Unique Intelligent Building Management System for Swansea Metropolitan University

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Everyone is looking to save energy costs these days as wholesale prices of oil and gas constantly increase. The pressure is on to try and balance energy efficiency with sustainable consumption and minimum environmental impact. Swansea Metropolitan University based in South Wales, UK, has been a major centre for the delivery of vocational higher education since 1853. The University employs more than 500 staff and teaches more than 6,000 students. The Welsh Assembly (Welsh government) sets energy targets for large organizations to achieve, and by doing so they receive rebates in the form of tax credits. So, investing in an integrated building management solution optimizes energy efficiency, indoor climate, security, and safety of buildings for small enterprises up to large university campuses. The goal for SMU was to create the best possible learning environment while reducing capital and operating expenditures, so recently the university commissioned a new energy saving Building Management System (BMS) which needed to be custom built to specific requirements. This was implemented by Highland Services, HardwarePT, and the University M&E maintenance department with SCADA automation software provided by Bubble Automation.

Active management system designed for efficient energy handling

The final installed system needed to be superior to the existing heating system which was unreliable, inefficient and received no support due to the age of the system. The brief was to create an “active” building management system to monitor and improve energy efficiency across several large university buildings. The solution needed the ability to monitor both power consumption and the behavior of control devices in each building in real-time, as well as adjusting power consumption according to its needs. In addition, they required a benchmark system to compare individual energy consumption for each building.

Specifications focused purely on energy consumption

In order to design a custom made system that fitted the unique requirements of Swansea Metropolitan University, Advantech along with their Channel Partner, HardwarePT, system integrators and SMU key decision makers defined the specifications, and after lengthy discussions they constructed a list of requirements:

  • Ownership– Ownership of the software resides with the University with no restrictions on development, license fees or access restrictions. The system was to be developed using commercially available market leading programming software, coupled with high quality PLC components. As owners of the system, the university needs to be able to make alterations or maintenance carried out by whoever is the most cost effective service provider, with the option of making in-house modifications themselves.
  • Total cost of ownership- As a combined system the supply, installation and running costs were to be far lower than would otherwise be if individual systems were installed in each building.
  • Running cost– The new system provides all the information required, and produces customizable reports for presenting to anyone who needs it – without external involvement and therefore without additional cost.
  • Information– The system not only clearly shows what their energy usage is, but it also shows them where they are using it, thus providing a comprehensive overview and control over energy consumption. The university also has the ability to alter their system of control and monitoring; changes that can be made, as often as required and whenever they are required, without having to pay someone else to do it.
  • Relevance- The system is uniquely designed around the University’s specific requirements with nothing preconfigured. Therefore they won’t need to alter or adapt it which impacts on total cost of ownership.
  • Simplicity– The system is designed around the University’s needs and as such is designed to provide all appropriate information and control, the way they need it.
  • Adaptability– Whatever future level of monitoring and control is required, the system can expand, i.e. HVAC, lighting, occupancy control, access control, security etc. Design-build solution keeps overall costs down

After lengthy discussions with SMU it was felt there was a need for something different. In partnership with Highland Services, HardwareHP and automation software developers Bubble Automation Ltd., they created a system that benefits the university without holding them to ransom. They developed a different approach to monitoring energy consumption with real-time control and monitoring. Initially SMU wanted only to track ambient temperatures in all 7 seven of their buildings but they also wanted the capability to expand the system to include other systems at a later date. This would safeguard long-term investment and ensure long lifetime operation.

ADAM-5550KW Programmable Automation Controllers (PAC) with I/O cards, and ADAM-4015 Analog I/O Modules with temperature sensors were chosen for the control and data acquisition tasks which required Industrial PC computing performance but with the robustness of a PLC. The goal for SMU was to have a cost-effective and energy efficient BMS. Combining ADAM-4015 and ADAM-5550KW with Multiprog KW Software for IEC 61131 programmable control, enabled them to meet their efficiency targets and provide an easy to use, accurate, efficient, and reliable system for the whole university.

Realizing that the University was not getting what it needed from their existing BMS, Highland Services with Advantech proposed a new solution – to replace the old limited system with an all new bespoke system designed around their needs. To do this they required the services of a company with a very similar business philosophy and were pleased to find that in Bubble Automation, who are an established automation software developer. Highland Services and Bubble Automation installed the overall system and equipment but during integration they encountered some connectivity and communication problems so turned to Advantech for help. Advantech’s European technical support center was able to quickly troubleshoot their problems and get them back on track in no time. Andrew Smith, a software engineer from Bubble Automation said, “We pride ourselves in building long term relationships with our customers. We can provide 24-hour support 365 days per year and can even diagnose/rectify/adapt systems remotely, and using Advantech’s ADAM products meant that we could be sure SMU was getting the best deal with the best support.” Clive Granville of Highland Services said, “It has taken a lot of effort from all involved, not least our client – SMU, but we are at last able to offer what we consider to be a very reliable system. By working closely with Advantech, HardwarePT and Bubble Automation, we were able to achieve our aim of providing a system that met the client’s needs without tying them to any one supplier. We believe that it was our dedication to the client requirements which brought us success.”

Real-time automation solution brings TCO benefits

The completed system has the ability to monitor both power consumption and behavior of the control devices in real-time; and its closed-loop feedback mechanism adjusts temperatures according to changing needs which improves overall efficiency. There is also room built into the system for expansion should SMU require further system development.

Total cost of ownership is low because:

  • Commercially available software resides with the university with no restrictions on development, license fees or access restrictions
  • The hardware architecture was developed using high quality, off-the-shelf PLC components
  • The entire system provides and produces customizable reports for anyone who needs it
  • The entire system is future-proof. Whatever level of monitoring and control is eventually required, the system can incorporate it, i.e. HVAC, lighting, occupancy control, access control, security etc.