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As governments look to reduce emissions, and new legislation is introduced, businesses are under even more pressure to minimise their energy consumption and carbon footprint. At the same time, businesses are limited to tight budgets, as the focus on profit margins becomes more attentive.

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 Many outdated systems fail to effectively monitor and manage their building equipment, resulting in higher maintenance costs.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 pain points 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. Alternatively, the second 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. Although this is a more expensive option, and not always feasible due to the risk of disruption to operations.

A retrofit presents the ability to quickly remove points of failure, which often cause unplanned disruption to operations, with the added benefit of being able to keep HVACR equipment that is still in good working order.  The challenge of BMS retrofits is that they are wholly dependent upon the ability to integrate with third-party systems, to allow a systematic and phased retrofit to take place over time.

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

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

With the first approach involving a cost that may not be feasible for many organisations, many instead navigate towards the more incremental process and integrate their legacy product with today’s smarter systems. Such an approach to gradually retrofitting and upgrading controls spreads installation and equipment costs and becomes an easier project to justify.

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

Overcoming Retrofit Challenges

The most common issue when considering a retrofit is integration with existing or third-party equipment. Often faced when a system fails, and piece of equipment which may no longer be in manufacture breaks down, the end user is forced to follow a set upgrade path. Before which they may even be forced to pay in excess of anything upward of £30,000 to upgrade the system head-end in order to diagnose the issue - a huge cost and cause of significant disruption. Extremely costly when the failed device may simply control an air-handling unit and could be replaced, and the problem solved with one of our PR0650 Intuitive Controllers, at a projected cost including equipment, install and software of under £2,000.

RDM control solutions have been designed to purposefully not lock customers in, by providing the option to integrate with existing equipment using open protocols and the RDM standard XML. If users have no issue with their head-end set-up, our products can fit underneath. However, it is worth mentioning that this is unlikely, with our head-end DMTouch being considered to be market and technology leading. Often, four competing products are required just to match its basic functionality.

Working with new controls can also 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. One reason that from offices across the RDM Group, we offer free training courses to help our customers and partners gain a sound knowledge of how best to 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 both installation times and disruption to store operations and lead to minimised costs, with less equipment and engineer time on site being required. Combined with the energy cost savings to deliver a short payback and boost to profits.

What Next?

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BMS ENERGY | Posted on 30 May 2019

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