Energy and carbon remain at the top of the agenda for many estate managers, as universities seek to improve their sustainability credentials and increase operational efficiency.
Understanding energy use is a complex process and obtaining a true picture of a campus’ energy usage and the resulting carbon emissions, often proves to be a difficult task. However, approaches such as BIM and Government Soft Landings, supported by new technologies, offer universities the chance to get to grips with this area, while also enabling them to unlock opportunities to improve financial and social performance.
Capturing energy use effectively requires an approach that takes into consideration both the performance of individual buildings and the entire estate. Creating a BIM model of each asset on campus, containing real time energy data captured from the BMS system, allows managers to see at a glance how each building is performing against predicted targets. The data from the BIM model can be fed into dashboards to enable managers to benchmark assets, identify exemplar and poor performers, monitor carbon emissions and examine how different energy reduction strategies are performing. Allowing universities to tackle any issues quickly, develop best practice and get a campus-wide understanding of energy usage and the associated carbon emissions.
With its three year post occupancy evaluation Government Soft Landings (GSL) provides universities with a vehicle to track actual versus predicted performance on new buildings, but it does have its limitations. Factors such as how buildings are being used and operated on a daily basis also need to be considered to give a true picture of building performance. This is because any variation on what was initially specified can have a significant impact on resource usage/carbon emissions, which can only be addressed if managers have all the relevant information at their fingertips. Existing building performance can also be evaluated in a similar way with energy and resource audits, helping managers to identify areas where the asset is not delivering as it should and determine solutions to address this.
Adopting new technologies can assist universities to get to grips with campus and building resource usage. Smart metering is one such tool, which can be used to understand energy and carbon usage on campus. Currently, BAM Design is devising a metering strategy for a client, to be used across its estate. This will connect electric, water and energy meters to the BMS system, which has previously proved difficult. The data that is collected will populate a dashboard that will enable the client to track resource usage and ensure the estate is performing as expected.
Once estate managers have a complete picture of energy use on their campus, technology can also be used to manage consumption. At Wharfedale Hospital in Leeds, BAM installed sensors that turned down the ventilation in operating theatres, which had been out of use for a set period; resulting in an energy saving of 28%. These can be easily employed across a campus to cut costs and stop energy being wasted in rooms/spaces that are not in use. In addition, smart phone and tablet based applications offer universities an opportunity to engage with staff and students on a daily basis, to help them understand the link between their behaviours and energy usage/carbon emissions. Apps that control a room’s heating and lighting or provide real-time dashboards, allow the end user to see at a glance how their choices are impacting energy consumption and carbon and enable them to make informed choices.
With the advent of new approaches and technology, tackling energy and carbon on campus no longer needs to be seen as a problem; instead it should be seen as an opportunity to improve the environmental and financial performance of individual buildings and estates, while also improving the day-to-day lives of students and staff.