging and it is not uncommon for a system house or contractor elected by an end-user to be unfamiliar with the equipment that they have been specified to install. This is one of the reasons why we offer free training courses to help our customers and partners install, maintain and integrate our products into their BMS solution.

How to Upgrade BMS

The process to upgrade a BMS is unique to every company and site, although a step-by-step outline can be put in place as a general rule of thumb, particularly when rolling out a BMS across an entire estate. This type of process was especially successful for RDM client Pets at Home, who with their control system partner, Ignite Energy, retrofitted 420 stores at an average rate of 15-20 stores each week. The outcome of which was a 34% reduction in energy consumption, £3M in cost savings over a two-year period and a projected reduction of 30,000 tonnes per annum of CO2 emissions.

Working with Pets at Home, Energy Management Consultants, Ignite Energy developed a demand reduction solution made up of two core elements: LED lighting upgrades and control systems. Despite being logistically challenging, the two aspects were rolled-out in tandem to reduce disruption while the store was trading.

Intuitive controllers were used to control all of the HVACR and LED lighting systems, supported by RS485 Modbus interfaces and energy meters. Being compact with a built-in display, the controllers could easily be fitted into a consumer unit ahead of installation. This reduced installation time, decreased disruptions to store operations, and required less equipment and on-site engineer time, all of which minimised costs. The lowered installation costs combined with energy cost savings achieved delivered a short payback and boosted profits.

What Next?

If you'd like to find out more about how we can help with your retrofit project, simply contact us for more information. 

BMS ENERGY | Posted on 30 May 2019


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