Tag Archives: Environment

Building Engineering on brink of revolution

Hannah Vickers, CEO, Association for Consultancy & Engineering.

Our industry now stands on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution. Led by data and technology, new tools are emerging, including self-monitoring infrastructure, offsite and modular construction, drones and virtual reality which enable engineers to monitor buildings from their desks, and digital design which takes minutes, rather than weeks. All of this is intended to help build the “smart” infrastructure society is demanding, such as more efficient turn-up-and-go transport networks and sustainable, yet affordable housing.

Engineering and technical consultancy remains the backbone of the economy as infrastructure investment is critical to ensure post-austerity growth. In this economic and political environment, our industry is more important than ever before. However, with the demands we are now facing, is our sector, collectively, ready to meet this challenge? It is clear that in order to do so a change is required – not just on a technical or project level, but on strategic, market and industry levels too.

It’s evident that within this new prism there are significant opportunities for firms to improve outcomes and deliver better-quality services for the end-users of infrastructure, but this must be enabled by the actions of the government and private sector clients. They are ultimately responsible for creating the environment which will allow us to bring forward the best the industry has to offer. Exploiting these new technological opportunities will improve the productivity of our sector and its export potential.

I unveiled ACE’s Future of Consultancy campaign in November 2018. This is a multi-year, two-phased campaign which will firstly scope new areas of opportunity, identify and explore new business models for consultancy, and analyse the sector’s changing needs in terms of skills.

Secondly, the campaign will pull together findings from phase one and focus on enhancing existing revenue streams and the development of new ones. We’ll also be looking at piloting tomorrow’s training, apprenticeship schemes and contracts, and creating effective and fit-for-future-purpose industry forums and partnerships to support a vibrant, profitable and sustainable sector.

All of this will help our members, no matter what their size, seize the opportunities that lie ahead of us. However, for this to happen, we will need to build a consensus for change, not just among ACE members, but with wider stakeholder and government bodies too. There are many possibilities open to us in supporting our clients, and we have divided these into three areas based on the asset lifecycle:

Strategic planning and placemaking                                                                                                                     A better understanding of user requirements helps clients to “optioneer” the best solutions, making trade-offs in what they value to get to the best-quality design for a community. An increase in data and digitally-enabled modelling gives consultancy the tools to apply its expertise in a more strategic way, requiring a maturity shift in client mentality away from capital cost to the ultimate objective of defining outcomes. Their willingness to pay for these outcomes enables industry to bring forward more productive solutions such as offsite manufacturing at scale across a programme.

Delivering integrated projects                                                                                                                              This touches on the importance of core disciplines of successful delivery in information management, programme management and production management, but we can go beyond this by exploring our remit as consultancy businesses in integrating funding streams across multiple clients, and perhaps finance across the whole asset lifecycle.

Data-led asset performance                                                                                                                        Combining data and technologies available in both buildings and infrastructure to understand and optimise asset system performance, often against changing user requirements, means bringing to bear our tools and expertise to share learning and optimise the benefits across sectors and clients at a system level.

While these areas themselves are not new, the opportunities we have to support our clients within them will change as a result of the tools and data available to use in a digitally-enabled environment.

The value is in bringing together our collective offer in an integrated way to get the flow of data, products and expertise working around the whole life-cycle, and seamlessly across multiple clients. A truly valuable client partner will understand and mitigate risks, not just on a project but in how assets contribute to the network and in turn the network of other clients.

For large firms this means building on the existing model of mentoring, developing and championing expertise within your firm and your supply chain partners to ensure your integrated offer is a compelling one. For smaller firms it’s about understanding where you add value in this model, often in multiple phases and perhaps in areas of the life-cycle that you don’t currently get invited into.

This collective vision about how we can add value makes for a more compelling proposition for those looking to a future career in the industry. Between us, we offer different corporate environments, employment structures and a variety of work for a fulfilling, life-long career within the industry. If we can develop and articulate a more integrated industry with a vision to an individual, we can find a place within it to suit their needs and ambitions. In turn, this makes us inclusive, representative and sustainable for the future – without a skills crisis.

Solar offers €2 billion gross potential

David Maguire, Chairman, Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).

David Maguire, Chairman,
Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).

At present, Ireland is the only EU member state that does not provide support for the generation of energy from solar. Currently,Ireland’s renewable energy policy is focused on wind generation, a source of energy that is in abundance on the island. However, while Ireland has broken records with wind generation, dependence on wind alone to achieve targets is not sufficient to guarantee a seamless transition to the low carbon economy that is desired by politicians. Critically, a growing demand for energy stemming not just from an increasing population, but a burgeoning IT sector that sees multinationals want to construct data centres in Ireland due to its ideal climatic conditions is rapidly shifting the nature of energy use.

Moreover, the nature of investment in energy is skewed towards coal and gas with €1.6 billion being invested in 2015, which is significantly greater than investments made in wind over the last five years. Responding to this change calls for a dynamic, resilient energy supply that can only be achieved through diversification of energy sources. This must include solar. According to Artisan Electric Inc, solar energy saves money on electric bills, but most crutial is that it saves environment for your children and future generations.

The Irish Government has stated that it is committed to guaranteeing consumers have access to affordable energy. Presently, Irish consumers pay the third highest energy prices in the European Union as of 2015. The Public Service Obligation (PSO) Levy primary means through which the Government funds renewable energy generation, has been the view that the inclusion (and to some extent other renewables) renewable energy mix will see a rise PSO Levy, and subsequently electricity However, research undertaken by KPMG indicates that for every €1 invested in solar there is a return of €3. In other words, solar has the potential to deliver €2 billion in gross value added (GVA) and €800 million in tax revenues (2017-2030).

Short-term concerns are receiving priority over the long-term benefits. The creation of a diverse mix of renewable energy sources that guarantees security of supply, a key tenet of Government policy, is therefore being sacrificed. While there is evidence of the recognition that energy diversification is needed and should be supported, solar PV is being overlooked as a viable option for meeting the country’s energy needs. A recent speech by Minister Naughten has cast a shadow on the nascent Irish solar industry, and has also discriminated monocrystallin vs polycrystalline type of material for solar panels. Understandably, the Minister wants to dampen excess speculation, but he also needs to strike a balance and bring the Irish public on a journey that outlines the many benefits that solar PV can bring.

We have a unique opportunity to harness Ireland’s indigenous renewable energy resources in a sustainable manner. This can be done in a way that offers long-term opportunities for investment and for real community participation. Solar is an indigenous renewable energy source. Further, the industry is keenly aware of the need for a pragmatic approach to developing the industry, such that it is sustainable and provides the long-term benefits.

Over 40 planning permissions have been granted for solar farms in Ireland. This indicates that the vast majority of local councils have been supportive of solar PV developments. Councillors have welcomed the opportunity for, among other things, local employment, biodiversity protection and carbon emission reduction.

A limited number of councillors, however, have tried to curtail planning applications for solar PV development, looking to central government to give more direction on the issue. Minister Coveney has so far taken the view that regular planning laws are good enough for assessing solar projects, despite the fact that they pre-date any solar proposals.

In the absence of any national guidelines the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) is preparing its own recommendations for best practice in planning. These recommendations will be based on best practices in other countries. If you are looking to install solar panels visit www.projectsolaruk.com/locations/nottingham/. The Association believes that the creation of unnecessary road blocks in the long run are harmful, not just to the industry, but to the Irish people.

For example, in relation to rooftop solar, current planning restrictions are curtailing the ease with which a home or business can install a PV array on its rooftop. Existing planning rules state that, “total panel area must not exceed 12sq m or 50% of the total roof area including existing panels” on a domestic dwelling or, “total panel area must not exceed 50sq m or 50% of the total roof area, including existing panels” in a light industrial or business setting. This is very restrictive in allowing a home or business owner to install PV, as they will be put off by the extra expense and time of going through the planning process.

It also leads to a smaller system being deployed which, due to economies of scale, costs more per kWp to install than a larger system. A smaller system obviously produces less electricity, which in turn negatively affects how rooftop solar can assist in the transfer to a low carbon economy. It is imperative that given our current situation of not being on target for reaching our renewable commitments by 2020 that we assist commercial and domestic property owners in deploying rooftop solar with more ease.

There is a vast wealth of untapped energy resource in the rooftop sector in Ireland. The introduction of a Feed in Tariff (FiT), as has been done in countries like the UK and Germany, would help deploy a large solar resource on currently-vacant roof space. This would in turn empower home and business owners to be a part of Ireland reaching its 2020 targets, while gaining savings on their electricity bills and creating thousands of new jobs that strengthen Ireland’s economy. Surely it is better to spend money now to achieve our targets rather than face fines running into the hundreds of millions of Euro? By not acting now we will not only be left with fines but also with a stagnant renewable energy portfolio in our country’s energy mix.

Speaking for solar developers in Ireland, the industry recognises the need “to bring the people with us”. Through ISEA, key industry players have engaged people about solar and how it adds significant value to farmers’ livelihoods, business owners, and citizens. Economic growth in this area will create approximately 7,300 jobs according to the recent KPMG report. There is a public acceptance of the technology. However, there is always more that can be done to engage stakeholders and to innovate new ways collectively to incorporate solar into Ireland’s energy supply.

Companies in the industry operate on single-digit margins. The call for support mechanisms (specifically, a contract for difference (CfD) mechanism for large-scale projects and feed-in tariff (FIT) for rooftop and domestic projects) is not solely about asking the government to subsidise the industry. It is more far-reaching than that. It is a call for holistic policies that address the challenges faced by solar (as well as wind and other renewables).

In particular, solar PV projects are sensitive to policies pertaining to the following: grid connection, transmission and distribution of the electricity produced, planning, building regulations, agriculture, environment and heritage. Without the relevant Government departments working together, and with key stakeholders to ensure that policies align, Ireland will fail to realise its ambitions of transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

By ensuring that renewable energy policy going forward is integrated and comprehensive, the Irish Government sends a clear message. Firstly, to citizens that it recognises the importance of clean energy in providing high-quality living; secondly, to businesses and investors that Ireland is open for green investment.

In closing, it is important to note that Government represents the voice of the Irish people and thus is the force that will mobilise Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Government has a responsibility to the Irish people to innovate, such that Ireland remains competitive and resilient in an ever-evolving global economy. You can click to visit EnlytenEnergy.com to know more about energy saving.

Contact: info@irishsolarenergy.org;         www.irishsolarenergy.org

Call Mimeos Energy Florida.

Can you hear the Eco?

Cover square webIf not, then you are not listening. Contrary to what some commentators would have you believe, the building services industry is behaving in a very responsible manner when it comes to the environment, sustainability and energy saving.

The issue of Building Services News is awash with evidence of the sector’s determination not just to help Ireland realise its EU 2020 obligations, but also to honour the spirit of its objectives.

In addition to a wealth of information on all manner of innovative product developments from individual companies, there are also articles from leading regulatory bodies and industry representative associations pointing the way forward.

System designers, contractors, installers and other key decision-makers will find a wealth of advice, guidance and informed opinion in this latest issue of Building Services News. To Hear the Eco log on to issuu.com/patlehane/docs/bsnews_jan_feb_2017_web_file

Why heat pumps? — cost, comfort and the environment

Paul Kenny, Chief Executive Officer, Tipperary Energy Agency.

Paul Kenny, Chief Executive Officer,
Tipperary Energy Agency.

However, based on the heat road map for Europe that shows heat pumps are a core technology for decarbonising heat,and considering that 20% of Swedish homes are heated by heat pumps, it is clear that heat pump technology works, even in cold climates. This view is endorsed by many industry experts. So, why should someone install an air source heat pump to heat their home, and what are the key considerations? There are three reasons – cost, comfort and the environment — writes Paul Kenny, Chief Executive Officer, Tipperary Energy Agency.

First of all, I’d like to dispel some myths:

• Heat pumps (the majority of the Irish market players use R410a) work down to minus 20ºC;

• Ireland isn’t that cold, with average winter temperatures of 7ºC and the mean daily minimum above 2ºC all year round;

• If one were to click here, they’d know that heat pumps work really well at 7ºC air temperature and 35ºC flow temperature (typically COP of 4.5 in the lab, and over 4 in real world applications);

• There is no need for a back-up immersion or boiler. We do generally ensure a high-efficiency stove is installed in our retrofitted buildings, but we find most people don’t use them with cheap even heat from the heat pump;

• Radiators are not radiators, they are really convectors, and they put out heat at all temperatures above the room temperature they are located in. So, if the boiler used to run for six hours and now runs for 24 hours, the flow temperature versus room temperature can come down by 75%, eg 60ºC to 30ºC (room at 20ºC);

• Heat pumps can heat water to 55ºC, and a top-up heating cycle using an existing immersion heater for legionella control uses a few kWh per annum when required.

The methodology employed by Superhomes is to design and install ASHPs into radiators that are oversized in comparison to typical radiators, i.e. low-temperature radiators. This allows a higher heat output at lower flow and return temperature. The design of the emitters allows the heat pump run at about 31ºC, 27ºC return at 7ºC external temperature. The heat pumps are commissioned to be “always on”, thereby maintaining a steady indoor temperature at the desired set point.

Therefore, the heat pump only needs to replace the energy that is lost from the building fabric – typically 2-3 kW at 7ºC. The resultant impact on the heat pump is that the required output per radiator is generally only 150-300w and minimises the flow temperature (maximising efficiency), resulting in typical heating (not hot water) performance of between 3.3 and 3.6 average co-efficient of performance throughout the heating season.

Using an average delivered energy cost of 11c/kWh (40% night and 60% day rate, bonkers.ie 14/01/17), this delivers heat at a little over 3.1c/kWh. Compare this to natural gas (86% efficiency and standing charge €92 split of 15MWh) of 6.4c/kWh, and oil (59c/l) at 9.2c/kWh delivered into the house. The ongoing heat cost is one third of oil and half that of gas. For those knowledgeable in energy price predictions, the likelihood of oil and gas rising versus electricity is likely to continue.

Hot water heating cycles typically rise from 30ºC flow temperature to 58-60ºC flow temperature and do have a lower co-efficient of performance than heating, typically about 2.4-2.6 over a season. This, usually completed at night for the bulk of heating (80% night (6.6c), 20% day (14c)) results in a net heat cost of 3.25c/kWh, similar to heating, and similar margins below the alternate fossil fuels.

In conjunction with the installation of an air source heat pump, and steady interior temperatures, air leakage must be reduced, ideally to an air change rate of 3-5 air changes per hour under 50 pascals of pressure, corresponding to an average rate of 0.15-0.25 air changes from infiltration in typical conditions.

Once this is achieved a designed ventilation system must be used. In the case of Superhomes, demand control ventilation is employed. This designed mechanical extract system ensures a steady, low and controlled flow of fresh air into the dwelling.

The impact of this commissioning to maintain a constant temperature in the dwelling has a number of “symptoms”. Steady air temperatures encourage walls to rise to a more even higher temperature, thereby lowering the radiative heat loss from people to surrounding surfaces and adding to the feeling of comfort. This also increases the interior temperature at thermal bridges, thereby increasing the dew point of condensation, and lowering the likelihood of condensation, mould and ill health. Coupled with the ventilation system, almost all the surveyed participants in Superhomes report that they have noticed a significant reduction in condensation.

Finally, the carbon performance of homes utilising heat pumps versus oil and gas should be understood in the context of steadiliy-decreasing carbon content of electricity. It is currently 467g CO2/ kWh of electricity, 205 for natural gas, 257 for kerosene, 229 for LPG. Forecasting this to 2030, it is, in the absence of peat and coal thermal plants and with increasing renewable electricity, likely to be below 300g/kWh CO2. Utilising an average heating and hot water COP of 3.2 (this is being achieved on an annual basis in Superhomes houses) we can see that the carbon per net kWh of heat from a heat pump will be 145 in 2015 and 90g/ kWh in 2030, versus natural gas (86% efficient boiler) at 238, and 266 and 299 for LPG and kerosene heating oil respectively. So, this equates to a 39% and 58% cut today per net kWh and a 60-70% cut by 2030.

Without getting too technical, this also puts the carbon emissions of the individual houses into the European emissions trading scheme, which moves them from the state’s carbon balance sheet and also, in theory, in  a cap and trade marketplace, pushes out higher polluting carbon-intensive electricity sources.

In a new build situation, the marginal cost of installing a heat pump, appropriate cylinder and potentially larger radiators versus gas + connection or oil + tank is likely to be similar in cost to that of the photovoltaics required with the gas or oil boiler for compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations. The savings will ensure that even outside of compliance, investment will be returned in the first three to five years at worst.

The insulation or buffering from energy price increases is also worth some peace of mind. In terms of retrofit, the economic case is slightly less generous. The catch is that the cost of a retrofit of this nature – including the airtightness measures, the ventilation system and the heat pump – is unlikely to be less than €15,000. Over the next 20 years this is about €3.75 per heating day, gobbling up about 50% -70% of the savings. If we take energy price inflation into account, using the last 15 years as an indication of the next 15, this is likely to break even in 10 to 12 years. A 35% SEAI grant, available within the Superhomes programme, will bring this to seven to ten years.

So, economically home-owners will not win or lose in the short-term, but environmentally and from a comfort point of view, they will be significantly better off, as will their children going forward.

Jim Gannon appointed SEAI CEO

Jim Gannon, newly-appointed CEO of SEAI.

Jim Gannon, newly-appointed CEO of SEAI.

Jim Gannon has been appointed Chief Executive Officer by the SEAI. The appointment took effect on 23 May 2016 and Jim will lead the development and delivery of the Authority’s new five-year strategy. Mr Gannon is an engineering graduate of NUI Galway, has a Masters in Environmental Assessment from the University of Wales Aberystwyth and an MBA from the UCD Smurfit School of Business.

He has worked within the energy sector throughout his career, delivering projects at a European, national and regional level for public and private sector organisations. This has included projects across conventional and renewable energy, transmission and distribution infrastructure, energy demand management and technology development. Most recently, he held the position of Director at RPS Group, leading the Energy, Environment and Health and Safety sector.

SEAI Chair, Ms Julie O’Neill said: “Jim Gannon is an energetic and widely respected energy professional with a wealth of experience across all aspects of energy policy implementation. Working with the executive team, he will build on the successes of recent years and lead the organisation into the next phase which demands a rapid decarbonisation of our entire energy system.”

Speaking on his appointment, Mr Gannon said: “The new White Paper and recent commitments made at COP21 in Paris provide Ireland with both challenges and significant opportunities over the coming period. As a result, Ireland is likely to experience change at an infrastructural scale in addition to a technology-led democratisation of the energy system across electricity, transport and heat. I look forward to leading SEAI as it plays a central role in our transition to a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable energy future.”