Sustainability: keep it manageable
In what areas can I save the most? What is the best sustainability approach for my building(s)? Many companies struggle with these questions. Energy Consultant Gijs van Heijster of Strukton Worksphere explains.
In what areas can I save the most? What is the best sustainability approach for my building(s)? Many companies struggle with these questions. They would very much like to get down to work, but they don’t know where to begin. Understandable, because the possibilities seem endless. As energy consultant I therefore help companies cope with this issue. From vision and ambition to a specific step-by-step plan and its implementation.
I find it captivating and instructive to not only contribute ideas to customers and analyse their situation up front, but also to be involved in the management and maintenance of the chosen solutions. Strukton Worksphere offers this full range of services and this is a major added value. For our customers, but also for myself. This makes it possible for me to work on improvements and refinements over the long term. This also increases our knowledge about how technical installations can operate as efficiently as possible. My experience is that the greater the complexity of the technical installations, the greater the challenge of having them operate optimally.
There is a tension between ambition and manageability. This is why it is important to always keep the overall picture in mind.
Do not make things unnecessarily difficultI just dropped an interesting word here: complexity. Complexity arises in existing buildings, and particularly older ones, when new installation components are added each time without checking the manageability and effectiveness of the installation as a whole. It can then happen that over time as many as three different energy delivery systems may be in use. This seriously compromises manageability.
In case of new development there also is a risk that complexity will get out of hand. Due to the high sustainability ambitions, it may be decided to install multiple energy sources and delivery systems: thermal energy storage with a heat pump for the basic load, a hydrogen boiler for the peak load and to be innovative, plus an ordinary boiler simply for the security of supply – and perhaps a dry cooler and the use of surface water for every possible operating scenario. An approach of this nature is not only expensive, it also requires significant maintenance.
The complexity can therefore originate from the translation of a high ambition into a wide range of measures without keeping the big picture in mind. At the same time an inadequate ambition can result in tackling only part of the problem, without a vision of the whole. For example: whenever a heat pump is selected you must also make the necessary adjustments to the delivery system, if not, the system simply runs less efficiently than before.
Do not only focus on your location
Speaking about ambition: increasingly more organisations aim to be energy-neutral; in other words they want to generate as much energy as they consume. An excellent ambition, of course. Even better: over time we must go a step beyond this and become energy suppliers. However, at the present time becoming energy-neutral is not realistic for every building. To accomplish this you would have to jump through many hoops just to achieve those last few savings as well. This often requires a great deal of custom work and expensive, complex solutions. But is this really desirable?
For example: in addition to solar panels, is it really necessary to install a wind turbine as well? Does it not make more sense to co-invest in an offshore windmill instead? At the present time the rules stipulate that you are only considered energy-neutral if the energy is generated close to home. That would seem far too limiting to me. We need to especially look at what best suits the building itself and at the same time make use of available space in other parts of the country.
Don’t wait too long, simply get down to workIn this blog I began with the difficulty you may experience as a company to start working on sustainability. Where to begin? In any event, my advice is, don’t put it off. It goes without saying that a new solar panel that is just a bit better and more efficient, is mostly likely to appear next year. But if you adopt that kind of thinking, you’ll be waiting forever. It is preferable that you choose technologies and materials that are no longer in their infancy and have proven themselves to be a reliable solution. The speed of the transition is more important than some additional savings in a few years.
In other words, let’s accelerate sustainability and especially let’s not make it more complicated than it needs to be.