The built environment is a powerhouse, responsible for 30% of worldwide final energy use and 39% of carbon emissions. 

Yiyi Zhang

Yiyi Zhang is an associate at Webb Yates Engineers

Contributing to this, 30% of the total energy used by building service systems is wasted due to inefficiency. Following recent energy crises, there is both an economic and a sustainability need to monitor building energy performance in a more standardised way. Monitoring systems are vital tools that should be seamlessly integrated into long-term energy strategies.

Currently, passive energy monitoring systems only monitor and record; they are incapable of controlling system components. The missing link? Integration with a building management system (BMS). In addition to more comprehensive overall monitoring, a BMS equips a building with a higher level of control over service systems.

Ensuring an efficient building can mean happier, longer-term users willing to pay a higher upfront price

The growing hunger for integrated energy monitoring and system control demands a more streamlined solution, which is where a building energy management system (BEMS) comes in. A BEMS unites efficiency, control and ease of use with a higher level of energy monitoring and data logging.

While these systems have been in development for decades, they have not been widely adopted – but the pros often outweigh the cons. By collecting data through communication protocols, a BEMS can monitor and report on energy consumption on an hourly, daily, weekly and annual basis. Imagine a sleek display interface that outlines your system’s performance; when faults or issues arise, pinpointing and resolving them becomes much simpler.

Building energy management system concept shutterstock_437194090 Montri Nipitvittaya

Source: Shutterstock / Montri Nipitvittaya

As well as measuring technical performance, we can capture the perceptions of a building’s occupants through post-occupancy evaluations (POEs). Surveys and interviews with occupants provide invaluable feedback. Comfort, satisfaction and wellbeing are vital factors when people are considering how much they are willing to pay to occupy a space and how long for. A POE can bridge the gap between technical prowess and people-first design to create truly desirable buildings.

Cost analysis

So, what is the cost and will it pay off? In a plausible scenario, a BEMS costs approximately £60/sq m (£5.60/sq ft) in an office building and may need only six to seven years to pay for itself by optimising system operations. By rapidly developing to catch up with regulation and market demand, these technologies are becoming more cost-effective by the day.

As for POEs, the pay-off of a one-time undertaking is subjective; it is an immeasurable investment in long-term building performance and user satisfaction. However, POEs really start to justify themselves when used across a development portfolio. Routinely identifying and correcting design and commissioning mistakes based on POE findings will save money in the long run.

Ultimately, a building’s value is the number-one thing that affects a real estate investment. A survey by Smart Energy GB in 2023 revealed that 89% of building occupants found it useful to have energy monitoring systems. Ensuring an efficient building can mean happier, longer-term users willing to pay a higher upfront price for long-term energy savings.

Yiyi Zhang is an associate at Webb Yates Engineers