New year’s resolution: adopt innovative technology to reduce energy wastage and carbon in education

As we approach the end of 2019, it’s common to spare a moment of reflection on the year gone by, and possibly begin formulating a new year’s resolution for the year to come. For those who work in the built environment, and especially in facilities management, there is one thing that really stuck out in 2019. The need to reduce its carbon footprint and a focus on operational energy consumption.

Operational energy consumption in the built environment, such as heating and cooling, is responsible for around 17 per cent of the UK’s total carbon footprint. It’s an area of alarming wastage and ‘green washing’ throughout the industry. New buildings, on average, emit four times more CO2 than originally designed and EPCs do not accurately report and indeed penalise unnecessary energy intensity. The Siemens Energy Efficiency Financing (EEF) scheme recently found that the education sector wastes as much as £173m pa on energy. It went on to highlight a lack of technology adoption as a contributing reason. This is frequently cited as a cause for many ills in the built environment and is why there is a lot of excitement around the potential impact of PropTech (property technology), especially in areas of environmental or social concern.

The power of data analysis
The ability to accurately monitor and quantify energy and carbon wastage is challenging due to the complexity of building systems, and a lack of operational visibility. Whilst smart meters and check meters will accurately report on energy consumed, visibility of that consumption ends at the meter. This is problematic as energy wastage and its cause are not necessarily obvious. Full operational visibility and analysis is therefore essential to efficiently and effectively reduce energy wastage. In many buildings, the day to day operation of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) is controlled by the Building Management System (BMS). There is a wealth of data locked inside a BMS which is typically not involved in performance analysis. This is crucial when HVAC is responsible for around 70 per cent of a buildings total energy consumption. However, Demand Logic has built a system which can unlock this data. By collecting a huge amount of complex data from the BMS, untapping IoT networks, using machine learning and powerful data analysis Demand Logic are able to identify and quantify energy and carbon savings for its partners. A holistic digital picture of the inner workings of a building then enables teams to make sense of a complex system and action positive changes. Typically Demand Logic is able to identify enough energy wastage that it amounts to around 10-30 per cent of a building’s total energy spend. To date, Demand Logic has supported its partners identify savings of £10m pa. That is 150m kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity/gas usage and equivalent to 56k tonnes CO2 emissions (approximately 6k households). These savings are from identifying optimisation opportunities in 120 properties, without changing any core element of the building use or occupancy.

It’s not just about saving energy
It shouldn’t be overlooked that the loudest voice urging consideration of the social and moral responsibility to reduce energy has sprung from the education sector. Greta Thunberg defied the status quo by protesting during school hours to challenge those who had previously done little to halt the climate crisis. Her actions and the response from admirers has arguably resulted in the climate crisis appearing higher on the country’s collective agenda. Many students now consider it a chief concern and educational institutes would be wise to consider them as a key stakeholder in a way which may previously have seemed incomprehensible. If this isn’t enough then it’s also worth considering the impact of air quality on productivity and stress. Many of Demand Logic’s partners are from the commercial office industry because they acknowledge how important these metrics are in an office environment. The same is the case with the educational sector where an increase in productivity is an axiomatic benefit. Better still, the cherry on the cake is the data that Demand Logic unlock. Operationally a BMS transforms energy and water into heating, ventilation and air conditioning services. These systems involve and demonstrate many of the fundamentals with which STEM subjects are concerned. With Demand Logic’s help and through its APIs, large academic buildings can provide an immediately relevant dataset that will have a unique capacity to engage students at any stage. This is the fundamental philosophy of Demand Logic, proactive data-driven maintenance can make buildings both energy efficient and comfortable. Its platform provides the toolset to revolutionise facilities management now and provide a unique resource to teach the scientists and engineers of the future. So given that 2020 will begin the 30 year countdown to a 2050 net zero target, perhaps the education sector should adopt innovative technology as part of their New Year’s resolution.