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Energy Champions

We reviewed a number of initiatives, which companies across the region are taking to optimise comfort while improving buildings’ energy efficiency in the transition towards smarter energy management.

| | May 13, 2012 | 1:50 am
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We reviewed a number of initiatives, which companies across the region are taking to optimise comfort while improving buildings’ energy efficiency in the transition towards smarter energy management. By Valeria Camerino (with inputs by B Surendar). Photographs by Rey Delante

The cost of building, improving or maintaining infrastructure to keep up with growing demand is one of the major challenges that cities face today. As a result, local governments need solutions to improve the efficiency and sustainability of city systems that are affordable, as well as easy to deploy and manage.

In recent months, several major players have rolled out a set of programmes aimed at improving buildings’ energy efficiency across the region.

One of them, launched by Siemens, is the “Advanced Operations Center”.

“We help customers monitor their energy consumption by measuring very precisely how much they consume and where,” explains Patrick Guedel, General Manager, Lower Gulf Region — Siemens Infrastructure & Cities, Building Technologies Division. “We not only collect huge amounts of data, we also turn the data into meaningful information, information that can be used to take concrete actions.”

He adds: “Out of reports that are easy to understand yet very detailed, we work hand in hand with our customers to improve utilisation of building automation systems in a way that generates energy savings. Our goal is to make existing buildings more efficient, and to make investments in building automation more efficient, as well.”

Guedel claims that, in order to achieve this goal, Siemens Desigo Technology has been recently upgraded to support energy monitoring functionalities.

The company’s key focus is on integration and simplicity. “More and more, HVAC control systems are replaced by integrated management systems,” Guedel says. “That is key to effective energy monitoring.”

He observes that, although HVAC systems are the biggest users of energy, so are many key systems in a building, including lighting systems, access control, fire safety systems and power distribution.

“These concepts and technologies can be applied to every building, but of course, the benefits are greater in large and complex building infrastructures: airports, hospitals, muilti-use commercial buildings or large hospitality projects,” Guedel points out.

However, he stresses the fact that, for the project to be successful, close collaboration between experts and users is required. “Technology is an enabler, operations teams do the real work!”

He claims that the initiative has received tremendous support from the GCC market, as energy consumption is becoming a key issue and building operators are looking for simple, concrete measures to monitor it.

“We focus on building operators, these professionals who manage buildings and want to manage them in the most efficient way,” he says, adding that they are usually already aware that improving buildings’ efficiency is important, but oftentimes they need support on how to do it.

“So we help by showing what new technology can do, by training them, but also by giving them the tools so they can train themselves and their teams.”

Furthermore, he claims, the company works very closely with Masdar, supporting the development of pioneering technologies in the field of smart buildings.

Siemens also takes part in the World Future Energy Summit, a global annual forum taking place in January in Abu Dhabi, and is an active member of the Emirates Green Building Council, which promotes energy awareness in the country and drafts proposals for new legislation.

In his view, building operators are increasingly concerned with performance and sustainability, which are the primary factors that they take into account when purchasing HVAC control systems.

“More and more, key factors are performance and sustainability: ‘How will my building look like in two, three, five or 20 years’ time?”, ‘How can I ensure that my building’s performance will be preserved or even enhanced so that it fulfills future tenants’ requirements and new legislation while remaining a profitable investment?’,” he says.

Guedel is confident that, over the next few years, energy-efficient buildings will become the norm.

“In the minds of people, a ‘normal’ building will be one that does not waste energy. Like today’s normal buildings are buildings where water does not leak, tomorrow’s buildings will be buildings where cooled air does not escape through doors and windows, where it’s never too cold or too nor too warm, where air quality is optimal, where light turns off automatically, and so on.”

Furthermore, new standards will be established and building certification will become a must, either through regulation or for economic reasons.

“This is already under way in mature markets and is rapidly coming to the Middle East. And Siemens will play a major role in this evolution,” he claimed.

Michael Scriven, Business Development & Commercial Manager at Dubai— based HVAC and Green Building specialist Optima International, highlights the importance of educating local developers, who, he says, are “increasingly making capital cost savings and nine times out of 10 removing the higher cost energy efficient equipment and building management systems, having no concern for the user nor the environment, just his cost savings.”

He emphasises that, to save energy, it’s important to know where the energy is being used and, as most building do not have any metering apart from the main DEWA meters, it is hard to look at which parts of the building are inefficient so as to focus on how to save energy.

Therefore, in addition to raising awareness among developers, he calls for the introduction of government incentives to developers who hand over an energy-efficient building, pointing to similar energy-saving initiatives which have been carried out in more mature markets such as the US and the UK, where the government implemented the “Carbon Trust scheme”.

“There should be a rating scheme just like electrical appliances,” Scriven says.

And he adds: “Why remove something like BMS, which is the only thing that will save the most money during the life cycle of a building. The return on investment is usually less than one year at today’s energy prices.”

His company has installed over 100 Priva BMS systems within the GCC focused on energy efficiency, making use of low carbon technology wherever possible.

He claims that the system allows companies to implement a more energy-efficient control strategy at a later stage without any additional capital cost.

Scriven admits that the initiative has drawn mixed response from the market, as the average developer “does not care about the end user, energy usage or the environment”, while educated developers “will always try to use an energy-efficient system if within budget”.

As far as end users are concerned, they are always looking at ways to save energy and money, he says.

“We keep all our end users informed of new energy-efficient methods, products and services and advise on ways of reducing their energy consumption,” Scriven points out.

When purchasing HVAC controls, developers are primarily interested in the capital cost of the equipment, while end users look at long-term benefits, ROI (return on investment) and low energy consumption.

Indeed, as a result of the recent fuel surcharge on electricity, the company has seen a surge in the number of building owners wanting to reduce their energy consumption and charges but most, Scriven reveals, don’t have BMS or, if they do, it is not working, not been maintained, and, in some cases, not even connected, even after five years of use, as the developer doesn’t pay subcontractors. “Which to me is criminal. I would estimate that 40% of all buildings with BMS installed within the UAE are not functioning correctly, if at all.”

He points out that, smart buildings are not always efficient buildings, but “making use of integrated systems to lower energy consumption is the way forward here in the GCC, which seems to be 10 years behind the UK market.”

Furthermore, although most specifications call for integrated systems, most local MEP contractors don’t know how to deliver them as they try and buy the cheapest disparate systems even from the same supplier, locking the end user into a single supplier support contract.

“[The concept of] smart buildings is about keeping things simple, cost-effective and energy-efficient,” Scriven says. “It is about choosing the right technology, not a single manufacturer, giving the user freedom of choice during the life cycle of the building. You need a smart developer along with a smart end user to have a smart building.”

Anant Berde, Buildings Business Vice President — Gulf Countries at Schneider Electric, points out that energy saving and alternative energy initiatives are playing an increasingly prominent role on the agendas of governments in the Middle East. This, in turn, affects the policies and plans of local municipalities that are keen to engage in green efforts. “Schneider Electric is actively involved in a variety of ambitious projects, the most prominent of which is Schneider Electric’s involvement in a significant partnership with Masdar and the Abu Dhabi Municipality, which was well documented during the recent World Future Energy Summit,” he says.

Berde claims that the 10-year programme is set to optimise energy efficiency in buildings by up to 30% annually, saving approximately 1,900 GWh of electricity, which equals to around 1.3 million tonnes of CO² annually.

The company’s HVAC control products include smart valves, actuators, sensors, thermostats and variable speed drives, which maximise efficiency in new and retrofit environments resulting in energy consumption’s reduction by up to 30%, according to Schneider.

The solutions are aimed at optimising chiller control and operation, as well as cooling tower’s water temperature by maintaining air pressure, and pump motor efficiency.

Berde believes that public awareness of climate-related issues and energy efficiency is increasing in the GCC region and that it’s the responsibility of the State to educate the public on the importance of saving electricity, water and other sources.

“The good news is that we are beginning to see this occurring more broadly now,” he says.

Last January, Schneider Electric and its recently acquired Telvent, a real-time IT solutions and information, have launched SmartCity.

The solution provides cities with an integrated suite that combines state-of-the-art hardware, software and services to improve the efficiency and sustainability of urban infrastructures, leading to more liveable spaces, the company claims.

This integrated approach includes Smart Buildings and Homes tools, such as energy and environmental monitoring and visualisation, which, according to the company, help cities optimise resource consumption for offices, data centres, factories, hospitals, universities and homes resulting in reduced emissions and energy consumption and improved resident engagement. The solutions connect buildings to the electric network and to each other to enable the smart grid.

“Our ‘Smart Buildings and Homes’ solution, part of Schneider Electric’s ‘SmartCity’ portfolio, along with our range of smart home solutions, are becoming increasingly popular for both new builds and re-fits,” Berde says. “Nonetheless, there is still a concerted effort required from both state and society to ensure sustainable practices become permanent, if we are to reduce global CO² emissions by the necessary 50% from current levels and avoid the dangers of climate change.”

The company has launched a number of initiatives to educate users on the impact of CO²-induced climate change and how they can contribute to avoiding it, such as the Business, Innovation & People at the Base of the Pyramid (BipBop) programme, which targets the 1.3 billion people who have no access to electricity.

As Berde explains, traditionally, most decisions were based on optimising capital expenditure costs, especially for HVAC systems, which constitute a large proportion of the total. “Over the years this strategy has resulted in the overall operational efficiency being compromised as very little focus was placed on the post-construction phase,” he argues.

As a result, the company has held talks with government organisations to facilitate the awareness and drive towards the implementation of a long-term approach to energy efficiency, which entails viewing the building from a total lifecycle cost perspective and carefully addressing the operations phase.

“Procurement strategy would now be part of an overall corporate sustainability programme and decisions made to take into account the operational expenditure,” he says. “Effective planning and preparation well in advance can even yield up to 10 to 15% savings at the development and construction phase.”

Berde is very confident about the future of the smart buildings industry.

“We expect the market for smart buildings to grow exponentially,” he says, forecasting high demand for smart schools and universities, hospitals, hotels, airports, shopping centres, factories, government buildings and any other industry.

Chillers for Hospitals

As we reported a few months back (Climate Control Middle East — January 2012 issue), in December last year, Etisalat and Pacific Controls, officially launched the Emirates Energy Star programme, the result of a collaborative effort between the two entities to reduce the carbon footprint of the UAE.

At the heart of the Emirates Energy Star programme is a structured approach to optimise electricity usage without compromising on occupant comfort conditions, said Najat Abdulrahman, a key member of the Business Development team at Etisalat.

She pointed out that buildings in the UAE consume 70% or more of the electricity generated. In a scenario of 200,000 buildings in the country, the programme could make a substantial difference and could reduce power consumption by 20%.

The Emirates Energy Star programme includes a range of services, such as energy analysis, carbon footprint analysis, measurement and verification, fault detection and continuous commissioning. Technology is at the core of these services.

The programme is backed by a star rating system, which works with Estidama or LEED.

Under the programme, any building in the country can engage the services of Etisalat and Pacific Controls and, effectively, outsource their energy reduction activities, said Sougata Nandi, the CEO of Pacific Controls. “We will, then, regularly monitor the building, control its equipment and generate reports,” Nandi said. “The energy savings the building achieves can be used to achieve Estidama or LEED certification.”

As Azzam Messaykeh, Regional Executive Director at Johnson Controls points out, “most of the Middle East is feeling the stress of meeting the demand for electricity.”

“The population is growing, and there is considerable pressure. Lots of the governments are talking about renewable energy. They need to do something about the energy situation,” he says, explaining that buildings are the most energy consuming assets in these countries.

However, he also points out that every GCC state has its own characteristics and is unique in its energy requirements.

“We would be doing a mistake if we put the GCC market in one bucket when it comes to energy,” he observes.

Dubai for example, he claims, has the highest utility tariff rate among all other states. As a result, there is a demand defined by the end-users’ drive to reduce operational costs.

On the other hand, while utility tariff is relatively low in Abu Dhabi, there is a high level of awareness about climate change and the negative impact of carbon emissions.

In Qatar, the company is seeing high demand for a high-end operations and maintenance offering that focuses on energy and delivers quality service, whereas in Saudi Arabia, Messaykeh says, the government is very active in finding ways to curb energy consumption.

In view of these different requirements, JCI took a very methodical approach to define energy efficiency solutions that would answer its customers’ changing needs.

“On an average in the Middle East, 60% of the energy consumed in a building is to operate the air conditioning system, be it air side, DX or chillers,” Messaykeh says. “The other aspect is lighting, which is 25-30%. So we have looked at these two and targeted energy saving in them. They represent the low-hanging fruit. We looked at the two aspects and said we need products for building enhancement.”

He adds: “We also looked at how customers look at equipment. What do they know about water-cooled chillers? Do they know the history of the chiller and how much it is consuming? Are they taking proactive steps to maintain optimal performance?”

As a result, the company decided to focus on cooling, lighting and controls, launching initiatives in three areas: building enhancement, technology, and operations and maintenance.

In terms of building enhancement, JCI launched EcoEdge, a simple energy audit that looks at the main cooling and lighting systems that put a strain on the energy resources in facilities followed by engineering solutions and a roadmap for implementation.

“Typically, this offering results in a series of system upgrades and retrofits that save energy and water, and use the expected utility and operational savings to offset their upfront costs,” Messaykeh says.

In his view, customers are not fully aware of the potential energy-saving opportunities that building enhancement solutions can bring them.

“That’s why we look at the customer’s profile and carry out a free audit, so we can show them what can be done. It has to be a win-win scenario; if not, they won’t accept it,” he says.

Generally speaking, he explains, customers aim at an ROI of two years. If more, they are reluctant to invest.

However, for some of JCI’s customers, the focus is not just about saving energy.

“In KSA, the problem is connecting to the grid,” Messaykeh reveals. “People don’t get 100 MW, for instance; they have access to only 70 MW, so they are looking for energy-saving solutions. They are asking for hybrid absorption systems, whatever [solution] to save energy.”

With regard to technology, JCI introduced the Remote Operations Centre (ROC), which can monitor any piece of equipment or system connected to the building automation system, HVAC equipment and controls, lighting, electrical, and refrigeration.

The company claims that the system can reduce energy consumption by up to 7-10%.

“We built a remote operating monitoring centre, which includes diagnostic software that looks at the building’s BMS system,” Messaykeh explains.

The software provides the building owner with historical data and load profile.

The company also looked at customers who are interested in measuring CO² footprint and understanding their energy bill.

“There are various stakeholders at the owner’s side: the finance guy is looking to cut costs, the IT guy is looking at interpreting the data, and the FM guy is looking at other aspects. So the question was how to deploy an integrated product that can communicate to all the stakeholders,” he observes.

Another technology solution introduced by JCI is Panoptix, which is an open platform that makes it easy to collect and manage data from disparate building systems and other data sources, such as meter and weather data.

“It is a cloud computing service that can take data from your building, be it BMS, AHU, etc. We analyse energy trends and track energy consumption and the reliability of equipment, while looking at specific needs,” he claims.

He also adds that the system can benchmark various buildings worldwide. “We can, for instance, compare a hospital here to a hospital in Louisiana,” he says.

Samer Tabbara, JCI’s Regional Business Manager — Energy Solutions, Middle East, claims that Panoptix can save more than Remote Monitoring, because Remote Monitoring can only be deployed in isolated buildings, while Panoptix allows the company to benchmark more buildings and, thus, increases the scope for saving.

Savings associated with this offering are estimated between 7% and 15%, according to JCI estimates.

To tackle operations and maintenance issues, JCI introduced Total Building Operations and Maintenance (TBOM), an integrated bundled solution to operate and maintain building assets with a focus on energy, efficiency and reliability.

Messaykeh explains: “In many buildings, the BMS system is there, but people switch it off. And there are O&M issues with the systems installed.”

He continues: “If I operate the systems in the building in the right manner, I am going to improve the energy bill. The equipment is going to have the best lifecycle and the occupants are going to have a comfortable environment, which in turn will improve their productivity. It could be how the noise is managed or how the air distribution is managed. All these [aspects] can make a difference in occupancy comfort.”

He believes that the main difference between TBOM, which can bring 10-12% estimated savings to customers, and FM is that FM mainly focuses on soft services, related to cleaning and security, while TBOM looks at optimising buildings’ energy efficiency.

The company manages the chillers on behalf of the building owners, looking after chiller’s efficiency and reliability.

Depending on individual customers’ needs, JCI either employs its own personnel to implement the above-mentioned solutions or the owner’s engineering personnel.

“At the same time, we can deploy our people, if the owner does not have the expertise. We have energy management engineers, LEED-certified engineers. Maybe the owners can’t afford [to pay for] their own personnel,” he explains.

The company also provides Chiller Plant Optimisation, an automation software which analyses demand side and can reduce chiller energy plant consumption by up to 20%.

Central Plant Optimisation is a holistic approach to efficiency allowing chiller plants to reach and sustain their high performance, high-efficiency potential, using feedback loop-based control and proportional/integral/derivative algorithms as well as adaptive tuning loops.

Messaykeh points out that, although regional governments are not implementing legislation to accelerate energy-saving solutions uptake, “they can surely give incentives to customers if they upgrade or retrofit”.

“The kind of mechanism that exists in the West, like performance contract, can help here,” Tabbara argues. “The governments here can play a big role. Instead of raising power costs and thus creating disgruntled customers and end-users, let them finance the initiatives.”

He points at the case of Carousel Mall in Turkey, where the mall owner was looking to change the chillers and controls systems.

“We went to the owner and told him we could give him a performance contract and a guarantee. We also went to the bank with the customer, in his bid to raise finance for the enhancement of the mall,” he explains. “The bank provided financing and we are now retrofitting everything in the mall. It is one of the largest performance contracts in the Middle East, and we are giving the financial guarantee to the customer.”

In his view, this type of mechanism, the performance contract, can be an enabler along with legislation.

“Legislation is a powerful enabler. We want the government to tell the buildings’ owners to bring down their energy consumption.”

Bank finance represents another powerful enabler, Tabbara emphasises.

“In other countries, banks are investing in retrofit projects. Banks here see the Middle East as risky. They are concerned about the staying power of building owners. That’s why we are able to undertake these kinds of projects in Europe, etc. There, you are able to carry out deep energy retrofits; here, you can only hope to do low-hanging fruit projects.”

He goes on to explain that in the Middle East, banks don’t have a collateral to hold.

“They can’t collateralise a VSD, like they can [collateralise] a building. So these are impediments, but we look at the uniqueness of the Middle East and ask customers why they are interested, whether it is for saving money or to become better corporate citizens.”

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