How can we make hotel buildings more energy efficient by combining technology & expertise?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

As discussed in the earlier article savings can be made by understanding how to maximise the effectiveness of systems that are already installed in the building prior to investing in new products/solutions to resolve a specific problem. So, let’s start by understanding the underlying challenges that building owners and operators face.

 

Like many investments we make, such as houses and cars, over time they have become more complex and deliver a wide range of operational modes and features designed to meet the requirements of many user types. The upside of this, is greater choice and personalisation. However, there is a downside, which is more complexity leading to the need to have more skilled technicians to understand how to configure, manage and support these solutions as time evolves. The automotive industry is the perfect vertical to illustrate this change, only 30 years ago an automotive engineers focus was mostly devoted to maintaining the mechanical integrity of a vehicle, today the job is much more focused on the engine management system and other electronic systems making the reliance upon diagnostic tools more critical. The advent of BeMS systems and the future enhancements that will come with IoT are already seeing the same impact in the maintenance and management of buildings and the trend will continue in years to come.

 

Let’s consider the lifecycle of a typical building and understand how it degrades in its efficiency over time. The infographic below in fig 1, you can see how over time the building becomes less and less efficient. Even at the outset it is unlikely that the building will run at 100% efficiency and within a few years could drop well below 70% of its desired optimum. 

 

At various points in time a concerted effort will be made to upgrade and improve the performance of assets and systems that are typically related to high energy consumption.  However, it is unlikely that it can be returned to the state it was in at the initial commissioning point, without the support of additional technology and expertise. This effect continues over time, especially if the maintenance is carried out with a periodic break/fix approach. Again, a good analogy of this is the power lost by an internal combustion engine over time if it is not continuously maintained to perform at its optimum level. 

 

 

Therefore, would it not be a more appropriate approach to treat your building like a high-performance vehicle?  Having it constantly monitored and maintained by expert engineers would ensure it delivers at it most efficient every day. This ongoing commissioning effect means that the property can regain its initial performance as shown in figure 2. Over time this approach continues to improve and delivers energy efficiencies allowing the asset owner to sweat the asset for longer and reserve funds to make ongoing improvements to the property to deliver greater performance and environmental benefits for the guests of the property.

 

 

You might think this approach is costlier, however, it has been proven the contrary is true. It is often thought that to make such savings you have to invest in new systems, insulation or other capital investment projects that make the decision more challenging to make for many businesses that do not spend a large proportion of their budgets on energy. However, as the US Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu stated in this article in The Times on 26th May 2012, “energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit that is lying on the ground”.

 

A well-maintained building that is monitored regularly and any anomalies are dealt with quickly, sees greater efficiency and effectiveness of the building delivering dramatic improvement in energy performance over time. This effect is achieved by using the latest cloud-based technologies and combining this with expertise that is focused on delivering energy saving solutions. Using this technology and skills enables us to see the fruit lying on the ground and pick it up immediately.

 

 

Taking a look at the infographic on the left (fig 3), we can see that the bulk of energy is utilised in heating and cooling the property. The objective is to provide a consistent comfort levels to guests and visitors utilising the various areas of the property. Studies have shown that up to 25% of the energy used for delivering HVAC services is wasted. By focussing efforts just on this area alone could mean an immediate 10-12% saving of overall energy

 

usage alone. If we make a similar saving in the area of heating and cooling water and lighting, it is realistically achievable that overall saving can reach and even exceed 20% of the total kWh used per year.

 

Case studies done with several leading UK hotels have seen in excess of 40% reduction in gas usage and greater than 15% reduction in the use of electricity. All this is possible even when the building is operating 24 hours and day and there is no opportunity to “turn-off” plant during out of hours operation like many other commercial businesses. Therefore, it is necessary to be more creative and to be able to monitor in real-time the thousands of end-points and actions to make the best decisions to be energy efficient. Whilst energy may be a smaller proportion of the overall costs of operating the business, a 10-15% saving is still very significant and can have an effect on the bottom line making the property more competitive overall.

 

For example, a moderate 150-room property with an energy spend of around £350,000 p.a could conservatively benefit from a saving of £1 per available room night.

 

Even in cases where organisations have been very focussed on energy optimisation, installing the latest equipment and other methods of reducing energy utilisation, it is still very likely that when 24 x 7 x 365 monitoring tools are implemented and scrutinised by highly skilled engineers whose sole purpose is to find areas to save, it is still possible to gain more efficiencies.

 

A comprehensive review of the BeMS operation including; time schedules, setpoints and control strategies supported by energy consumption data will enable a dedicated team to identify areas for further savings. A physical inspection of HVAC plant will identify assets that may be configured incorrectly or equipment switched to manual or ready for maintenance and repair. All of which can be turned into a client approved strategy to maintain the optimal performance of the building.

 

For more larger complexes with meeting and conference facilities, pools and spa facilities the savings can be considerably greater.

 

If you own, operate or manage a hotel I am sure you are concerned about the use of energy and wondering if you have the right strategies in place to minimise your usage, improve your competitiveness and meet your sustainability goals without the need to invest in new plant and systems. If so, like, share or comment.