Power quality issues – Harmonics

Harmonics issues within an electrical installation frequently go overlooked due to a lack of understanding or awareness of them. This then often leads site and facility managers experiencing problems within their installations to focus on the symptoms rather than the underlying cause of those problems. In this Blog on power quality issues we explore the causes, symptoms and some solutions to the problems of harmonics.

Within the last 30 years there has been a big increase in the number of non-linear loads connected to the electrical network, including computers and associated IT equipment, uninterruptable power supplies, variable speed motor drives, electronic lighting ballasts, and LED lighting, to name just a few. The growing use of such equipment and the application of electronics in nearly all electrical loads are beginning to have some worrying effects on the electricity supply. It is estimated that today over 95% of the harmonic interference within an installation is generated by equipment within that installation.

When a linear electrical load is connected to the supply it draws a sinusoidal current at the same frequency as the voltage, however, non-linear loads draw currents that are not necessarily sinusoidal.

The current waveform can become quite complex, depending on the type of load and its interaction with other components in the installation. These non-linear loads increase current, and in severe cases voltage, distortion in the electrical supply, which can lead to significant energy losses, shortened equipment lifespans, and reduced efficiency of devices.

Waveform distortion can be mathematically analysed to show that it is generally equivalent to superimposing additional frequency components onto the original 50Hz sinewave. These frequencies are harmonics of the fundamental frequency, and can sometimes propagate outwards from the non-linear loads causing problems elsewhere on the electrical installation.

Regardless of how complex the current waveform becomes it is possible to deconstruct it into a series of simple sine waves using Fourier analysis.

One of the measures often used to indicate the amount of harmonic distortion present in an electrical installation is total harmonic current distortion or THDi. This is a ratio of the sum of all the harmonic currents to the current at the fundamental frequency described by the equation: –

THDi

Harmonic currents have negative effects on almost all items on the electrical system by upsetting sensitive electronic devices and causing dielectric thermal and mechanical stresses.

The most significant of these include computer and other IT equipment crashes and lockouts, flickering lights, electronic card failures in process control equipment, power factor correction equipment failure, high load switching failure, neutral conductor overheating, unexpected circuit breaker operation and inaccurate metering.

Some of these, such as flickering lights and IT equipment crashes are, at the least, an irritant to businesses. Electronic card failures on production lines or process control equipment can cost businesses in unplanned down-time. Worst of all though, failure of power factor correction and electrical distribution equipment, cables, transformers, motors and standby generators can be catastrophic. At the least the presence of harmonics will cause reduced electrical efficiency within the installation and excessive power consumption which you will be paying for.

The internal resistance of a capacitor reduces as frequency rises, and at high frequencies can appear almost as a short circuit. Power factor correction capacitors are generally designed to operate at the fundamental frequency, and the lower impedance seen by the higher frequency harmonic currents result in an increased amount of capacitor overheating. It is also possible to experience permanent damage to capacitors due to parallel resonance occurring between them and transformers.

Resistive heating is proportional to the square of the harmonic order, and so it follows that the greater the number of higher order harmonics that exist the greater the heating effect.

At the least this will lead to large increases in iron losses, and therefore power consumption, in rotating machines and transformers, as well as increased eddy current losses in transformers. In the worst cases fires in wiring and distribution systems or even catastrophic transformer failure.

Apart from losses due to heating effects, motors in particular can be significantly negatively impacted by harmonics due to torsional oscillation of the motor shaft. Torque in AC motors is produced by the interaction between the air gap magnetic field and induced currents in the rotor. When a motor is supplied non-sinusoidal voltages and currents, the air gap magnetic fields and the rotor currents will obviously contain harmonic frequency components. The harmonics are grouped into positive, negative and zero sequence components. Positive sequence harmonics (1, 4, 7, 10, 13, etc.) produce magnetic fields and currents rotating in the same direction as the fundamental frequency harmonic. Negative sequence harmonics (2, 5, 8, 11, 14, etc.) develop magnetic fields and currents that rotate in a direction opposite to the positive frequency set, and zero sequence harmonics (3, 9, 15, 21, etc.) do not develop usable torque, but produce additional losses in the machine. The interaction between the positive and negative sequence magnetic fields and currents produce torsional oscillations of the motor shaft. These oscillations result in shaft vibrations, and if the frequency of oscillations coincides with the natural mechanical frequency of the shaft, they become amplified and severe damage to the motor shaft may occur. It is sometimes possible to literally hear a transformer or motor “sing or growl” due to these vibrations and this is often one of the first observed indications of a harmonic problem.Transformer failure

Some of the most troublesome harmonics are the 3rd, and odd multiples of the 3rd, i.e. the 9th, 15th etc. These harmonics are called “triplens”. The triplen harmonics on each phase are all in phase with each other which will cause them to add rather than cancel in the neutral conductor of a three phase four wire system. This can overload the neutral if it is not sized to handle this type of load.

Fortunately, the identification and measurement of harmonics is easily achieved using a power quality analyser or power and energy logger (PEL) with harmonic capabilities, and while they cannot be eliminated, since they are generated by the various loads in the installation, they can be confined to an area as close to the polluting load as possible in order to prevent them from reaching the overall network.

The main methods used involve installing passive or active filtering or isolating systems designed to limit the deterioration of energy quality and other harmful effects as well as the use of tuned power factor correction equipment. Once the harmonics are “under control”, the associated problems, power losses, equipment failures and outages, and energy costs will be reduced.

Harmonics can be a major issue in the modern electrical installation, becoming increasingly more important as more switching and smart loads are introduced. Harmonics must be monitored regularly in order to verify their levels and prevent potential failures or high losses.

This article and images was published courtesy of Chauvin Arnoux, and for further advice on instrumentation that can be used for monitoring power quality issues the BSRIA Instrument Solutions team on 01344 459314 or e-mail instruments@bsria.co.uk  Alternatively simply visit http://www.bsria.com/uk/instrument/ to view the range of products available for both Hire and Purchase.

Smart Buildings – Thoughts from Olympia

When I first started attending trade shows years ago, I was of course eager to find the latest technological wonders, unveiled before our admiring eyes. Over the years I have come to see that such events are less places to go to for dramatic revelations and more experiences which either confirm or call into doubt what you already thought you knew about what was happening in the market.

This was encapsulated by a familiar face from a major supplier who admitted that the company was there mainly to underline its presence in the smart buildings space in the UK.

For our presentation we had chosen the theme of “Wellbeing in Buildings: Gimmick or Game changer”? The theme clearly captured a lot of interest from the audience. Global wellbeing standards like the Well Standard and the Fitwell standard lay down detailed and structured standards against which wellbeing can be measured.

Over 1,300 organisations in the UK have either passed the Well Building Standard or are working towards it, which is more than any other country in the world, just ahead of the US, despite this being a US-based standard. My own quick preliminary research confirms that in many cases BACS or other smart building technology can make a tangible difference in attaining many of these goals.

Looking at the themes of all the presentation, wellbeing and related subjects was the second most popular topic, so we appear to have captured the zeitgeist. Most popular of all was “IoT” and its impact on buildings. One presentation supported the notion that IoT will lead to the demise of BACS as it has traditionally been known (though security is likely to require that building systems remain insulated to a degree from the wider internet – by firewalls or other security measures).

Lighting was the third most popular theme, which of course ties in with both wellbeing and energy saving. In joint fourth place were cyber-security, issues related to wireless, and the more general advance of integration. Cyber security is clearly the snarling guest at the party which is not going to leave however hard you try, and which will require a constantly evolving strategy to control.

The interest in integration is hardly surprising, since you can no more have a smart building without integration of a range of different building services than you can have a smart animal if the hands, the feet, the eyes, the lungs and the liver all operate entirely independently.

Wireless technology continues to gain ground, slowly, though key questions of reliability and security remain to be fully resolved. The growth prospects for wireless look likely to be boosted if there is a growth in smart building technology in smaller buildings, driven partly by new energy regulations.

In connection with wireless, I attended an interesting talk on the roll out of 5G in the UK. While the speaker saw it mainly in terms of an increase in overall network capacity – with the major telcos enjoying varying shares, in buildings there was also the opportunity to licence a small and localised part of the network to use for internal transmission.

Other themes favoured by more than one speaker included the growing importance of having large numbers of sophisticated sensors to collect the data needed for a smart building, the importance of data and analytics, and the value of space management.

And of course, at an event like this, we should pay attention not just to what is said, but what is left unsaid, or merely whispered sotto voce.

Of the big themes that we might have expected, there was less explicit reference to the cloud. This partly reflects the fact that the cloud is an enabler rather than an end in itself and is implicitly linked to the most popular theme of all: the IoT.

There was less direct reference to data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning than I might have expected. I suspect this is partly because these are hard to pin down for the benefit of an audience more interested in practical results than in the theory that under pins them. After all, AI is as hard to define rigorously as is the “smart building”. Both are essentially continually advancing targets.

A significant number of major building controls suppliers were in attendance – most of them headquartered outside the UK

All of this made it an event worth attending.

 

Written by Henry Lawson, Senior Market Intelligence Analyst at BSRIA

Servitisation, Smart Systems and Connectivity – What’s next for instrumentation?

There are many buzzwords associated with the multitude of new developments in today’s technological world, and the use of terms like Smart Instrumentation, The Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and Servitisation are becoming increasingly common. Whilst we may think that we are familiar with these descriptors there is sometimes a disconnect with what they mean to the industries where they apply.

BSRIA is uniquely placed to be at the forefront of the use and application of technological innovation especially within the building services industry. BSRIA’s vision is to be leaders for information, knowledge and improvement for the built environment; with an aim of ‘making buildings better’, so concepts such as the BSRIA Business-Focused Maintenance (BFM) methodology fit this remit and have become increasingly relevant as technology has advanced.

Today’s engineers can now use a wide variety of instrumentation that can be considered ‘smart’. However not all smart instruments are created equal and to be truly smart the monitoring data must be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), generating data that is uploaded and analysed either by a human operative or a software application. This can be used in preventative maintenance planning, helping to move away from planned scheduled maintenance schedules which are often expensive and unreliable in identifying faults and potential failures. Some of the most widely used monitoring methods include ultrasonic flow meters, temperature monitors, humidity monitors, power meters and process emissions analysers. These instruments and others are indispensable tools for engineers, they provide a non-invasive, user-friendly and cost-effective solution to maintenance testing which can be used as part of a smart system of monitoring.

A smart IoT instrument must be linked to the internet through a hub or router. The continuing development of smart technology and the IoT in the instrumentation sector means that something called servitisation is becoming increasingly relevant in the way that today’s building services sector customer offerings are created and marketed.

The concept of servitisation was first discussed by Vandermerwe & Rada in their 1988 paper; ‘Servitisation of business: Adding value by adding services’, published in the European Management Journal. The Servitisation of products involves a strategy of adding value by adding services to products or even replacing a product with a service package. For example, supplying an HVAC system and adding various levels of service, additional features and product support. Customers can be offered a choice of options for a product ranging from supply of the basic physical parts of the system, right up to a complete turnkey solution including all support, monitoring, maintenance and repair. For instrumentation the basic physical unit can be supplied, with additional services including accessories, software, service & calibration and data management being sold as additional options. Data management services are a relatively recent addition to the instrumentation sector, this can include mobile apps, data portals, warehousing & storage and data processing.

The way that servitisation is offered to a customer can be business or even product specific, for example there could be an initial capital expense payment, or the entire cost could be fully included in a subscription or lease type agreement. This helps the customer to manage capital expenditure and the seller to manage their finances by making income streams more consistent and aiding cash flow management. However, it is important to supply products that add value to the performance or create cost savings for a customer, over-specification or ‘over-servitisation’ of smart systems can be pointless, expensive and can lead to loss of customer goodwill.

With the user-friendliness and wealth of applications for smart instruments, you don’t need to be an expert, employ a consultant or have large budgets to get the data you need. We work closely but independently with a wide range of equipment suppliers which means we can provide solutions to meet our customer’s specific needs. We can supply a wide range of smart instruments from entry level units up to state-of-the-art professional cameras and all at an affordable price.

We recognise our client’s needs are time critical and we have equipment available for hire and sale direct from stock or with short lead times. In processes where plant failure can cause down-time that can potentially cost millions of pounds in lost income it is imperative that critical building services must never be disrupted by failure. We pride ourselves on providing fit-for-purpose, user friendly and cost-effective equipment.

At a basic level, an IoT instrument takes a measurement, this data is uploaded to a processing system, the data is analysed and any potential risks or failures are highlighted – this can result in an automated system response (e.g. process change or shut down) and/or an alert to an engineer (email, text, etc.) to highlight the issue for action (e.g. schedule specific maintenance or equipment replacement). The data analysis process is key to effective system operation, it can use Big Data processes to highlight potential problems (i.e. using software to analyse very high volumes of data to identify patterns consistent with potential problems). Artificial Intelligence (AI) software is one of the most recent developments in building control and monitoring technology and is an ideal fit for smart systems, it has the potential to deal with huge volumes of data and identify problems more effectively than human or traditional digital algorithm analysis. AI is a relatively new field and advances in this area are likely to increase at pace over the coming years and impact all aspects of the sector.

The development of smart IoT instrument systems is also driving servitisation by moving the point of value from physical instruments towards the software and data handling. There are many ways in which the building services sector has opportunities to use big data to create value for the customer, including improved information security and enhance physical comfort to increase worker performance. These trends are discussed in detail in the BSRIA publication BG75/2018 Building Services Analytics.

IoT instruments can also be linked to or part of a Building Management System (BMS) and it also fits with the BSRIA Business-Focused Maintenance (BFM) methodology first published in 2004 and updated in 2016 (BFM Guide BG53/2016). BFM plant maintenance requirements can utilise smart instrumentational monitoring and data processing. An aim of BFM is to provide engineers with a methodology for utilising maintenance budgets more effectively, this aligns with the design of smart instrumentation systems and the creation of service offerings. Assets critical to the business are maintained, while other less critical assets are managed as well as possible within the available budget. By assessing and prioritising plant maintenance needs for risks and criticality to the business, engineers and managers can ensure their maintenance effort is resource efficient, focused, cost-effective and increase their resilience to engineering risk.

The way that BMS data is managed and processed is as important as the instrumentation itself, it must be generated and analysed in a format that can be used to create plans and actions that add value, generate efficiencies and create cost savings for the customer. Some of the first digital breakthroughs have been in predictive asset maintenance and real-time monitoring. Digital twin systems where a virtual model of a physical asset is created allow predictive analysis to be performed and can highlight potential failure points more effectively than routine planned monitoring work. However, focus must always be on the key aim of smart systems to simplify processes for the end user, systems should work for the user not the other way around, this applies to the instruments, their control systems and product support.

Technological developments are likely to continue increasing in pace in the coming years and this will impact everyone involved in the sector from operators to supply chain suppliers. BSRIA Instrument Solutions is ideally placed to provide its customers with the latest developments in smart instrumentation as it supplies product from a comprehensive range of leading suppliers. For further details of the Instrument Solutions equipment hire, sales and calibration capabilities visit www.bsria.co.uk/instruments or call our team on freephone 0800 254 5566 (UK only ) or +44 (0) 1344 459314.

What elements do you need to consider when specifying a weather louvre?

A weather louvre is a passive device, essentially a grille fixed over an opening, designed to let air through and keep water out. It is designed to perform both these functions simultaneously, and its suitability for a particular application is determined by how effectively it achieves these functions in combination.

Failure to understand and clearly express the performance requirement at the design or procurement stage increases the risk of the product not being fit for purpose. The end user may experience unwanted water penetration or wasted energy.

To achieve optimum performance, system designers and specifiers of weather louvres must have an appreciation of:
•    How to understand weather louvre requirements
•    How to minimise whole-life costs through system design and louvre selection
•    Which terms to use to ensure that performance data are consistently stated when sourcing products from suppliers
•    How to minimise risks associated with overstated performance claims

Performance Testing

The standard performance tests for weather louvres are described in BS EN 13030 and BS EN 13181. The test methods are designed to simulate real-life operating conditions the louvre will undergo when installed.  The rejection performance can be established for a range of ventilation rates while subjected to windblown rain or sand.
BSRIA operates a specialist weather louvre test facility, which offers clients independent performance testing of weather louvres to these standards.

Specifying a Weather Louvre

To specify a weather louvre usefully requires the following elements:

•    Understanding of the required volume flow rate, louvre face area and subsequent face velocity
•    Understanding of the permissible water penetration for the application, based on the classes provided by the standard test (A-D)
•    Understanding of the standard test classes for discharge or entry loss coefficient (1-4) and that a higher Cd means lower energy usage.

It must be noted that other factors can affect the performance of a weather louvre which is not accounted for by the standard test.
If you are looking for further information visit http://www.bsria.co.uk where you can download BSRIA’s Weather Louvre Specification Guide (BG 36/2012) for FREE or for louvre testing enquiries either contact 01772 754381 or email: bsrianorth@bsria.co.uk

Thermal Imaging Camera Applications in Business Focused Maintenance

Today the modern built environment faces many challenges with organisations expecting the reliability of services to continuously improve with cost savings being made due to reducing maintenance regimes. Down-time can be extremely costly to a business in lost income, therefore mission critical services must not be disrupted by failure. Historically businesses have used generic planned preventative maintenance schedules, maintaining plant in the same way regardless of its level of use and value to the business.

 

Identifying that there was clearly a smarter risk-based approach to maintenance BSRIA published its Business Focused Maintenance (BFM) methodology back in 2004, this was updated in 2016 with the BFM Guide (BG53/2016) which is available from the BSRIA bookshop. BFM provides engineers with a methodology for utilising maintenance budgets more effectively. Assets critical to the business are maintained, while other less critical assets are managed as well as possible within the available budget. By assessing and prioritising plant maintenance needs for risks and criticality to the business, engineers and managers can ensure their maintenance effort is focused, cost-effective and increase their resilience to engineering risk.

 

Typical thermal images of engineering plant used to identify and monitor potential failures

 

BFM plant maintenance requirements will require instrumentational monitoring and one of the most widely used monitoring methods is thermal imaging. This has many applications including showing faults in thermal insulation, electrical installations and mechanical plant. Thermal imaging cameras are indispensable tools for engineers, they provide a non-invasive, user-friendly and cost-effective solution to maintenance testing.

“with the user-friendliness and wealth of applications for modern thermal imaging cameras, you don’t need to be an expert, employ a consultant or have large budgets to get the instant images you need. We work closely but independently with a wide range of equipment suppliers which means we can provide solutions to meet our customer’s specific needs. We can supply a wide range of thermal imagers from entry level units up to state-of-the-art professional cameras and all at an affordable price.

We recognise our client’s needs are time critical and we have equipment available for hire and sale direct from stock or with short lead times. In processes where plant failure can cause down-time that can potentially cost millions of pounds in lost income it is imperative that critical building services must never be disrupted by failure. We pride ourselves on providing fit-for-purpose, user friendly and cost-effective equipment”.

BSRIA Instrument Solutions is a leading supplier of specialist test and measurement instruments since 1990 and can assist engineers from all industries in selecting instruments that meet and exceed their expectations. It has built its reputation by providing the most reliable and advanced test equipment from leading manufacturers supporting it with a high level of customer service they can offer a choice of thermal imaging solutions with products from the leading instrument manufacturers.

For further details of the Instrument Solutions equipment hire, sales and calibration capabilities visit www.bsria.co.uk/instruments or call our team on Freephone 0800 254 5566 (UK) or +44 (0) 1344 459314.

Instrumentation for critical healthcare environments

Today’s hospitals contain many critical environments where building services play an important role in the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors. Even the best-designed and built facility will need initial commissioning and constant monitoring to ensure peak performance throughout its lifecycle.  Accurate, fit-for-purpose fixed and portable measurement instruments are required in most departments of a hospital, from the boiler room to the pharmacy to ensure that all areas are functioning correctly.

In the wards and operating theatres it is imperative there can be no spread of infections or exposure to potentially hazardous materials.  Providing this effectively in terms of equipment ease of use and efficiently both in terms of the cost of instruments and the cost of staff presents challenges to the building services engineer, laboratory or medical personnel.  In an isolation facility, for example, staff need to monitor the pressure between rooms (positive or negative) to stop the spread of infections either to or from the patient, the temperature within the protected space, supply or extract ventilation rates, the quality of the air in terms of particulate concentration, as well as the flow-rates of medical gasses. Where, all of theses parameters can be measured with fixed (built-in) devices or portable (hand held) instruments.  Measurements of surface contamination may also need to be ascertained for infection control, but these are normally undertaken using standard laboratory techniques.

A number of medical facilities have incinerators on site to dispose of locally generated clinical waste; many different types of fixed measurement instrumentation are used on every aspect of the incineration process from the temperature thermocouples within the primary incinerator, through to the gas and particulate emissions measurement at the end of the process.  To compliment the fixed instrumentation, a selection of portable instruments are also often maintained to crosscheck and temporarily replace the fixed range of measurement equipment should a problem occur.

The boilers that supply steam to the hospital require various types of instrumentation to run correctly, hydrometers for example are used to measure the total dissolved solids (TDS) within the boiler water.  If the TDS level rises too high then this can cause foaming and carryover to the steam main leading to contamination of control valves, heat exchangers and steam traps.

There are also water supplies that have to be considered, and the need to combat the possibility of Legionnaires’ disease by chlorine dosing the systems to ensure all of the water pipes are disinfected.  The water quality then has to be sampled periodically with the appropriate instrumentation to ensure the water is fit for use.

BSRIA has been working on solving building services design, installation, commissioning and operating problems in hospitals for many years and is only too well aware of the importance of correct measurement. Most of the published work however concerns the facilities themselves rather than the instrumentation used for measuring performance.  A well designed facility that has been built and commissioned correctly should be a safe environment to work or visit from day one of its operation.  But, if the wrong instruments are used during commissioning or routine monitoring it could have life and death consequences, as there is the risk of spreading potentially infectious or hazardous agents.  In the field of pressure measurement there is a large array of instruments that measure this physical parameter, but if an instrument is used with an accuracy based on its full scale deflection, not on the indicated value, at low pressures it is impossible to establish if a system is operating correctly.  In a surgical suite it may be required to operate at a pressure differential between rooms of 10 Pa.  If an instrument with a range of 2000 Pa is used with a manufacturer’s claimed accuracy of ± 0.5% fsd (full scale deflection), there can be an error of some ±10 Pa. This errors being almost double the required measurement.  Similarly, when measuring air flow rates in a biological flow cabinet, instruments with a typical accuracy of ± 1.5% mv, +0.2 m/s (measured value) can be used.  But if the target measurement value is only 0.5 m/s, this accuracy equates to a possible reading as low as 0.29 m/s being accepted which could be very problematic in a critical environment and potentially expose an operator to hazardous materials.

Understanding manufacturers’ claimed instrument accuracies is only part of the problem in the correct selection of pieces of instrumentation; the correct calibration of the equipment is equally vital to ensuring reliable data.  For measuring pressures as low as 10 Pa in the surgical suite, the hospital engineer or laboratory staff needs calibrations with an uncertainty of no more than 0.1Pa, which often exceeds what manufacturers are offering.  The building services engineer must look beyond the simple requirement of measuring pressure, and understand the details of the complete process.  Understanding the real technical merit of an instrument therefore must have a greater significance in the future as services in healthcare facilities become more critical.

When buying, or hiring, instruments the engineer now has a global choice as to which product will meet today’s challenging testing environments.  Calibration of this instrumentation is, and always will be, of paramount importance to users, but keeping up-to-date of what is available especially in changes of technology and the scope of instrumentation available must also be considered during the selection process.  Tests that often took hours to conduct can now be undertaken easier, faster, and more accurately than those taken years ago.  For example there are pieces of instrumentation that can fit test N95 respirators and masks to protect workers against airborne biohazards such as TB or even SARS.  Likewise there are new types of ultrafine particle counters that can be used to trace air pollutants in operating theatres, as well as being used for the checking of the integrity of filter seals within laboratory fume cabinets.

With such a wide range of instruments available to today’s healthcare professionals they need to look beyond any procurement source that is tied to an individual manufacturer to obtain the best pieces of instrumentation within the marketplace.   Equally staff at the suppliers have to understand the finer points of the instruments they offering including calibrations at the ranges to be used.  Equipment can, where applicable, include data damping, backlit displays, self calibration check tools, data logging, keypad lock out to unauthorised users and long life battery operation to name just a few options that can also influence a final purchasing decision. BSRIA Instrument Solutions is a leading supplier of specialist test and measurement instruments to Industry since 1990. It has built its reputation by providing the most reliable and advanced test equipment from leading manufacturers supporting it with a high level of customer service and technical support to meet with its client’s requirements and expectations.  They are able to offer a choice of test equipment solutions with products from many leading instrument manufacturers.

 

Face fit testing a nurse to ensure the correct fitting face mask is used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple to use fume hood controller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospital isolation suite room pressure monitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Particle counting in a clean room facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calibration of an anemometer in the BSRIA laboratory.

The  Smart Building in the Smart City – The Ultimate Convergence?

Some Thoughts from Qingdao

If smart cities are to meet the needs of the people living and working in them then they will benefit from expanding on the experience gained in managing complex buildings – and then up their game further…  

Qingdao, China – a Vibrant and Growing City focussing Minds on Smart Buildings and Smart Cities

In September I had the chance to speak at the 5th Annual Global Congress of Knowledge Economy-2018,  held in Qingdao, China.

As well as giving me the chance to set out BSRIA’s vision of smart homes and their wider impact on smart buildings, I was able to enjoy the opinions and insights of a wide range of fellow conference speakers drawn from more than a dozen countries, spread across Asia, Europe and North America.

The central focus of the conference was on the state of the smart city and its future.  For an organisation like BSRIA, whose expertise lies above all in buildings, the relationship between the smart building and the smart city is an interesting, subtle and increasingly strategic  one.

On the one hand, buildings are the most obvious and important elements making up any town or city. Think of a town or city and you probably think of prominent buildings and how they relate to each other and the landscape. In developed societies, buildings account for the largest share of energy use, ahead of industrial production or transport. Urban humans also spend most of our lives within the confines of buildings. In that sense they dominate our world.

Buildings and Cities – From a Technical Challenge to a Social One

Until recently, building services have been directly predominantly at addressing tangible technical challenges, such as how to reduce energy consumption while maintaining physically acceptable temperatures, ventilation, lighting levels and physical safety and security. Recently the emphasis has started to include more intangible, social and human objectives such as comfort, wellbeing and social cohesion. Such “humanistic” values are increasingly seen as being both valuable in themselves and having an economic value. A building where people feel happy is likely to be more profitable.

Such goals and outcomes are of course much harder to measure, but advances in the collection and analysis of data make it increasingly possible to measure human emotions and outputs, to the point where the question increasingly moves from “Can we do this?” to one of “Is it socially or ethically acceptable to be collecting and analysing such sensitive information about people’s inner states and information?”

This development in turn strengthens the links between the smart building and the smart city. Cities have always been close to the very essence of what it is to be human. It is no accident that the word civilisation is related to the Latin ‘civitas’ or town.  One of the strongest messages to come out of the conference is that some early smart city ‘solutions’ suffer from the fact that they purport to offer a ‘technical’ answer without considering all of the very human social needs of a city.

We heard from mayors, city managers and academics from cities ranging from around 5,000 inhabitants to ones with several million. Clearly there were big issues and divergencies with resources and with priorities. A larger city is likely to experience greater challenges in areas such as transportation. In a small city with more limited resources, focussing of effort needs to be more precise, concentrating on issues that will bring a quick and noticeable return.

Towards “City Management Systems”

As with standards in general, there is a natural tension between the benefits of experimentation and adopting a tailored approach which is focussed on a particular community’s needs on the one hand, and having solutions that can be adapted and rolled out by a wide range of different cities on the other, ensuring that systems can communicate and avoiding the temptation to “reinvent the wheel” every time. Two cities may have different detailed needs when it comes to tackling crime, or transport or urban places, but it doesn’t usually make sense to invent something completely different.

One possible answer to this dilemma is to produce smart city “platforms” which accommodate the key aspects likely to be found in a smart city project, including education, transport, security, energy management, health, governance etc. but which can then be configured to meet the different needs of different communities. This could be seen as something almost akin to a Building Automation System (or BACS).

If you think Building management is Complex, Try Cities..

At present there are obviously limits to how far this coordinated approach can advance. Even within a building, there are big challenges to resolve when integrating services such as HVAC, lighting, room booking, security or fire protection. For a start, these may well be the responsibility of different departments.

In a city, these divisions are likely to be multiplied many times. Most cities will have numerous ‘stakeholders’. Even where there is an enthusiastic, well informed and pro-active Mayor – like the people I met in Qingdao, they will need to accommodate political colleagues and rivals, public officials, services, utilities and businesses and media. In many cities, such as London, the Mayor has limited political power and budgeting resources and needs to cooperate not just with a council representing numerous parties, but with more than 30 London Borough’s each with their own powers and agenda, not to mention the UK national government.

Issues such as cyber security and data protection, which already loom large for building managers, are substantially more complex at a city level, and with much more potentially at stake.

Beyond city leaders in democratic countries have to court public opinion to secure re-election, and this opinion can be fickle if smart city initiatives are seen as ineffective, representing poor value, or are simply misunderstood.

Projects can easily go wrong, particularly where technology is used to plug a gap in a poorly thought out policy. To take an example related to buildings and energy, if policy encourages buildings to generate energy, store it and return it to the grid, then the investments will only work if there is an adequate infrastructure and pricing system in place to remunerate contributors and make efficient use of the energy.

Similarly, while district energy schemes can be extremely efficient, and can benefit from smart technology such as monitoring and analytics, the basic design needs to be properly balanced and they need to be supported with appropriate expertise.

This may encourage excess caution. While there are ample opportunities to spread risks and benefit from the expertise of the private sector, this is unlikely to be effective if the city managers lack the necessary knowledge and understanding.

The Way Forward

So what can the building services community specifically take away from this? Firstly, a confirmation that the boundaries between the building on the one hand, and what goes on both inside and outside of it are becoming increasingly blurred. Both building systems and city-wide systems need to be able to communicate and exchange information in a controlled and appropriate way.

Most obviously, buildings can contribute both positively and negatively towards the immediate environment, and via their consumption and production of greenhouse gasses, to the wider global environment. The conference heard of some interesting examples of projects for buildings forming “vertical cities”, including not just social amenities but also “sky gardens”.

In highly dense cities such as Hong Kong this approach could yet take off. And even in European cities like London, buildings meeting environmental and social needs look set to become a key element in the smart city of the future.

Open standards will also be essential for the world of the smart building and the smart city. ISO standards such as ISO 37106:2018 Sustainable cities and communities — Guidance on establishing smart city operating models for sustainable communities and ISO/IEC 30182:2017 Smart city concept model — Guidance for establishing a model for data interoperability will play an important role.

However, there is a real opportunity for companies which already have solutions for the management of complex buildings and campuses, including everything from services to physical and cyber security, to extend their offering in a way that allows for the integration, analysis and management of wider smart city services.

Beyond the Immediate Future, a More Unexpected Twist?

I came away from the conference convinced that smart technology is quite likely to change the whole structure of cities, and even, to some extent challenge the need for mega-conurbations. Large cities have arisen in the past 150 years mainly because industrial production and then service delivery required the concentration of large “armies” of people in a limited and accessible area.

If most routine production and most services come to be provided mainly by a combination robotics and by AI as now looks increasingly feasible, and humans are needed mainly the more specialised and abstract roles that sit above this, then is there really a need for millions of humans to be concentrated in a limited area?

It would be ironic if the same processes that usher in the smart city were to lead eventually to a kind of “post urbanised” world reversing the trend seen in modern history.

But that is a much bigger question for another article. For now, the opportunity lies with companies who can help meld the elements of the smart city – with buildings as a key component – into a robust and workable system.

 

Author: Henry Lawson, BSRIA

International trends and the circular economy

Following on from the last edition of the Business Bulletin when I discussed international building trends and energy efficiency, one major trend that is gaining traction and deserves a closer look is the circular economy.

My observation is that the subject of circular economy is increasingly reported in the news and has long had a compelling case to be on the international agenda due to the urgency to respond to climate change and reduce carbon emissions. There are many cases of active programmes but to give a few examples:

  • The K’s Industrial Strategy Whitepaper1 came out on 27th November 2017, and outlined the U.K’s commitment to a circular economy as part of its clean growth strategy.
  • The E.U.’s 2018 Circular Economy Package2 comprises of an ambitious agenda to reduce plastic waste and has also devised a programme of introducing circular economy projects overseas to countries such as India, Japan and Indonesia.
  • On an international level, the World Economic Forum in conjunction with the renowned Ellen MacArthur Foundation3 has developed an international acceleration programme for businesses to embrace circular economy concepts.

So what is the relevance of the circular economy for us in the construction industry?  Well, it is not such a new subject: the earlier work of William McDonough and Michael Braungart and their Cradle to Cradle Design Framework4 was a forerunner along with Dame Ellen MacArthur’s original concept of ‘designing out waste’3.

David Chesire, in his very interesting book “Building Revolutions Applying the Circular Economy To The Built Environment5 discusses the rationale for their ideas.  Essentially, both concepts espouse philosophies of total sustainability but the former promotes a “reduce, reuse and recycle” philosophy adopting the ‘cradle to grave” manufacturing model from the Industrial Revolution. Whilst the latter advocates purposely designing projects from the outset to minimise waste or choosing processes and materials that obviate waste in the first place.   I feel both these visions are neatly encapsulated in the analogy Mr Chesire quotes of the cherry blossom tree that ‘makes copious amounts of blossoms and fruit without depleting the environment. It nourishes the soil, provides oxygen, absorbs carbon dioxide and provides habitats for many other organisms.’

infografica-circular-economy

So for us, how can we make ideas such as these more relevant to the international construction community?  How do we nurture the environment at the same time capitalise on this trend? BSRIA has been looking closely at this question and co-hosted an event in 23rd May 2018 to explore ideas.

I’d like to share some of the key messages from BSRIA / ECA event “Engaging the Circular Economy”6:

  • The circular economy has a simple mantra: make – use – return – make, and will impact every element of the built environment
  • Organisations need to have an holistic approach and be agile to change. Industry is not linear, we need to ‘make do’ with less resources.
  • The future of architecture and construction will need to play a key role in the transition to a circular economy: we will need to think of buildings as resource generators (energy, materials services) in their own right.
  • Our attitude to waste needs to change with zero waste to landfill an imperative for all, involving one hundred percent reuse and recycling.
  • Organisations should ensure they are optimising the efficiency of their building services by making the best use of materials, water and energy for the duration of the installed equipment’s lifetime.
  • We need to embrace more resource sharing schemes such as ‘swap shop’ office furniture and make the office ‘circular’ using remanufactured furniture; reusable containers; circular procurement and data.
  • We should capitalise on battery energy storage and other renewable energy resources such as solar PV and wind turbines
  • Organisations should improve understanding of design approaches, especially passive design to help reduce the demand for building services. Also challenging design briefs and materials to be used on projects, selecting best practice design calculations and reusing equipment are advisable.
  • We need to help overcome contractual, logistical, personnel and financial barriers by making better use of newer building methods and tools such as BIM, BREEAM new construction scheme and off-site construction.
  • The construction industry needs to make changes happen through:
    • Legislation on resources
    • Standards
    • Economic incentives
    • Clear national and international strategies
    • Compelling business cases
    • Client demand

So in conclusion: is the circular economy a glorified term for recycling or is this a whole new tool, the next step as it were, for organisations to gain competitive advantage? One interesting observation a colleague made recently is that there are plenty of ideas for creating value through energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives but arguably the real issue is how do you change a culture in an organisation, how do you really make an organisation change the way they do things? And I think that is the key question for all of us to think about and is reflected in Dame Ellen MacArthur’s philosophy of the need for fundamental change in the way we think about building design.

 

References

  1. Industrial Strategy Whitepaper: Building a Britain fit for the future

The U.K. Government, 27th November 2017
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/664563/industrial-strategy-white-paper-web-ready-version.pdf

  1. European Commission: 2018 Circular Economy Package
    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm
  2. Ellen MacArthur Foundation
    https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications
  3. Cradle to Cradle. Remaking the Way We Make Things
    Braungart M, McDonough W
    North Point Press, 2002
  4. Building revolutions applying the circular economy to the built environment
    Chesire D
    Royal Institute of British Architects, 2016
  5. Material resource efficiency in construction. Supporting a circular economy

Adams K, Hobbs G

British Research Establishment, IHS Technology, 2017

  1. Staging engaging the circular economy event – inventiveness mother of necessity

Prosser C

Electrical Contractors Association, BSRIA, May 2018

http://www.bsria.co.uk/news/

  1. TM56 Resource efficiency of building services

Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers, August 2014

  1. The re-use atlas. A designer’s guide towards a circular economy
    Baker-Brown D
    Royal Institute of British Architects, 2017
  2. Planning for circular economy

Environmental Services Association, April 2017

  1. Circle of light

A discussion about lighting technology and sustainability.

Harvey N

Lighting Journal, March 2017, Vol.82(3), 24-25

  1. Whole-life carbon circular economy

This technical article explores approaches for achieving zero energy buildings.

Building (magazine), 2 December 2016, No.48, 44-49, 10 figs

  1. The energy in waste – its place in a circular economy

Cummings A

Energy World, February 2014, No. 423, 14-15

The Lyncinerator on… an unexpected link between onesies and buildings

Don’t get me started. When asked what he wanted for Christmas, our nephew told his aunt he would like a Harry Potter ‘onesie’. Aunt Lil delivered one. “Exactly the right size”, noted Aunt Lil triumphantly, sure that she had delivered what was wanted. However, she had no idea that there are different houses at Hogwarts school and that getting the ‘right’ house Really Matters. “It’s got a slithering snake thing on the hood” she pointed out – anathema to the Gryffindor besotted youngster. He also expected a thick fleecy onesie, not the thin synthetic version chosen. “It’s just right for bed” she said, not realising that he wanted a cosy onesie for day time lounging. The boy reluctantly put on the item leaving a slightly cross aunt murmuring about ungrateful youngsters.

75-16 Lynne Ceeney

This blog was written by Lynne Ceeney, Technical Director at BSRIA

It was an interesting lesson in specification. The situation reminded me of many building projects. Unless requirements are clearly specified, teams usually look for the cheapest way to deliver to the worst permitted standards – building regulations or health and safety minimum standards.

Aunt Lil could say she had met her brief. She delivered a onesie that had a vague connection to Harry Potter, from a legitimate source, which met legal standards. And was low cost. But it wasn’t what the recipient wanted and his performance expectations definitely were not met. Just like many buildings. It isn’t all down to the deliverer. A better conversation was needed between the boy (or his parents acting as agents) and Aunt Lil – to explain his specification.

Increasingly, client specifications for buildings and their services relate to performance outcomes rather than specifying the inputs to be supplied or designs to be built. That is, the client sets out what product or service being supplied is required to do, rather than what should be supplied or how it should be designed. The ‘Design for Performance’ family of ratings standards (including NABERS) rates buildings in accordance with their operational performance over 12 months of auditing. Failure to meet the pre-agreed standard is considered a contractual breach. Ratings systems such as BREEAM encourage operational performance improvement. Government is also considering “shifting” away from EPCs which only measure theoretical design performance.

The increased use of real time monitoring and smart technologies is leading to the servitisation of facilities management and maintenance as reliability of performance and speed of responsiveness to occupier demand is becoming more important to the building owner and their clients. Social influences, such as an increased focus on wellbeing and wearable technologies, build expectations for a real time response to performance variation rather than periodic interventions.

This has considerable implications for the building services industry. Bringing in building services engineers at the end of the design phase won’t work as they need to be involved in overall design so that required outcomes can be achieved. Tools like Soft Landings will be used more widely to maintain the focus on performance targets through design, delivery and operation and to assist in increasing collaboration throughout the supply chain.

The detail in the specification and the degree to which it is input or outcome focused will depend on the context and situation. Drawing up a good specification requires knowledge and experience. It can be determined through dialogue between the client and an appointed deliverer, combining technical expertise with user experience. However, in a pre-tender situation, the client may choose to take professional advice or to use the technical guidance available from BSRIA (and others).

As the boy’s mother will say, good specification saves a lot of awkwardness. She wishes the cheap onesie label had specified its maintenance needs properly. It shrunk in the wash. She is reprocessing it as a cleaning rag and his dad will buy him the onesie the boy wanted in the first place! Mum will supervise his Christmas list this year. Don’t get me started…

Can the UK be a Global Leader in Battery Storage?

In a speech in November 2017, the UK Energy Secretary Greg Clark set out an apparently ambitious vision of UK energy policy in general, and for battery energy storage in particular. What is more, the UK’s Faraday Challenge comes with a promise of £246 million to boost expertise in battery technology.

While the UK has generally been one of the leading advocates of a greener, more sustainable energy policy over the past few decades, it has always been more ambivalent when it comes to committing significant sums of hard public cash. While just under a quarter of a billion pounds is still modest compared to the R&D budgets of some of the world’s leading corporations (Amazon alone is set to invest roughly 50 times that sum in overall R&D in 2017) it nonetheless represents an important step forward.

Henry Lawson, WMI

This blog was written by BSRIA’s Henry Lawson

Battery storage matters of course because, based on current knowledge, it offers the most efficient and practicable way of converting energy into a form where it can be stored safely, and in a limited space (an important factor for buildings, especially for homes), and then be available for instant use ‘on demand’. Given that the key renewable energies, wind and solar, are inherently irregular, this form of storage is crucial to their development.

Clark’s stated aim is no less than “to ensure that the UK is the place in the world where new battery technology especially in combination with the auto sector is not just developed but is commercialised.”

Experience suggests that individual countries can indeed emerge as leaders in innovative green technology in a way that not only helps the environment but makes a major contribution to their economy. Denmark for example has emerged as a global giant in wind-power technology, helped not just by an abundance of wind – which many countries enjoy – but by leadership in the development of the requisite technology.

In 2016, over 32,000 people were employed in the Danish Wind Power industry – which would be proportionately equivalent to over 350,000 jobs in the UK. The industry also generated €5.98 billion in product exports, which equates to over 1,000 euros for every man, woman and child in Denmark.

Looked at today, the UK has its work cut out to become a global leader in battery storage. In a list of “43 Battery Storage Companies To Watch” compiled by cleantechnica in early 2015, only one company (res) was headquartered in the UK, and fewer than one in 5 were European headquartered – with Germany, perhaps not surprisingly having the strongest European base. Two thirds were based in North America and about 1 in 6 in Asia (that is in Japan, China or South Korea).

Bloomberg has projected that China’s share of global lithium-ion battery production will rise from an estimated 55% today, to as much 65% in 2021. The UK, like the rest of Europe, has some reason to be concerned that, with energy storage as with so many other disruptive new technologies, so much of the main action is taking place in other parts of the world, with Europe and the UK potentially sidelined to the ranks of spectators and followers.

However two important caveats should be applied here. The first is that there is a well-established global pattern of R&D being focused in the leading developed economies (such as North America, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea) with mass production being outsourced to countries such as the BRICS economies, especially China, India and Brazil.

The second is of course that an economy that optimises use of energy storage will be about  much more than the design and manufacture of ever more efficient batteries, important though this is. The creation of an energy grid which can make optimal decisions about when to store energy (at national, local and community level), and from which courses will also be critical, as will be the development and implementation of building energy management solutions which can ensure that each building manages its energy, including energy storage in an efficient way.

Efficient support for electric vehicles, and their integration into the wider energy grid where practicable, will be a further key plank.

The UK government’s approach, including promoting initiatives from universities, also makes a lot of sense, given that many of the world’s energy storage leaders started life as offshoots of university research programs.

All of this may or may not propel the UK to the kind of leading role that it aspires to. It is, however, a timely and much needed move to become more proactive in one of the technologies that will be vital in creating a safer and more sustainable future.

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