The INAIL building in Rome has 20 floors and office space for 1,000 employees. A new Building Automation and Control System (BACS) was taken into service in 2015, bringing with it a number of benefits. The 1,700 MWh energy savings and 536 t CO2eq emission reductions per year are the stand-out advantages, but the system has also brought with it a more stable office temperature and improved fire safety.
What makes this site special?
The National Institute for Insurance Against Accidents at Work (INAIL) office building in Rome was built in 1966 and renovated and extended in 1990. Given the age and scale of the building, the potential gain from installing a new Building Automation and Control System (BACS) looked promising. Such a system was therefore rolled out over the entire 31,000 m² office floor area.
The new BACS is as sophisticated in data collection as it is in automatic control and user interaction. Data collection involves sensors for presence detection, measuring humidity and temperature, detecting when windows are opened, and smoke detection covering the whole building. The automatic control system uses the recorded data to manage the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, lighting and the closing of fire compartments.
Because these functions are all integrated, suboptimal use can be avoided, leading to energy savings and CO2 emission reductions as well as a more comfortable office temperature.
At the same time, users do not have the perception of losing control over these systems—a perception sometimes inadvertently associated with BACS—but rather the opposite. Users can still open windows whenever they want but, when they do, the system switches the fan off, reactivating it when the window is closed again. Employees can switch the lights on and off if they wish, but if they forget to switch them off when leaving the room, the system will intervene automatically. The user interaction system includes an online control panel and a smartphone app which allows staff to control room temperature and view previous temperature and humidity levels. The system also monitors the energy consumption of all offices and HVAC units, providing valuable information for energy and maintenance managers.
Natural gas consumption and electricity consumption for lighting and climatisation was measured before and after the BACS was installed to evaluate its impact. The figures revealed a 30% reduction in consumption of each energy carrier, representing savings of 770 MWh per year in electricity and 930 MWh per year in natural gas. This translates to a total reduction of 536 tonnes of CO2eq emissions per year [Calculated using 220 gCO2eq/kWh for natural gas and 431 gCO2eq/kWh for low voltage end-use electricity in Italy in 2013].
The €750,000 investment in the new system (€27.5/m²) will be repaid by the energy savings in three to four years.
In addition to energy savings and increased comfort, the BACS has also improved fire safety for people working in the building. An integrated and intelligent fire safety system links fire detectors and presence detection in each room with alarm systems and the closing of fire compartments. In this way, it is immediately apparent where people who need help are located, and the response to the fire situation is optimized.
All-in-all, the BACS installation has brought substantial energy savings, increased comfort and improved fire safety for a limited investment relative to the size of the building. After three to four years of pay-back time, the energy savings become pure profit.