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  • Writer's pictureNuno Fernandes

How Advanced Building Energy Modelling is Shaping UK Further and Higher Education

Updated: Sep 22, 2023


Advanced Building Energy Modelling for Further and Higher Education

UK Further and Higher Education establishments are rising to meet the climate change challenge, especially with the financial support of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS). With public and governmental pressures to reduce carbon emissions increasing, Colleges and Universities must balance ambitious sustainability demands whilst delivering first-class education.


This complex situation requires specialised guidance from experienced environmental engineers. By collaborating on advanced building energy modelling during RIBA stages 3 and 4, educational institutions can gain data-led insights to optimise their decarbonisation strategies.


Building energy modelling informs high-impact plans to achieve net zero and lead the sustainability charge within the education sector. Rigorously tracking metrics unlocks a multitude of technical, financial and environmental benefits.


Dynamic Thermal Modelling: Informing Precision Decarbonisation

Unlike static calculations that assume peak conditions, dynamic thermal modelling reveals detailed hourly load profiles under real-world operating conditions. By accounting for influential factors like occupancy density, internal equipment gains, building materials, and solar impacts on an hourly basis, far more accurate sizing projections can be reached. Avoiding oversized equipment selection through this approach can deliver significant cost savings for the education sector during procurement and installation.


Dynamic thermal modelling considers the geometry, materials, and usage patterns of each space. It analyses how factors like outside weather, internal heat sources, solar gains and thermal mass impact temperatures and energy demands over time. This builds a comprehensive picture of the building's hourly heating and cooling needs.



The Importance of Reliable Input Data in System Sizing

Accurate system sizing for heat pumps hinges on access to detailed and dependable data regarding the building's specific heat demand. This becomes even more critical when existing gas data is either inconsistent or unreliable. Relying solely on subpar data can result in the miscalculation of system requirements, leading to either undersizing or oversizing.


The integrity of the input data is not just a technical concern; it also has financial ramifications. Any inaccuracies can lead to conservative estimations that could affect budget considerations and the feasibility of the project. By utilising dynamic simulations through IES, we obtain high-quality data that serves as a solid foundation for designing our low-carbon systems.


Optimised Heat Pump Sizing: Hitting Efficiency Sweet Spots

Traditional, static and benchmark methods or rules of thumb can result in incorrect heat pumps being sized for the heating system. However, dynamic modelling enables a far more precise approach. By simulating the peak hourly loads in each campus zone, heat pumps can be optimally sized for actual predicted demands. This prevents wasted capital expenditure on excess heating or cooling infrastructure, a more efficient system and financial gains over the long term.


Experts then fine-tune parameters like operating temperatures and distribution to ensure seamless building integration. This customisation enhances efficiency and prevents wasted expenditure on inflated capacity. The modelling hones in on the sweet spot for maximising decarbonisation impact.


Evaluating Decarbonisation Scenarios: A Rigorous Approach to Strategy Validation

Armed with an accurate baseline model of energy and heat demand, we can explore a variety of decarbonisation scenarios. From full electrification to alternative heat pump configurations and from battery storage integration to on-site renewable energy generation, these scenarios are rigorously simulated. This allows us to identify the most effective solutions based on criteria such as emissions reduction impact, return on investment periods, and technical as well as financial feasibility. Employing this analytical methodology minimises risk and provides an objective basis for advancing the project into its subsequent phases.


Detailed Design: Constructing Optimal Decarbonisation Systems

In addition to equipment sizing, the granular load profiles generated by the modelling directly inform a more holistic engineering design process. With an advanced understanding of hourly heating and cooling requirements across different campus zones, the specifications for key installation elements such as thermal stores, distribution piping networks and controls integration can be refined for optimal efficiency and performance.


Expert teams then translate the models into detailed technical designs tailored to each client’s specific campus requirements.


Quantifying the Collective Decarbonisation Impact

For further and higher education institutions intent on achieving net zero goals, expertise in advanced building energy modelling unlocks immense value at every phase, from initial planning through detailed design to post-installation operations. By leveraging sophisticated simulation-led engineering, colleges can develop holistic roadmaps validated by data, avoid costly oversizing, optimise renewable integration, and future-proof through calibration with real-world conditions.


Guiding Colleges and Universities to a Low-Carbon Future

Achieving comprehensive sustainability across an educational campus is a complex task. However, advanced tools like IES software make it more manageable. IES helps us dissect the specific energy needs of each area or zone within a building or an entire campus. This is particularly helpful when multiple buildings are not sub-metered and monitored by a single central gas meter. Through Dynamic Simulation Modelling, we obtain reliable data that informs our green initiatives and decarbonisation plan.


In the end, advanced energy modelling provides short and long-term benefits. Colleges and Universities get accurately sized systems, capital and ongoing cost savings, and they decarbonise their buildings and campuses in the process.


The path to net-zero emissions is a collaborative process requiring diligent planning and engineering prowess. Advanced building energy modelling methods serve as powerful accelerants on this path, ensuring academic institutions are at the forefront of sustainability efforts.


Contact us to talk about your needs, and let’s work together on a greener, low-carbon future.

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