ABOUT DENCORA

Dencora is a commercial property investment company that specialises in industrial, office space, and retail properties. Founded in as a family company in 1973 and after a few years in public ownership reverted to private ownership in 2000. They have an expanding portfolio with tenants covering a variety of industries. 

Application: Commercial Building

Building Size: 4 Stories, 5000m2

Working with Learnd/CEC since: 2020

Use Case: BMS Upgrades, Building Optimisation, Remote Operations Centre

How Dencora worked with Learnd/CEC to save 38% of their gas usage and £100,000 per year in energy savings in their Reed House property

THE CHALLENGE

After Dencora purchased Reed house in 2019, they were actively looking for a way to optimise the building’s energy efficiency and gain better visibility and insights into the building’s trends via the BMS.

Steve Cullum, Dencora’s Finance Manager, was keen on solving these problems asap, as they knew they had been overspending on gas and electric consumption but had no way of knowing how much and where it was being consumed.

They knew one of the most apparent sources of waste was the setup of the building. The design of the building M&E systems had intended for it to be an open plan system. However, Clarion, one of the clients, had installed partitions and office pods in recent refurbishments to suit their needs. Along with this, they decided to install new AC systems for the individual spaces that ran alongside the existing system in the building.

‘First and foremost, when you take over a building of a certain age, you should certainly be reviewing your M&E systems and controls, because there could be considerable benefits with improvements of the BMS in the building’ Cullum says. This is when they decided they needed to bring in an expert.

Dencora connected with Learnd through one of its recent acquisitions, Complete Energy Controls (CEC). More specifically, one of CEC’s team member’s, Stuart Minns. They had known Stuart for years and he had delivered projects for them time and again, so they trusted his work and assessments of the space. ‘He’s never let us down when it came to doing the job’, says Cullum of his experience working with Stuart and his teams.

In many cases, the way a BMS is configured when you buy the building might not be how the system was originally set up – so you can have a lot of inefficiencies

Steve Cullum, Finance Manager – Dencora

Upon taking over the building, Dencora realised that the additional piecewise system was producing a lot of waste, because it wasn’t connected into the central building system, so it was unregulated, and gave them very little visibility into the health of the systems to be more efficient with their maintenance. This is a common thing Dencora has encountered with new properties as Cullum mentioned ‘in many cases, the way a BMS is configured when you buy the building might not be how the system was originally set up – so you can have a lot of inefficiencies.’

As they investigated further, they realised that the entire system needed an overhaul. A lot of the equipment was nearing end of life, the bottom three floors of the building were incredibly inefficient because the more recently retrofitted systems were continuously working against the central building system, and the 111 call centre on the top floor was generally unhappy with the control of the current system in place.

Dencora suspected they were overpaying on landlords electric and gas but didn’t yet have a way to confirm because tenants independent equipment & systems were not always connected onto their own switchboards, so there was no way to bill them for their actual usage.

They also knew that CEC/Learnd had the capability to implement cloud-based remote monitoring of the site, which they hoped would help reduce the amount of site visits the maintenance team would have to do and help them see in real time what their energy and gas usage was.

When it came down to it, the initial survey solidified their decision to work with CEC/Learnd. ‘We were impressed with the level of service and their recommendations, so it gave us confidence in the service and the company’ says Cullum.

From there, CEC/Learnd began to move forward with the internal maintenance team.

THE SOLUTION

With Dencora’s goal of optimising the building’s efficiency, CEC/Learnd’s hands on approach, industry expertise, and bespoke designs for their building’s needs, gave them a team and system they knew they could trust to deliver an effective system.

‘We knew that there were inefficiencies, and our goal was to reduce the usage so we could pass the cost savings onto our tenants’ Cullum told us. When it came to the building setup, there were four different floors covering over 5000m^2 of office space with individual needs on each, so having a bespoke, well-designed system is essential.

‘Learnd/CEC was able to work with our maintenance team to determine the best way to start tackling the project in a phased manner’ Cullum relayed. Stuart worked with the team to tackle some short-term improvements, like ensuring fuse boards became specific to either tenanted areas or common areas and were incorrectly installed, adding tenants Midi billing meters, and installing new valves, actuators, and controllers on the first floor. However, there was still a decent amount of work to be done to get everything linked into one system.

‘As a result of lockdown, full occupancy wasn’t back within the building, which gave us access to more of the building in the daytime. This made it more viable to pull in the remaining phases of the whole improvement program’ said Cullum. Twelve months after the initial work on the ground floor had been done, they started to tackle the rest of the building.

A massive overhaul was undertaken by Steve Tassie – part of the building’s incumbent maintenance supply team, working closely with the Learnd/CEC team. The building runs on a closed loop heating and cooling system, and the team was able to implement cloud-based monitoring so that the site could be diagnosed remotely.

By updating the system to new, cloud-based software, and redesigning the fan coil systems to be configured with occupancy sensors and smart wall zone controllers that allow the monitoring of the CO2 levels in each zone, the demand based design has allowed the fan coil units to switch off or reduce heating or cooling of the rooms if there is nobody in a zone and CO2 levels are not compromised. 

The demand driven system has also created improved efficiency of the boilers and chiller systems which are now only enabled and increased or decreased in line with the building demands.

Controls before were very much for the separated systems, where with the new BMS system we can set parameters that controls them as a conjoined, optimal system that has proved to save money and energy.

Steve Cullum, Finance Manager – Dencora

‘By the time lockdown ended, the technology was operational with the interfacing and programming needed to integrate the old systems into the new controls, so it allowed us to get more updated information and see it all in one place.’ Cullum remarked. ‘Controls before were very much for the separated systems, where with the new BMS system we can set parameters that controls them as a conjoined, optimal system that has proved to save money and energy.’

THE OUTCOME

With the project being delivered ahead of schedule due to lockdowns, they quickly started seeing results.

‘By looking at the historical records, we could see very early on that there were savings within the first month of completing the works on the gas systems’ Cullum shared. ‘The best performance is on the top floor, where there isn’t an additional system because it is the full open plan office. But we’ve seen 20-25% savings for Clarion, and 25-30% savings for the rest of the tenants.’ Looking at the most up to date numbers, Dencora has saved 38% on their gas usage since they started working with CEC/learnd.

With these reductions in gas usage, Cullum estimates they’re saving up to £100,000/year on energy costs for their tenants.

‘Based on these savings, we’re going to pay for the whole job within about 4-5 years which is fantastic! If you base it on just the actual usage we’ve saved, it was definitely worth doing.’

‘Based on these savings, we’re going to pay for the whole job within about 4-5 years which is fantastic’ Cullum exclaims. ‘I think even [Stuart] was shocked at how much gas has been saved. If you base it on just the actual usage we’ve saved, it was definitely worth doing.’

Not only have Dencora saved on energy, but they’ve also saved time on their ongoing maintenance visits. Steve Tassie shared ‘we now have the ability to be able to log in through the cloud connector and see the plant in real time rather than having to go in on a callout. We can check the sensors a lot more accurately, we can see temperatures more accurately. We can see a much clearer picture of where we are on site and can diagnose issues and faults much quicker.’

Between the energy and maintenance savings, this has the added benefit of adding to Reed House’s USP when it comes to attracting new tenants. Cullum mentioned that they use it as a selling point not only for the cost savings, but also for the environmental impact, as many incoming tenants are working towards sustainability goals.

Overall, Dencora is very happy with the savings and solutions Learnd/CEC has delivered thus far.

When asked what advice Cullum had for other building managers who may be thinking about upgrading their BMS, he said it comes down to a few things; ‘you need to be working out your payback over the period of time while ensuring a pleasant office environment is maintained and whether it’s going to work for you, but there’s also the added bonus of feeling like you’re doing your bit for the environment, which our tenants appreciate as well!’

Technology moves on so quickly that’s it’s definitely worth reviewing your system. Even if it’s just a small amount, you’ll get a benefit out of getting a survey done.

Steve Cullum, Finance Manager – Dencora

Cullum also mentioned the speed at which the industry is changing ‘Technology moves on so quickly that’s it’s undoubtedly worth reviewing your system. Even if it’s just a small amount, with energy prices remaining high, you’ll get a benefit out of getting a survey done.’ But regardless, the savings they have seen have been astonishing. As Tassie remarked ‘A BMS is worth its weight in gold when you’ve got a good operational system.’