Increased energy costs and new legislation is putting ever-greater pressure on companies to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. One important recent example is Article nine of the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) which requires any air conditioning system in commercial and public buildings with a cooling output over 250kW to be inspected. Here Neil Smith, technical manager from Aggreko, the global leaders in temporary power and temperature control solutions, explains how facilities managers can deal with – and benefit from – the new regulations.
The European Union (EU) Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) was introduced to drive EU countries to improve their energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions in order to meet targets agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. Commercial properties are an important part of the new directive – according to the environmental advisory company the Carbon Trust, non-residential buildings are responsible for almost 20 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions.
To achieve higher standards of energy efficiency in commercial buildings and meet the directive, an energy performance certificate must now be produced when the property is sold or rented, which gives an energy efficiency rating. In addition, a report is also produced which outlines areas where improvements can be made and the rating that could be achieved if the recommendations were implemented.
The responsibility of ensuring a building has an energy performance certificate rests with the property or facilities manager. Having to declare a building’s energy performance gives property owners and facilities managers a greater incentive to improve energy efficiency, making the building more attractive to prospective buyers and tenants, with the added benefit of lower running costs.
However, in the longer term, the scheme could also affect property values as buyers or tenants may use the information to negotiate rental rates or the purchase price based on how cost efficient it will be to run the building.
Air conditioning systems are one of the biggest potential pitfalls for the energy efficiency of a building, and according to the government, can account for a third of annual electricity use. Older, wrongly sized or poorly maintained systems are particularly likely to be at fault and can demand even greater energy usage than those that are well maintained.
The use of air conditioning is growing due to a number of factors, including intensive building use, with heat generated from more equipment and occupants, and improved levels of insulation. In addition, market pressure has meant there is greater demand as the sale or lease of a property with air conditioning yields greater profits than one without.
All air conditioning systems larger than 250kW must have been inspected as of January this year as part of meeting the EPBD and smaller units over 12kW will be part of inspections from January 2011. Owners of buildings should use the inspections as an opportunity to understand and upgrade their systems as part of improving the ratings given on the Energy Performance Certificates and to save money.
If a facilities manager finds an air conditioning system that needs upgrading, perhaps because it is under-sized and inefficient after the extension of a building or workforce expansion, they may then be faced with having to shut down the system in offices that have to remain occupied and fully functioning. This is when they will need to consider temporary solutions that can help minimise disruption.
In buildings that have a centralised air system where the cooling unit is kept in a plant room and cool air is conveyed via ductwork, a temporary chiller can be connected to the existing air system while the old unit is upgraded.
Where the existing air conditioning is provided via a split system with an outdoor unit piping refrigerant to individual room cooling units while the existing system is being upgraded, the temporary solution is a duct system throughout the building linked to a high pressure fan within a large, outdoor industrial air handling unit.
For any temporary air cooling solution, it is important to work with a specialist company with the relevant expertise. Aggreko, for example, will conduct a site survey, draw up layout plans and ensure that equipment is correctly sized and installed to ensure it operates smoothly for the duration of its use.
By choosing the best temporary solutions available, facilities managers can ensure that whatever improvements they need to make to their air conditioning, their operations will be unaffected by the need to be energy-efficient.