Should SMEs conduct an energy audit?

EIC explores the benefits that firms can reap from conducting an energy audit and how to maximise the value of its findings.

Information is power

Energy audits provide firms with a clearer picture of their energy consumption patterns. In addition, they can highlight existing points of weakness where wastage may be occurring as well as provide a foundation of knowledge for negotiating new energy procurement contracts.

As we approach the 2050 net zero deadline, clarity surrounding energy usage – the major driver behind office-based carbon emissions – will become increasingly valuable.

Small to medium enterprises in particular stand to benefit greatly from the help audits can provide. Especially in navigating information barriers that conceal opportunities to improve their energy efficiency.

While a review of an organisations energy portfolio can seem daunting, technology can help lighten the load. Smart meters can keep an ongoing, up-to-date record of energy usage across an entire site.

Employing one of these devices essentially automates the local data-finding necessary to perform an effective audit. Given how vulnerable long-term metering is to human error, this makes their installation a wise first step in the process.

Metering alone can provide average energy savings of 10% and comprehensive sub-metering can raise these savings by a further 30% according to the Carbon Trust.

An on-site walk around compliments the auditing process since it can identify sources of inefficiency missed by meter readings. Old equipment in need of replacement is one common example. Another being wholesale temperature regulation of buildings since this often does not reflect actual occupancy levels in individual rooms.

The fruits of an energy audit

With the audit complete, realistic energy efficiency targets become foreseeable and have a baseline for comparison of progress. Such a foundation is crucial for effective engagement with carbon compliance schemes like SECR and CCA.

Firms might follow up by installing site-wide building management systems that can provide further clarity on utility consumption.

Such a system can remotely govern space occupancy, dynamic temperature regulation and air quality from a single platform. The latter of these also affects the health and productivity of those within. Thus, intelligent air quality management can represent a twofold investment.

EIC understands the potential of informed utility management, hence why it provides all these services under a single banner.

Whether it be by supporting data collation with expert metering guidance or exploiting the discoveries that an audit yields with a single-platform building management system, EIC can provide the technical expertise needed for enterprises to maximise the benefit of an energy audit.

 

EPBD: What you need to know

EIC unpacks Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), it’s origins, purpose and how firms can make sure they are compliant.

The Kyoto Protocol

Two years after the 1992 UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the Kyoto Protocol emerged as an extension to the conventions primary treaty.

The UNFCCC’s objective is the following:

“Stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”

The extension took effect in 1997 and was as much political as it was scientific, viewing the climate crisis from a purely mathematical perspective. The consensus was that industrially developed nations were far greater contributors to climate change than rural and agricultural ones.

CO2 emissions would not be divided equally between the committed nations but rather based on their industrial activity. Subsequently, the EU and its member states committed to binding emission reduction targets which remain in effect today.

Following Kyoto, the EU established EPBD in January 2003 to ensure sufficient CO2 reductions from European buildings. The primary objective being to incentivise widespread improvement of their energy efficiency. The beauty of this that its criteria apply more to industrially developed nations due to their carbon intensity.

What legislative requirements are covered by EPBD?

The UK governments interpretation of embedding EPBD, recognises 3 streams of certification, required by both private and public sectors:

  • DECs (Display Energy Certificates) – required by publicly owned or funded buildings on an annual basis
  • TM44 / Air Conditioning Inspections – required for all buildings with installed comfort cooling
  • EPCs (Energy Performance Certificates) – required for both domestic and non-domestic new builds, majorly refurbished, sold or let out

The certificates are valid for 10 years from issue. EPCs underpin the MEES standard, whereby a building cannot be sold or let with an energy rating below E.

Building better 

As lockdown restrictions ease, and the ‘Build Back Better’ initiative gains momentum, compliance with EPBD will only become more relevant.

The most recent recast of EPBD, in 2010, focuses on new builds and major renovations thereby adopting a long term view of the situation.

EPBD also protects consumers, it requires disclosure of efficiency measures within a property to buyers, to inform them of running costs.

The requirement led to the widespread introduction of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), one of the major successes of EPBD to date. First introduced in 2007, the UK national database now contains energy performance information on a staggering 40% of homes.

Last year marked the EPBD deadline for all member states to have NZEBs – or Nearly Zero Energy Buildings. The criteria for an NZEB is simply that it have a very high energy performance, made possible by quality insulation and on-site renewable generation.

Since Zero Carbon Homes was scrapped in 2016, EPBD is one of the few legislations that targets the energy performance of buildings.

The fervour in reaching net zero means that this legislation is here to stay and so firms should be asking how they could ensure they are taking part.

Upgrading for EPBD

Improving the energy performance of a structure needn’t be a complex process, however it must be an informed one.

EIC’s approach to structural efficiency is twofold, assessing pre-existing assets using integrated metering and monitoring technology. Next, EIC adopts an end-to-end approach, carrying out initial certification, devising and implementing improvements. Finally undertaking a certificate review to demonstrate progress.

Depending on site limitations, EIC can consult on the installation of on-site generation, with a particular focus on solar generation. Thereby lessening a structure’s energy consumption, lowering your utility bills and improving its overall energy profile. Full details of these services, as well as testimonials from past clients, can be found on the EIC website.

Success is negative: Carbon negative office spaces

EIC explores the carbon-negative office spaces that are emerging, their role in the green recovery and the technology that make them possible.

Favour the bold

The path to net zero is fraught with obstacles and among these is the carbon intensive nature of the mainstream construction sector. Materials like concrete are extremely resource intensive to produce.

While often offset on a citywide scale, some firms are beginning to focus on the buildings themselves and work sustainability into their initial designs.

Blazing the smoke-free trail are Norwegian architects Snøhetta, who will design exclusively carbon-neutral buildings over the next decade.

The aim is then that from 2030 onwards, Snøhetta will focus on creating carbon-negative designs.

Carbon negative structures either generate more energy than they consume, or sequester more carbon than they produce. The figure includes expenses from initial  construction and materials, as well as operation and decommissioning.

Elusive costs like these are problematic, with 85% of building emissions generated by materials and construction, before the structure is ever used.

“For the next 10 years, we have the ambition of having projects on the table that will become CO2 negative in the cradle-to-cradle definition… This means we have to understand the embodied energies and all the materials used.”

-Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Thorsen

Balancing the books

Since less intensive materials suited to large scale construction are not yet widely available, balancing through generation will be key.  Solar is central to Snøhettas plans, with structures taking about 60 years to hit carbon negative with embedded generation. The architect recently completed its Powerhouse Brattørkaia project, which boasts an identical timeline for net negative. The Powerhouse also sports a cutting edge ‘wedge’ shape designed to maximise exposure to the sun’s rays.

While this may seem like a life sentence for business leaders, it is refreshing that groups like Snøhetta are beginning to think in terms of multi-generational gains.

Bywater Properties are leading a similar development project aimed to create the lowest-carbon workplace in London. The office, named ‘Paradise’ for the road it occupies: Old Paradise Street. Supermarket, Iceland has already secured the majority of this space, planting a green flag for the brand in the minds of its customers.

My generation

It is no secret that the attraction of short-term gains have significantly contributed to the environmental challenges we now face.

However, vision extending beyond the next board meeting can help transform the UK and global economy to reach net zero. Carbon negative buildings are a part of that vision.

Unfortunately, that can feel exclusionary to firms that have already established their sites and do not have the luxury of completely retrofitting them.

The complex, modular nature of structures does mean that while carbon negative may not be feasible, ‘carbon-light’ might be possible.

Intelligent building control is one of the most effective ways to improve your carbon profile. Primarily because it streamlines the carbon-producing elements of a building, mainly utility consumption, and shrinks carbon footprint as a result.

A holistic ally in carbon reduction is the addition of green spaces to working environments, since these also sequester carbon.

On-site generation further reduces your reliance on the grid and the subsequent sequestered carbon in meeting demand – particularly across long distances.

Other benefits include improved energy supply security, added leverage in procurement talks and a better carbon profile for crucial legislation.

EIC understands that intelligent building design and frugality around resource-use work in hand in glove. As such, EIC offers a comprehensive carbon service combining building management, intelligent procure and compliance acumen.

Marriage of these three pillars means unlocking the full potential of sites, and leveraging for the benefit of all. EIC’s full offering is on its services page.

 

 

 

 

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.

COVID-19: Advice for Energy Professionals

EIC provides counsel to our corporate clients looking for information around to which formulate strategy for mitigating the fall out of COVID-19 within the energy field.

A battle of morale

Since it first began its initial spread, COVID-19 has subjected the planet to a level of disruption unrivalled since World War Two. However, the advantage to be claimed here lies in how much the pandemic has exposed our systemic fragility and the areas in direst need of adjustment and future development.

First of all, assurance should be prioritised both to customers and to shareholders, the UK is privileged in its possession one of the most robust energy supply services in the world and as such concerns for supply are minimal.

The National Grid have reported that in 2019, the majority of the UK’s annual electricity consumption broke down as 21% commercial, 30% domestic and 26% industrial. Obviously these will be subject to change over the coming weeks, as self-isolation and working from home become the norm, however the current estimation is that there is an “extremely small” chance of the grid becoming overwhelmed.

Using Italy as an example, electricity and gas use are actually expected to decrease rather than increase.

The economic uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, means that staff as well as shareholders are worried, about job security, financial stability and their own health as well as that of loved ones.

Staff engagement during this crisis will be essential to maintain morale as well as to ensure that team members are receiving whatever added support they may need under the circumstances to continue to communicate and collaborate effectively.

Remote communication and conferencing have, thankfully, become increasingly commonplace in recent years and can now be leveraged to maintain employee relations. Consider which technologies, be they apps or direct software might best serve you and your team’s needs.

How EIC can help

Beyond staff logistics, there are also considerations to be made about site-bound resources, equipment may need to be powered down or put into stand by for quick reactivation when lock-down ends, lighting and lock timers may need to be adjusted etc.

Additionally, if you are already employing automatic utility data capture, perhaps the system you are using needs to be adjusted or paused to prevent inconsistent results being track and integrated in future analyses. Are staff periodically visiting site and will they have specific utility needs that must be accounted for?

EIC are specialists in providing thorough, accurate and applicable building management services that can be controlled entirely from a single, remote platform. The functions included in our bespoke packages range from lighting and ventilation control to critical systems like fire, security and CCTC.

The integration of these separate elements allows you to formulate a building-wide strategy that reflects all its needs without getting bogged down in a torrent of data. Further information about the solutions we offer can be found on our services page.

 

SECR: Why use EIC?

A brief look into SECR, why it matters, the deadlines and reasoning behind the legislation and how EIC can combine it with ESOS in an economic package suited to your organization’s needs.

The Nuts and Bolts

The UK’s Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting Policy (SECR), is a piece of governmental legislation that came into effect April 1st of last year. It seeks to consistently highlight the carbon footprint of companies, whilst encouraging long term strategies that are congruent to UK carbon emissions goals.

To that end, the SECR requires companies to provide a detailed report which includes items such as their carbon emissions and energy efficiency / carbon reduction behaviours implemented to redress their overall carbon footprint.

Established as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) was ending, last year’s regulations will affect approximately 11,900 companies in the UK, considerably increasing the range of influence that the CRC originally enjoyed.

The scheme affects businesses described as “large organisations” within the Companies House terminology. Therefore businesses which have at least a turnover of £36 million, balance sheet of at least £18 million, or 250 or more employees, will be within this category.

SECR works in cooperation with the pre-existing legislation the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).

 

time-lapse photography of sparkler at night time

 

Year 1 – Act Now

Since the SECR came into effect on April 1st 2019, it means that we now sit on the eve of the first regulatory deadline, with the first trench of qualifying businesses financial year ending in March 2020.

For businesses which also qualify for ESOS, the SECR scheme is a useful tool to provide the necessary data sets required for compliance, making the journey smoother.

As such, we felt that the timing was right to remind our readers of the combined ESOS and SECR package that we offer. The fusing of the two services is designed to remove unnecessary stress and inconvenience with the promise of a dedicated Carbon Consultant.

Finally, EIC also offers a 10% discount to any clients that sign up for a 4-year joint service package, our website contains further details on all of our services and we invite you to find out more should they appeal to you.

Please visit our blog here for the latest news regarding SECR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.