Clarity of vision: Intelligent buildings

EIC explores the potential benefits to productivity that can be generated by effective and responsive environmental control, as well as the boon to cost saving and compliance processes it can provide.

Setting the scene

The percentage of the labour market now working from home (WFH), due to the lockdown imposed to fight the spread of COVID-19, is unprecedented with Finder estimating that 60% of the UK’s 33.7 million labourers are now working remotely.

Most commercial enterprises are being forced to reevaluate the way their staff perform their roles and the limitations imposed by location and direct proximity to colleagues and management. 

While WFH has demonstrated some obvious benefits, time saved by cutting out commutes for example, there are still many roles that require working from site.

Additionally, many employers will choose to return to a state of normality for logistical reasons like communication and conferencing that suffer novel limitations when used remotely. 

One of the upsides of COVID-19 will be an increased awareness and respect for the effect of working environment on productivity as well as on employee health.

Making informed decisions

Air quality, temperature and humidity are fluctuating qualities of an internal environment while lighting is more static.  However, they can each be directed according to need, tracked for data analysis and there is evidence that all of them affect productivity in the workplace.

“System design and the deployment of correctly implemented controls are the single biggest components to ensuring environmental conditions are correctly maintained.”

-Mark Longley, Head of Operations Solutions, t-mac

silhouette of trees near calm body of water at night panoramic photography

Air quality

The widespread attraction of commercial air conditioning is that it can provide a stable and consistent utility cost to weigh against air quality control, meaning that windows can be ‘sealed’ to prevent costly and unpredictable heat loss. 

Unfortunately, a lack of CO2 monitoring can lead to saturation in the internal environment which, in turn, can impair the cognitive functions of your team and lead to a drop in productivity. 

A 2015 report from Harvard University, titled “Economic, Environmental, and Health Implications of Enhanced Ventilation in Office Buildings”, demonstrated that:

The public health benefits of enhanced ventilation far exceed the per occupant economic costs… Even with conservative estimates, the increased productivity of an employee is over 150 times greater than the resulting energy costs.”

Ironically too much CO2 can often trick the brain into thinking that temperatures are uncomfortably high-meaning that air conditioning can actually be counterproductive to its original purpose if it is unable to respond dynamically to your needs.

“I don’t think our field has done a good job of reaching out to the real estate developers, managers, and owners of businesses that can make this change… I don’t think it’s acknowledged that changing these factors can make a difference.”

-Piers MacNaughton, Harvard

Temperature control

A discussion on air quality control necessitates one on temperature regulation since the two are often confused with one another. System-wide temperature control has been a standard in modern work and living space for decades, however its adaptability leaves something to be desired. 

The current fluctuations in British weather are an expected side effect of climate change however the thermal regulation of most offices isn’t equipped to respond to wide swings in temperature or humidity ranges-both of which affect our perception of temperature.

Additionally, recent reports have demonstrated human productivity is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature:

“The results show that performance increases with temperature up to 21-22 o C, and decreases with temperature above 23-24 o C. The highest productivity is at temperature of around 22 o C. For example, at the temperature of 30 o C the performance is only 91.1% of the maximum”

A collaboration between the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Helsinki University of technology, the report also stated:

“There is an obvious need to develop tools so that economic outcomes of health and productivity can be integrated into cost-benefit calculations with initial, energy and maintenance costs.”

Lighting

Finally, the internal lighting systems a business utilises can have a dramatic affect on productivity since they have a direct relationship with their staff’s circadian rhythms, the aspect of our biology that tells us when it is time to be engaged and time to rest.

Psychological studies have also shown that people’s mood and productivity can be affected by the ‘temperature’ of light as well i.e. whether light feels warm or cold to look at.

“There is growing evidence for a link between lighting conditions, shift-work and biological health conditions: an area likely to receive more attention from researchers in future.”

Lighting, Well-being and Performance at Work, by Professor Jo Silvester and Dr Efrosyni Konstantinou

Closing thoughts

All that being said, the key question is how to obtain the data and control necessary to make these systems work for you rather than just being extra columns on the expense report. 

Considering these elements as potential assets rather than liabilities might seem counter-intuitive but when the application of something has the power to affect productivity this dramatically, it is only a liability while it is not under our control.

As Jones Lang LaSalle’s 3-30-300 rule posits, for every dollar or pound spent on utilities like lighting and heat, you are likely to spend a hundred on people so why not make those costs go further by making what you spend on utilities count towards your people too.?

The recent SECR deadline also served as a sobering reminder of the importance of effective utilities management and regular reappraisal of existing practices. 

Intelligent building management will continue to grow more and more sophisticated, allowing greater adaptability to the needs of clients, staff and business owners, and EIC can help you to leverage this technology to increase both your staff’s productivity and your bottom line. To find out more click here.

Stay ahead of changes as the clocks spring forward

This weekend will see the official start of British Summer Time (BST), as clocks will spring forward one hour on Sunday 29 March 2020. How can IoT controls help you adapt to the clock change?

The clock change accelerates the seasonal trends towards lower demand during the warmer, lighter summer months.

Historically, the scale of peak power reduction following the clock change has been around 10%. However, early forecasts show an expected 5% drop in average demand for the week following the change. An unseasonably mild winter has kept demand levels depressed in general this year.

The advent of demand management and significant developments in energy efficiency and IoT controls have made the UK consumer more proactive when it comes to when and how they use electricity. It can be seen in the graph that overall demand, before and after the clock change, is trending downwards.

The role of renewables

The increase in wind and solar capacity in recent years has contributed to the overall demand reductions. Higher volumes of on-site renewable capacity allow more generation to be provided off-grid as homes and businesses generate their own electricity supply during windy or sunny spells. This reduces demand on the national transmission system. The high levels of solar availability during the summer season were a particularly strong influence on demand levels this year as on-site solar panels increased embedded generation, reducing demand requirements for the transmission network.

Renewables continue to deliver a growing percentage of the UK electricity mix. The 2019 share for wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy electricity sources was 31.8%, up from 27.5% in 2018.

How clock change impacts behaviour

The graph above shows how the peak demand changes before and after the clock change. The earlier evenings cause an increase in electricity demand as consumers use more sources of light and heat. Post-change, a longer day-time means that less lighting is used through the day and also has the effect of pushing daily peak demand to later in the evening.

The graph shows that over the last five years before the clock change, peak demand occurs at around 6.30pm in the weeks leading up. However, once the hour is gained peak demand occurs later in the day, at around 8.00pm on average.

The impact of coronavirus

As the COVID-19 situation has developed it has become increasingly clear that there will be an impact to demand levels. The graph below shows the effect of the temporary closure of schools and some businesses, with peak demand forecast to fall around 1GW on average week-on-week. The combination of the further closure of offices and the clock change will likely see demand drop heavily over the coming week.

React to changes in real-time

How can you best react to changing demand patterns and sources of generation? How can you ensure time-consuming but critical processes affected by the clock change are carried out efficiently?

With IoT-enabled controls, your business can access all the key information about your sites usage on a single platform. This allows you to make instantaneous changes to multiple sites at the touch of a button.

One of our multi-site clients previously spent three weeks making adjustments ahead of the clock changes. This involved engineers attending each site and changing multiple systems. With our system we could make the same changes in a matter of seconds.

STAY INFORMED WITH EIC INSIGHTS

Our Market Intelligence team keep a close eye on the energy markets and industry updates. For the timeliest updates you can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

t-mac Relaunch

Our sister company t-mac Technologies Limited (t-mac) has re-launched into the metering and controls marketplace. The energy and building insight specialist is a brand in its own right once more.

t-mac logo

How does t-mac work?

t-mac’s IoT technology seamlessly connects building hardware systems with dynamic software. This enables users to remotely manage utilities including electricity, gas and water, as well as heating and ventilation systems.

It works by connecting and continually monitoring meters, sensors and equipment, and shares real-time performance data via a single online platform. This provides users with the ability to fully manage their utility use and machinery. The system can also serve as an early warning device and flag faults or energy inefficiencies.

Wates Sustainable Technology Service Partner

t-mac was recently named as a partner with Wates as part of the Wates Sustainable Technology Service (WSTS) initiative. The initiative supports customers of the Wates Group – one of the UK’s largest privately-owned construction and property services companies – in achieving their sustainability goals. The WSTS helps identify and implement sustainable technologies that comply with regulations, lower carbon emissions and improve building performance.

EIC Intelligent Building Solutions

EIC installs and delivers t-mac hardware and software solutions as part of our Intelligent Buildings offering. t-mac solutions range from simple metering and monitoring to complex Building Management Systems (BMS) controls.

You can find out more about our Energy Intelligence solutions by downloading our free guide in the resource section of our website here.

Control the clock change in an instant

The seasonal trend towards higher demand during the colder, darker winter months will accelerate as a result of the clock change. This will place pressure on power margins and could lead to spikes in electricity prices, should supplies struggle to meet the higher demand.

 

Energy demand will jump but the downward trend continues

Current forecasts indicate the peak demand for the week following the clock change will be 9% higher than the previous week. Consumption is set to increase by nearly 4GW to more than 45GW overall as an earlier sunset (around 4:30pm) increases lighting requirements during the traditionally higher post-work demand period. If so, this would be the highest percentage change on record, with the 3.8GW rise nearly three times larger than the demand bump seen in 2015 or 2014.

However, the ongoing trend in reduced energy consumption has continued, meaning that demand is rising from a far lower base. Expected demand before this month’s clock change is 6GW lower than the most recent peak in 2015.

Furthermore, the expected post-clock change peak is the lowest on record.

 

Weekday Peak Demand for October

Demand – Week before Clock Change (GW) Demand – Week After Clock Change (GW) Difference (GW) Increase (%)

2018*

41.4 45.2 3.8 9%

2017

42.8

46.4

3.6

8%

2016

44.3

46.9

2.6

6%

2015

47.4

48.7

1.3

3%

2014 45.9 47.2 1.3

3%

2013 46.3 48.2 1.9

4%

*Forecasted figures

 

Improvements in energy efficiency have been reducing electricity use for the last 10 years. A large part of the reduction in peak demand has been the use of new smart technology, resulting in more efficient appliances that are able to do more with less. A switch away from incandescent light bulbs is also a contributing factor, particularly during the winter months, when lighting demand plays a far increased role in consumption.

 

Aside from a well-documented cold snap in February and March (remember the Beast from the East?) peak demand during 2018 has been largely below that of previous years, continuing a consistent year-on-year reduction in consumption overall.

 

React to changes in real-time with smart building controls

How can you ensure time-consuming but critical processes affected by the clock change are carried out efficiently?

IoT controls can help you alter site settings remotely, so you’re in full control when the clocks change. There’s no need to make arduous manual changes – with IoT, you can make the necessary changes at the touch of a button.

With our Building Energy Management solution, we’re introducing the next generation of smart building controls. Our innovative solution brings together the required technologies to integrate all your critical energy systems. This enables your business to access real-time insights on key energy and building systems via single, remotely-managed platform.

To find out more about our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management controls call us on 01527 511 757 or download our brochure.

 

A smarter way to avoid Triads

Each year from November to the end of February, National Grid use peak demand data to calculate how much energy users should pay in electricity transmission charges as part of the Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) scheme. To avoid higher costs you can undertake Triad avoidance.

What are Triads?

Triads are the three half-hour periods with the highest demand between 1 November and the end of February, identified by National Grid. Each Triad must be separated by at least 10 days. This means consecutive days of high demand won’t result in multiple Triads. Businesses that reduce their usage during these high demand points will lower their future electricity transmission costs.

You can find out if your business is affected by Triads here.

 

How will you know when to act?

Our Triad Alert Service monitors different influencers to predict the likelihood of any particular day being a Triad and automatically sends that information promptly to our clients. You can then take informed action to avoid high usage during these more costly half-hour periods, while minimising disruption to your everyday activity. Our daily report can help you plan ahead with an overview of the next 14 days alongside a long-term winter outlook.

Find out more about our Triad Alert service here.

 

We’ve got a Triad and tested track record

Predicting Triads is very challenging; falling demand and changing usage patterns mean Triads are no longer guaranteed to occur at the height of winter. Season 2017/18 included the latest Triad on record and weakest demand levels since the early 1990s.

We’ve helped hundreds of clients avoid these transmission costs by providing them with the tools needed, giving EIC an enviable track record in Triad prediction. Previously, one client saved £800,000 by acting on insight from our Triad Alert service.

Last season we hit all three Triad periods, issuing just nine red alerts, lower than any other TPI or supplier – a testament to our in-house technology, analytics, and expertise. Of course, calling an alert every weekday would generate a 100% success rate but we recognise the negative impact this would have. Businesses could incur major damage to their revenues if required to turn down production each day for a quarter of the year ‘just in case’.

By issuing fewer alerts we ensure our clients are not unnecessarily disrupted from their day-to-day activities. Those that took action in response to our alerts last season cut demand by an average of 15% compared to standard peak-period half-hour consumption.

 

Intelligent buildings, smarter business

By forecasting when Triads will occur, we empower our clients to take control of their consumption to reduce their energy use and lower their bills. Businesses can react to our Alerts simply by cutting demand during suspected Triad times or by load-shifting.

Load-shifting involves moving the most energy-intensive tasks of the day to a time when it’s less likely that a Triad will occur, for example early in the morning. This enables you to avoid Triads without reducing your overall daily energy use. Building controls make this easier. With our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management solution, we’re introducing the next generation of smart building controls. Our innovative solution brings together the required technologies to integrate your critical energy systems with a single, remotely-managed platform. This means you can manage your buildings in real-time.

The Triad season begins on 1 November. To find out more about our Triad Alert service click here call 01527 511 757 or email info@eic.co.uk.

Britain running on sunshine as summer demand falls

The changes have come from an evolution in how energy is being used, and those who successfully manage these demand patterns, particularly if combined with Demand Side Response (DSR), could see significant cost savings.

Analysis from EIC has shown that maximum summer demand (seen between May and August) has fallen 17% in the last decade. From a peak of 44GW in 2012, maximum consumption for the current summer has fallen to just 35GW.

This near 10GW loss in demand is similar to the reduction seen during the winter. Furthermore, it’s not only peak consumption that’s been reduced but baseload generation. Minimum summer demand has fallen by 19% since 2009. How much of this is down to efficiency improvements or consumption moving behind the meter is unclear. However, the change does mean National Grid has nearly 10GW less electricity demand to manage on its transmission network.

The trend can be seen more clearly when broken down by month. Average peak demand during May 2012 was over 39GW. This year that figure was just 31.5GW, a reduction of over 7GW in only six years.

Improving energy efficiency

The cost of LED lighting halved between 2011 and 2013. During this time, consumers switching towards the more efficient bulbs helped facilitate a strong drop in demand. This could be helped further with news that the EU will ban the use of halogen lightbulbs from 1 September 2018.

Another major explanation for the demand drop, aside from efficiency improvements in appliances and lighting, is the significant growth in small-scale on-site solar capacity over the same period. Small-scale distribution connected solar has a capacity of under 4KW but the number of installations has grown from under 30,000 in 2010 to nearly 900,000 in 2018. An increase of almost 2,900%.

The total capacity of the small-scale solar now available is over 2.5GW, which is not far off the total capacity for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

As the use of small-scale solar (the type typically installed on housing or commercial property) has grown demand has fallen. More and more of within-day demand is being met by onsite generation. Consumers can take advantage of the bright and warm summer weather conditions to generate their own solar power, thus reducing the call for demand from the transmission network.

The solar impact

The introduction of high volumes of solar generation to the grid – total capacity across all PV sites is over 13GW – has also significantly altered the shape of demand. Consumption across a 24 hour period has flattened in recent years.

The traditional three demand peaks (morning, early afternoon, and evening) have shifted closer to the two peak morning and early evening winter pattern. The ability to generate high levels of embedded – behind the meter – generation during the day in the summer has flattened and at times inverted the typical middle peak. This has left the load shape peaking in early morning (as people wake up) and later in the evening, as people return home from work.

The absolute peak of the day has also shifted in time, moving from early afternoon to the typical early evening peak of 5-5:30pm, again similar to the winter season.

The below graph shows the change over time of the July load shape, which highlights both the reduction in demand and the change in shape, with consumption flattening during daylight hours as a result of behind the meter solar generation dampening network demand. With electricity costs – both wholesale and system – reflecting supply and demand, if consumption is being changed, then it also has an impact on these costs.

Stay informed with EIC

Our in-house analysis highlights the impact of onsite generation on load patterns and the extent to which demand can be changed by taking action, and subsequently how behaviours can alter a business’ energy costs.

If you can shift demand away from historical high consumption periods, you can cut your energy costs and make significant savings. One such way to do this is by using smart building controls, such as our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management solution.

To find out more download our brochure, call 01527 511 757, or email info@eic.co.uk.

A new era for energy and building management

The building management industry is on a path to converge with IT and, with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), a world of opportunities has opened up.

How many of us used Uber to order a taxi, or Air BnB to book accommodation five years ago? New technology isn’t only disrupting the way we live, but also the way we work. In fact, 76% of businesses believe that IoT is critical to their future success.

At EIC the aim is to help businesses reduce their utilities consumption and energy-related costs. And, as IoT connects ever more devices, we’re using cutting-edge solutions to revolutionise how you run your business. In short, thanks to IoT, traditional building management systems (BMS) as we know them are a thing of the past. There’s never been a better time to upgrade your energy management strategy – but how?

We want to transform the way you control, monitor, meter, and manage your energy and water usage, as well as your sites’ critical business systems. To do this, we’ve teamed up with leading tech giants O2 and Intel to launch our IoT-enabled Building Energy Management solution. The partnership unites the technologies needed to integrate a businesses’ critical energy systems with a single, remotely-managed platform. With instant access to actionable data insights, buildings can be managed in real-time.

Through our smart controls solution, you’ll have the power to implement, amend, and manage control strategies on a wide portfolio of sites from the single touch of a button.

 

Together, through IoT controls, we can provide you with; 

  • Full integration. View, manage, and control your energy consumption and your buildings’ critical business systems in one place with a cohesive, joined-up strategy that includes energy, water, security, heating, lighting, access control systems, and point of sale.
  • Real-time data. Access your building’s data 24/7/365, anytime and anywhere, from desktop to smartphone.
  • Actionable insights. Transform your utilities data into useable information, helping reduce your energy consumption, improve energy efficiency, and better control your costs.
  • Simple and quick implementation with minimal disruption. We can set up our equipment in minutes and there’s no need to re-wire. In fact, once we’re set up you can turn off your old systems. 
  • Valuable savings. Cut your operating costs by up to 20%, even on your most efficient buildings. ROI for our solution is typically under 12 months, in an industry where up to five-year paybacks are commonplace.
  • A truly bespoke solution. We can design a platform to connect, configure, and control what you need, specific to your business strategy and requirements.

 

By giving business owners and building managers unprecedented insight into how their buildings are using energy, they can make truly informed decisions about how to reduce their utility bills. Our IoT controls solution will leave you with intelligent buildings and a smarter business, giving you the potential to unlock huge savings, freeing up cash to be invested elsewhere.

For a taster of what our Building Energy Management solution can do for you, download our brochure and start your journey to a better-connected future.