Effective energy metering is the key to complying with new legislation

Published:  14 November, 2005

PowerLogic
Using tools such as Merlin Gerin’s PowerLogic makes it possible to keep a close eye on how much energy is being used — and where.

The whole building industry will be affected by the revisions to Building Regulations Part L2 — Conservation of Fuel and Power, and the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Many of the changes these laws will bring are unfamiliar to designers, builders, building services contractors and building owners alike. RICHARD HIPKISS explains the implications of the new laws and offers advice on compliance.

With around 40% of all carbon-dioxide emissions in the UK coming from buildings, it is not surprising that the Government’s focus is increasingly shifting to how much energy a building consumes in the operational phase. There is also a greater imperative, since the EU emissions figures to the end of 2004 show the UK’s emissions rose by 1.3%. Moreover, with increases in utility bills reported to be as much as 30%, many building and facilities managers are looking for new ways to save energy. Inefficient management of buildings can needlessly waste valuable energy and will incur penalties and consequences when the new regulations become law.

Performance based

Part L of the Building Regulations is being revised to ensure compliance with the legal obligations set out in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). This directive, which comes into force in April 2006, is a new performance standard based on a target carbon-dioxide emissions rate for heating, hot water and lighting. This requires that all building owners carefully meter and monitor their energy consumption and emissions, as the owner of a building will have to make this information available to prospective tenants and buyers. Based on this data, each building will be given an energy-efficiency certificate, with a rating from A to G. In buildings that regularly receive large numbers of visitors, this certificate must be prominently displayed in an area that is visible to the public.

Approved Document Part L2 consolidates the energy-conservation principles of earlier revisions. Perhaps the biggest change is that the regulation is now split into two parts, A and B. A covers new build. B covers existing buildings, not previously covered by the legislation. This means that those involved in new build or the renovation of a building with a total useful floor area of more than 1000 m2 must use the opportunity to take cost-effective measures to enhance energy performance and measure the energy consumption of their buildings.

The introduction of Part L2, the EPBD and the energy-certification scheme, are expected to radically improve the energy performance of UK buildings. Building owners will be required to provide prospective tenants or buyers with a report detailing cost-effective energy-efficiency measures. A complementary report will be influential in making a sale, and could increase the value of the property. Equally, it is unlikely that any organisation with a corporate social-responsibility policy will be happy to occupy a building with a poor rating.

Worried

Yet, many of those involved in the construction industry are worried by the new regulations since the industry as a whole is still struggling to enact the energy-efficiency requirements introduced in the previous revision of Part L2, just two years ago. Indeed, Approved Document Part L2 will require a more holistic approach and the input of the whole design team from the beginning, since Part L2 requires that the energy efficiency of buildings be measured and demonstrated by reference to the whole building, not by the system of U-values used at present.

Installing energy-metering technology, accessible via a web browser, can help businesses to comply with the new requirements, and the investment in doing so does not have to break the bank. In fact, a recent study by the Energy Savings Trust reveals that metering and monitoring energy consumption has an average payback period of less than six months and an average return on investment of 200%.

While it is relatively simple to install energy-metering equipment during new build, it is equally possible during refurbishments that fall under Part L2B. The equipment and systems can be fitted cost effectively and without causing problems in both new and retrofit installations. In both situations, an existing Ethernet network can be used and usually there is sufficient in-house IT knowledge to maintain it. Wireless and Ethernet technologies enable ‘plug-and-play’ and convergence to allow centralised control and metering.

Effective policies

An intelligent energy-metering system will help buildings comply with Part L2 and will allow the end user the visibility to implement effective energy-saving policies. Such a system will monitor and provide real-time data on all a building’s utilities, providing a complete and vital insight into the building’s consumption. This knowledge is crucial in identifying areas for improving the energy-efficiency rating.

Equally, the ability to identify areas where energy is being needlessly wasted will allow the building owner to make substantial cost savings. Empirical studies of metering solutions show an average of 5% reductions in utility bills in a diverse range of buildings. But the financial rewards do not stop here. Savings in the region of 2 to 5% can be achieved by better equipment utilisation, and as much as 10% savings potential can be reached by improving system reliability.

Richard Hipkiss is with Schneider Electric, Stafford Park 5. Telford TF3 3BL



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