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Advanced controls technology and the ability to get different systems talking to one another through an appropriate building management system (BMS) is a valuable tool when it comes to managing a cooling plant effectively and meeting energy efficiency objectives, which can quickly deliver a significant return on the initial investment. Alberto Zennaro, controls project manager, Airedale International Air Conditioning, explains

From industrial and commercial sites to data centres and computer rooms, the ability to seamlessly integrate and manage multiple building services can bring significant energy saving and operational benefits. A true BMS will bring together a building’s entire heating and cooling estate, from rack-based hot spot cooling and precision air conditioning systems which deliver cooling to business-critical data centres and computer rooms, to comfort cooling in offices and external dry coolers, chillers and air handling units (AHUs), in addition to wider site utilities such as UPS, generators, fresh air supply and fire suppression systems for example.

A BMS developed by a specialist like Airedale with the knowledge and expertise to balance the often complex interrelationship of the divergent elements in a cooling plant, particularly in critical installations such as data centres, will ensure components are integrated and sequenced to maximise energy saving opportunities and reduce system downtime. By optimising system performance, availability and power draw, a BMS will make managing a cooling plant more straightforward and provide ‘clever’ and genuinely useful tools to aid proactive management and decision-making, not least of which are:

Improved system performance through advanced controls logic that simplifies the management of complex cooling plant

Increased operational efficiency

Proactive management through remote diagnostics and alarm monitoring

Extensive historical and live data capture for improved decision-making

Reduced risk of downtime and lower maintenance costs

Valuable ‘extras’ such as the ability to bill tenants for their share of power, gas and water consumption, in addition to improved site safety and security through integrating site access and CCTV

The wealth of data captured by a BMS is at the heart of its ability to deliver a rapid return on investment. ACIS for example provides a comprehensive view of a cooling installation from overall building level down to server level, across multiple sites. The ability to view, in real-time, how component systems are performing and adjust them as business needs dictate means that system uptime can be maximised and potential problems anticipated. By interrogating historical data, informed decisions can be made on how to best manage existing plant and plan for growth, ensuring waste is reduced and energy consumption optimised.

So, what are the latest innovations, and how can they optimise your operational and energy efficiency?

The ‘cloud’: For many users, particularly across large sites, service-based systems represent the most appropriate solution, offering secure, remote log-in and the ability to manage multiple sites across different locations, to a global scale.

Intuitive user interface: As with any software system, managing the most complex data can be simplified with an intuitive graphical user interface; add touchscreen operation and it’s even easier. The example below shows how psychrometric charts can be used to monitor system performance against bespoke or predefined service level agreements (SLAs) and standards such as the various ASHRAE classes which are applicable to data centre environments. The graphical approach simplifies complex data capture and takes the headache out of monitoring system performance as the software can be set to trigger alarms where a measurement falls outside a determined envelope.

Image 1: psychrometric charts take the headache out of monitoring system performance as the software can be set to trigger alarms where a measurement falls outside a determined envelope

Advanced energy management through dedicated BEMS modules: The value of any BMS can be further extended by incorporating an advanced building energy management (BEMS) module to allow monitoring and management of HVAC, lighting and other power units across large sites. Live and historical capture of power quality, energy consumption, CO2 emissions and PUE calculations, allows for informed decision-making to eliminate energy wastage and identify energy saving opportunities across all building services; systems can be further optimised by tailoring parameters to different zones and to meet peak and off-peak conditions.

Image 2: ACIS data capture will cover energy consumption, live carbon emissions, power meter comparison and energy consumption

The ability to integrate building controls systems over multiple platforms and protocols and to tailor software to meet client-specific needs makes the potential for benefits even greater. Controls software is usually available as new or as a retrofit option and, if modular, means the degree of sophistication can be enhanced relatively cost-effectively as business needs fluctuate and grow.

Controls at work – University of Portsmouth

The ACIS web-based control interface allows remote management of all building services in the University’s new £2.25m data centre.

Full integration with all building services including Airedale’s PAC units, IT cooling and free-cooling chillers; external generator, building fresh air supply, battery and build room air conditioning units; UPS room equipment; water leak detection and fire suppression systems in addition to the University’s legacy BMS

Graphical display and interrogation of data centre environments with PUE calculations, heat maps and reporting capabilities

Up to 95% free cooling pa

Custodian Data Centre

Award-winning ‘green’ data centre, this system effectively integrates the external AHUs, legacy BMS and Airedale free-cooling chillers.

Free-cooling for up to 80% of the year even when the outside temperature is above the supply air set point  to regularly achieve PUE (power usage effectiveness) below 1.15

Constant temperature, humidity and leak detection monitoring, generating real-time SMS/email/pager updates

Scalable system with all infrastructure and pipework pre-installed, reducing disruption and minimising cost as data centre demand grows

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