Unigro installed a GroDome for

The University of Warwick to provide

a state-of-the-art growing environment

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State of the art GroDome for the University of Sheffield -

Animal and Plant Sciences Project

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Multiple isolation chambers for

the world class research centre, IBERS

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GroDome handover to the

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

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Plant reception and quarantine facility at Kew Gardens

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Walk-in chambers complex completed for NIAB –

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany

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Sustainability and energy management in the public sector

In the UK, Central and Local Government own real estate valued at £370 billion and these facilities have an estimated annual running cost of £20 billion. The current demands for economic austerity, aggravated by increased prices and an unstable supply of energy, has elevated the task of making these estates and facilities sustainable to a higher priority. Clearly the size of the public sector places it in a key position to contribute to the UK’s target of achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and lead the private sector by example to achieve reductions in energy usage and build a sustainable infrastructure policy for the future.

The public sector – Central Government, Local Government, Health (NHS) and Further and Higher Education – all acknowledge the importance of reducing emissions and commit to the principle of sustainability and are making varying progress in their efforts. With 10% of central government funds spent each year on energy, (an estimated £2 billion), it becomes  obvious that this should be a target for improvement and whilst between 2009/10 and 2011/12 carbon emission reductions saved £45 million in energy costs, there is still a considerable way to go (National Audit Office calculates that a further £800 million in savings per year can be achieved by 2020).1 When potential savings from local government, the NHS and higher education are included, it becomes clear why the Government is placing such a high priority on sustainable development.

So what can be done to improve?

40% of the UK’s annual construction costs are public funded which provides the government with huge buying power and the opportunity to advance the UK construction industry and its suppliers, by encouraging the development and supply of innovative sustainable products and services. The government has initiated a number of funding schemes and tax break incentives such as Research and Development Relief for Corporation Tax,2 which encourages UK industry to bring innovation for sustainable energy and product efficiencies to the market place. However, it would seem that as published in the overview for the Sustainable Government 2014 Conference,3 there is a need for government departments to be incentivised to share joint sustainability objectives and perhaps promote successful solutions, which have been achieved with help from the private sector. These could be new constructions, refurbishments, retrofits or improving the efficiency of operating existing assets.

Operational efficiencies

For public sector bodies looking to reduce annual energy costs, improving the operational efficiency of existing assets will provide the most immediate results and create a template for staged improvements by underlining the areas that need upgrading. This has been demonstrated by Kings College, London where energy savings of £390,000 per year and carbon savings of 2,500 tonnes per year have been identified at three of its campuses – the Strand, Guy’s and Denmark Hill.4 The ongoing analysis of the mechanical plant operations on these sites have produced data which has typically highlighted anomalies applying to the Mechanical & Electrical plant operations in any public or private sector buildings and these can, as illustrated at Kings College, contribute to significant financial and carbon savings. It is normally found that the cost of initiating these detailed surveys and running ongoing analysis will achieve pay-back by implementing the alterations to the control strategies, as referenced in the initial report.

A two-way exchange

The transfer of innovative solutions and intelligence should be a two-way exchange with both sectors learning from each other to the benefit of the environment, energy conservation and reduction of operational costs. The CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme came into operation in May 2013 and is administered by the Environment Agency.  The scheme is designed to target emissions not already covered by Climate Change Agreements (CCAs) and the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and features a range of drivers to encourage organisations to develop energy management strategies that promote a better understanding of energy usage. Organisations both private and public sector that meet the qualification criteria are required to participate, and must buy allowances for every tonne of carbon they emit.5 With this scheme in place, it is essential that the private and public sector cooperate to achieve the target of 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. It should also be acknowledged that in the process of achieving this target the UK will be building a leading edge industry, which will have access to a global green energy market estimated to be worth £3.3 trillion. 

Is building performance key?

Building services account for between 60-80% of energy consumption in commercial buildings. Control systems play a crucial role in this and are potentially the single most important factor in using energy efficiently. However, over complex systems and hard to access data can render a control system at best sub-optimal or worse, a major cause of energy wastage as well as create an unpleasant working environment. Ensuring a building’s control system is performing optimally and tracking where wastage and poor performance are occurring can be difficult. When the system that you are expecting to alert you to this poor performance is actually the cause, it will not think it is necessary to tell you, and left unchecked will continue to waste energy.  The installation of an analytics layer on top of the control system can yield huge insight and lead to major energy savings, and improvement of the working environment.

The function of a building management system (BMS) is to monitor and record the countless volumes of data relevant to the operation of mechanical plant and environmental control. This information is the key to operating any building at maximum efficiency but the volume of information is often so vast that it would require a team of engineer’s countless hours to analyse and find opportunities to improve efficiencies, which would impact excess energy usage. However, with the implementation of analytical software the task is achieved in hours and will provide immediate options to remedy energy wastage or poorly maintained equipment.

So what does the future hold?

The Government has proposed to introduce the “Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme” (ESOS)6 to implement Article 8 of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, which requires all large enterprises (those with 250+ employees and an annual turnover exceeding €50 million) to introduce regular mandatory energy audits by the 5th December. The scheme will require approved assessors to carry out Article 8 compliant ESOS assessments to identify energy saving recommendations. The Government believes that these recommendations will lead to cost effective energy management for large organisations resulting in significant operational cost savings.

Traditionally, there is an aversion to change instigated by Directives. However, in this case, there is a sound argument for public and private sector bodies to embrace the opportunity to maximise the energy efficiencies of their assets and thereby reconcile the UK’s future energy demand and supply requirements, achieve the 80% reduction in carbon emissions target and improve the international competiveness of UK exporters.

Originally published in the July / August issue of Public Sector Estates Management Magazine


1  Sustainable Government UK 2014

2  http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ct/forms-rates/claims/randd.htm

3  http://p3-media.co.uk/sustainable-government/overview/

4  http://universitybusiness.co.uk/News/logical_thinking

5  https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-demand-for-energy-from-industry-businesses-and-the-public-sector--2/supporting-pages/crc-energy-efficiency-scheme

6  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/211977/20130708_-_ESOS_Consultation_Document_FINAL.pdf