ABOUT PERTH AND KINROSS COUNCIL

Perth and Kinross Council was founded in 1996 as a borough of Tayside. They encompass over 150,000 residents and have a total of 212 operational buildings that they oversee, including residence, schools, office blocks, and libraries.

Application: Local Government

Project Size: 90 Buildings, various sizes

Working with Learnd/CEC since: 2019

Use Case: BMS Upgrades, Cloud Based Monitoring, Critical Alarms, Building Optimisation

How Perth and Kinross Council worked with Learnd/CEC to save 3000MWH on their energy usage and over £100,000 in year one – paying back the project cost in just 3 years.

THE CHALLENGE                             

In 2019, Perth and Kinross Council were facing pressure to meet new government and sector targets when it came to energy efficiency. They knew their current BMS sites were not up to the level they needed to deliver on these goals, as they had an SLA in place to manage their BMS remotely, but were not making any improvements to their systems and had very limited access to their data.

They put the project out to tender for an ‘Upgrades and Improvements Contract’, which is where the Learnd/CEC team came in. Chris Anton, the Lead Energy Officer for the council, had a very specific criteria in mind for who would be the best team to deliver this project. ‘We wanted a very technical solution, so we had built a very specific tender to make sure we got the best people for the job’ Anton remarked.

The systems that needed an upgrade were no small feat – libraries, office blocks, and schools throughout the council needed to be connected to the central BMS, over 90 buildings in total. Within these they needed the heating, ventilation, and hot water to be constantly monitored to manage set points and schedules. They knew the key to success was gathering and understanding the data coming from all the different buildings and their systems, which up to this point had not been possible in the detail that they were hoping for.

The most important thing for us is creating a platform that was user friendly for the entire public services team. We’re the energy team, we want to work on carbon energy reduction, so we have to make sure the investments we make are working

Chris Anton – Lead Energy Officer, Perth and Kinross Council

When it came to must haves with the system, Chris had a few non-negotiables. ‘The most important thing for us is creating a platform that was user friendly for the entire property service team.’ Anton remarked. They needed a platform where everyone in every sector could easily use the system in order to maximise efficiency. ‘We’re the energy team, we want to work on carbon energy reduction, so we have to make sure the investments we make are working’ says Anton.

Along with energy savings, they also knew they needed a way to remotely diagnose problems before they impacted day to day operations – especially around schools. ‘The issue you have with schools is you have to be able to have systems online, we only have a couple hour grace period to get things back up and running or they have to close until the problem is fixed’ Anton explains. ‘There’s only two maintenance officers in the whole district, so we knew we needed something to help them with the systems.’

When it came down to the decision of who to award the competitive tender to, Chris mentioned why learnd/CEC had the winning submission ‘We had already worked with some of the team in previous jobs, and we were incredibly impressed with their submission’ Anton says ‘the contract was scored 70% on quality and 30% on price, and CEC/learnd were excellent in their submission, paying close attention to our needs and wants, and making recommendations in some cases rather than just going with the specification.’

Coming down to their technical expertise and customer centricity, CEC/learnd were awarded the tender and soon after the work began.

THE SOLUTION

With so many buildings needing an upgrade, and lofty targets in emissions reductions, Anton and his team knew they needed to have a state-of-the-art system that not only upgraded their current BMS, but also allowed them to connect their buildings to a central source and have technical support from their chosen partner.

What started as a service contract quickly turned into a more project based, BMS upgrades project once they brought CEC/learnd on board. The systems originally in place did what they needed to, but with a goal to improve efficiency as the minimum criteria, Anton knew they needed more access to their buildings’ data, remote management capabilities, and a system that could maximise efficiency for each different sector in the council.

To achieve this, CEC/learnd worked very closely with Anton and his team to fully understand their needs, and worked in an iterative process, getting multiple sectors of the public services team involved. ‘We did loads of feedback sessions and worked with the other teams to feed that into something that we could resolve with the system’ Anton explained. ‘We wanted to see how we could make things work more efficiently, and with this feedback and working along side the software engineers, we were able to develop a great system.’ On the hardware side, energy efficiency upgrades were made across the board. These included replacing hundreds of obsolete Siemens Building Products BMS controllers with the latest Siemens PX range of controllers as well as the installation of brand new BMS controls in various sites that previously had no BMS controls within them thus allowing for greater energy efficiency of the heating plant assets.

Perth and Kinross monitoring screen for energy savings

In addition, the existing Siemens Desigo Insight Front End Supervisor was upgraded to the new Siemens Desigo CC platform bringing with it the latest in technological features to enhance the remote monitoring of the council’s BMS systems. The system includes:

  • Customised GUI covering the entire Perth and Kinross Council estate compromising of 56 Primary schools, 8 Secondary Schools and 23 Offices
  • Dynamic visual alerting on both energy and comfort breaches
  • Asset performance and energy based alarming written into site BMS controls strategies to alert proactively and automatically via email
  • Advanced reporting suite configured to aid with compliance requirements around DHWS and CO2 monitoring
  • Mobile phone/tablet based remote access for all customer stakeholders

The remote monitoring originally started with 70 connected sites, but now has over 90 sites within the network. ‘looking at education, there are only 6 schools in the council that aren’t connected to the system’ says Anton ‘We’ve connected the heating and hot water to the critical alarms system, where they can be seen on the remote front end, and sent out to whoever is on the email list when there is a fault.’ 

Critical alarms allow us to be proactive – we’ll get something at 4am and we can get it handled before schools start the next morning.

Chris Anton – Lead Energy Officer, Perth and Kinross Council

By connecting the boilers and pressurisation units to the critical alarms systems, it gives the team visibility into problems that could shut down the school as soon as they happen. ‘Critical alarms allow us to be proactive’ Anton explains, ‘we’ll get something at 4am and we can get it handled before schools start the next morning.’

With such a wide network of connected buildings, Anton and his team needed to make sure they had the right interface, people, and training to manage the system. They worked with CEC/learnd to develop ‘navigation pages’ that allows them to visually see all of the connected parts of the site, and quickly pick out the problems that might be present through colour coding.

Everything is IT networked, so instead of sending someone to site we can remotely diagnose before anyone is sent out to site. If a site is disconnected, we can re-issue a ping to try to reconnect the site, which in many cases can fix the problem without any on-site intervention.

Chris Anton – Lead Energy Officer, Perth and Kinross Council

Anton also has someone on his team who oversees the BMS internally. CEC/learnd has provided him and the rest of the team with extensive training to ensure the system is as optimised as possible – allowing the team to troubleshoot and keep the systems up to date. ‘Everything is IT networked, so instead of sending someone to site we can remotely diagnose before anyone is sent out to site. If a site is disconnected, we can re-issue a ping to try to reconnect the site, which in many cases can fix the problem without any on-site intervention.’ Anton tells us.

With this new-found visibility, they can be better about scheduling the energy at different schools based on activities, needs, and even seasons. ‘We can look and see which schools we need to put on because there’s kid’s club’ Anton explains ‘even though we have a lot of schools, our system can quickly show us exactly what sites we have on.’

Seasonality is a huge driver of energy consumption, and by collecting all this data, Anton and his team have been able to optimise the buildings energy usage throughout the seasons ‘we had more data to understand and analyse how sites were performing, so we could figure out how to improve other aspects of the building outside of the BMS’ says Anton. Not only did the solution give them more BMS optimisation power, but it allowed them to see where there might be other faults in the buildings that could be addressed to improve overall efficiency.

THE OUTCOME

The more buildings they got connected, the more results Anton and his team started to see. ‘We started to see results instantly but were able to measure it collectively month to month with our savings report’ says Anton.

Within the first year, the council was able reduce their consumption by over 3000mwh and save over £100,000 in energy costs – which resulted in a payback period of the whole project in just 3 years.

Not only has it saved energy and carbon, it’s also helped keep the schools in session. ‘Last year we didn’t have any school closures due to heating or hot water failures!’ Anton exclaims. Not only does this keep kids in school getting their education, but it eliminates the costs that would come from shutting down the school. It depends on the size of the school, but with bus cancellations, and kids and staff being sent home, a school shutdown can result in abortive costs.

With the remote monitoring capabilities, and the ability to re-ping sites to get them back online, the council has also saved significantly when it comes to the service and maintenance of the buildings. ‘I think we’ve easily saved somewhere around 3 tonnes of CO2 just on callout reductions, because we’ve reduced over 50 callouts this year through remote monitoring’ says Anton ‘before we would have to send someone out twice, once to diagnose the problem, and then they might have to go back later to be able to fix it. At £240/callout, the savings add up.’

Perth and Kinross GUI of estate

When it came to working with the CEC/learnd team, it came down to communication and their problem-solving mindset that really pushed the project to the next level. ‘The communication and partnership is the best I personally have had with a contractor’ Anton remarked ‘We’re all learning together and working on solving problems together, it’s constantly evolved into a great partnership that gives us the results we’re looking for.’

This project and extension of works will be one of our biggest assets towards meeting NetZero.

Chris Anton – Lead Energy Officer, Perth and Kinross Council

As far as overall business operations goes, the project has delivered better onboarding and engagement with the BMS system across all the different sectors in the council. ‘It’s changed our way of working, and improved out service function’ Anton tells us ‘this project and extension of works will be one of our biggest assets towards meeting NetZero.’

The success is basically in the numbers. We started the project during the pandemic when energy costs were low and stable. However following developments in the global energy market and significant cost increases the benefits of the project have been greater than expected, giving the council control over our energy and a return of investment in 3 years.

Chris Anton – Lead Energy Officer, Perth and Kinross Council

When asked about any advice he had for other council’s that might be on the fence about upgrading their BMS and implementing remote monitoring, he wanted to let them know the payback in both a monetary and community sense is massive. ‘The success is basically in the numbers. We started the project during the pandemic when energy costs were low and stable. However following developments in the global energy market and significant cost increases the benefits of the project have been greater than expected, giving the council control over our energy and a return of investment in 3 years.’

He also mentioned the importance of having the data from a connected site ‘Actually controlling the system you have is literally the most important thing to do. The platform allows us to pull all the data from the system and share it with everyone to generate improvements.’

When it came down to it, Anton really felt that the capabilities and mindset CEC/learnd brought to the project was what contributed so heavily to its success. He urges others considering taking on a similar project to ‘approach it with an open mind and work with a contractor that you trust and shares the same goals.’