Peter Behan, Director at Group Horizon, explains how electricians can upskill with a view to taking advantage of the growing demand for efficient, seamlessly integrated buildings.
The drive to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency in commercial buildings has resulted in a pressing need for qualified building energy management controls engineers.
Working in the electrical sector, many contractors will be aware of building energy management systems and the role they can play in transforming buildings into fully optimised, energy efficient buildings of the future.
Building owners and operators are now looking for ways to make their commercial buildings more efficient and sustainable – and that is where a building energy management system (BEMS) can play an integral role.
Energy prices remain high and improving energy efficiency will now be a key consideration for business owners and building operators. One of the knock-on effects will be increased demand for highly skilled, adaptable engineers familiar with the latest building technologies and capable of integrating smart solutions into the built environment.
As the world strives to reduce its carbon footprint, efficient building management will become increasingly pertinent to businesses of all sizes. The technology that goes into buildings, whether new-build or retrofit, is becoming more advanced than ever, and its complexity means trained and qualified engineers are required to install it. Modern legislation and environmental targets have made good building management a priority and the next generation of building controls engineers will be the key drivers in evolving technologies.
With new efficient building technologies continuing to emerge on a regular basis, energy management systems and solutions are no longer viewed as expensive extravagances but are essential long-term investments which help drive down costs and improve the wellbeing of building occupants.
What does a BEMS engineer do?
A building energy management system essentially keeps a building running efficiently, ensuring that building services are fully integrated in order to operate in the most effective manner. This includes essential building functions and services such as heating, ventilation, lighting etc. Smart energy infrastructure solutions such as solar PV, battery storage, heat networks, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure can also be part of a modern-day BEMS solution.
The challenge for the BEMS Controls Engineer is knowing how to achieve the highest possible level of efficiency. The role of the engineer therefore involves coordinating day-to-day
operations in such a way as to optimise various building energy management systems, identifying energy saving strategies, monitoring performance, whilst also diagnosing operating faults and facilitating repairs and maintenance work.
Training for this role will often involve a mix of technical training and on-the-job undertakings designed to impart knowledge in a wide variety of related subjects. The themes covered will often offer trainees an insight into areas relating to:
- Controls hardware and logic
- Field devices
- Communication protocols
- Supervisor software
Data in buildings represents a constant source of learning and is becoming increasingly important as a means to reduce costs and identify strategies for energy reduction. The systems available now, with remote connectivity and analytical tools, can be checked thousands of times in one hour, whereas years ago they would perhaps be checked annually by one person with a toolbag. The latest data analytical systems offer the advantage of being able to monitor what is happening and predict maintenance requirements before they cause serious disruption – an incredibly useful tool for the BEMS Controls Engineer.
Training the next generation
For electrical contractors looking to branch out and get involved in the industry, there are a variety of training programmes available. This includes courses that could have you up and running in three years through a variety of classroom and/or online sessions covering the technical theory.
These training programmes are crucial to address an industry-wide shortage of BEMS Controls Engineers, which is where the next generation will be key.
With high energy costs and the net zero by 2050 target moving closer every day, energy efficiency in buildings has never been more crucial. Consequently, the importance and impact of BEMS will continue to grow and the innovation behind them will continue to improve.
A new generation of skilled engineers is needed more than ever before and there is now fresh impetus to deliver the necessary training and ensure we have the talented individuals needed to deliver the buildings of tomorrow. Put simply, there has never been a better time to get involved and upskill in this exciting and dynamic industry.