Comfort and efficiency in a post-lockdown world: Part 1

 In a two-part blog, Graeme Rees, Vice President of the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA), discusses the efficient management of buildings post-lockdown.

The world is certainly a very different place today than it was just three or four months ago, but with people beginning to return to work we are all wondering what the new normal will look like as we adapt to learn to live in whatever a normal world becomes.

As we need to learn to adapt so too do our buildings. Many have been left empty for some time and with government advice to continue working from home if you can, a good proportion of general office spaces will only be operating at a much reduced occupancy level and are likely to continue in this way for some time yet.

CIBSE has issued guidance for building owners, occupiers and operators on procedures and practices to follow to ensure buildings are not only brought back online safely and efficiently but are operated slightly differently to ensure the safest environment for occupants. For example, adjustments to the control systems on ventilation plant to operate supply and extract ventilation at higher volume flow rates and to avoiding recirculation wherever possible. Also, extending operating hours to at least two hours before occupancy and two hours after should a 24 hour operation not be possible.

Of course, at first glance these measures appear to contradict any energy saving routines one may have already deployed, indeed the situation today is without doubt a matter of safety first. However, with a well-appointed, up to date, control system, achieving adjustments of this nature are relatively simple to implement and may even be done remotely on the many premises that benefit from secure remote connectivity.

The current crisis situation aside, the principles of automatic adjustment based upon demand has been at the heart of building control philosophies for years. Scaling a setpoint back or ramping a speed up based on a sensor measurement is exactly what building controls do. Doing just this to keep occupants comfortable is the goal, doing it in the most energy efficient way the ultimate prize!