Tucked away in an industrial park in the north, the blue-and-white façade of lighting giant Lumiled’s factory in Singapore looks fairly normal to any passer-by. But inside, the building is a best-in-class example of sustainability and energy efficiency.
Measures such as an overhaul of its air-conditioning systems, along with the extensive use of LED lighting and water recycling has enabled the building to win top industry honours recently.
It earned the highest possible grading from Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority’s green building programme. Called the Green Mark Scheme, it certifies buildings in Singapore for their sustainability and environmental efforts.
“The company is very proud and honoured to be the first manufacturing plant in Singapore to receive the Green Mark Platinum award for an existing building from BCA,” says James Day, manufacturing director of Lumileds Singapore which owns the building. “It is a wonderful feeling to know that we are making such a positive impact on the environment.”
Singapore-based energy management firm Barghest Building Performance (BBP) has played a major part in the company’s remarkable achievements. An energy efficiency service company, BBP focuses on improving the operations of central chiller plants and HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems and, as a result, delivering substantial energy savings to building owners.
BBP’s 12-man team offers a range of energy efficiency-related services, including support for the Green Mark Certification process.
Through a partnership with BBP, Lumileds Singapore was able to implement a series of energy-efficient measures to ensure its top performance – a reflection of the BBP’s strength in energy retrofits across existing buildings.
Tang Wai Meng, Facilities Director at Lumileds Singapore, formerly known as Philips Lumileds says that while the company sought to improve the overall efficiency of their building, it had to be done without disruption to the 24-hour operation of the factory and without involving any major equipment replacement.
This was a major challenge considering that the current chiller plant is 14 years old.
Despite this obstacle, BBP was able to help Philips achieve substantial savings without replacing any equipment in the Yishun factory’s cooling plant.
“Unfortunately there is over-reliance on buying new equipment without focusing on improvement of existing equipment,” C.V. Kumar, chief operating officer of BBP, says in a recent interview.
We were happy to complete our energy efficiency exercise without any replacement of equipment or operational disruption… which has resulted in significant savings in energy and costs.
Tang Wai Meng, facilities director, Lumileds Singapore
There are numerous opportunities and efficiency improvements that can be done with existing equipment through optimisation – that is, looking at processes to see where systems can be improved, he adds.
Often, an optimisation project can uncover issues which may have gone undiscovered for many years. For the project to be successful, the appointed solution provider should have deep HVAC system knowledge and experience in the fields of design, testing, operation and control, he notes.
For Lumileds Singapore’s plant, BBP supplied and installed a customised chiller plant optimisation solution which introduced minute level adjustment of pumps and cooling tower fans to deliver the desired cooling in the most energy efficient manner.
The newly installed system also included remote monitoring, auto reporting and alarms for improved day-to-day operation.
The result: The 14-year-old chiller plant was made 27 per cent more energy efficient – achieving 0,64 kW/RT (kilowatts per refrigeration tonne, in industry terms) - despite its age.
The results are verified on a monthly basis by an independent third party, DNV GL, an international certification body.
The energy saving efforts translated to a reduction of 3,510,562 kWh in energy consumption, or a hefty $702,112 slashed in bills.
Apart from overhauling its chiller systems, Lumileds also implemented water recycling measures and a comprehensive lighting replacement project focused on installing the latest generation of LED lights. The improvement in lighting power consumption is expected to reach 40 per cent in the coming years.
Tang adds: “We were happy to complete our energy efficiency exercise without any replacement of equipment or operational disruption… which has resulted in significant savings in energy and costs.”
Paid through savings
Apart from minimising disruptions, one of the most attractive features of BBP’s service offering is that it involves no upfront cost – Lumileds is using a part of the savings achieved to pay for the hardware and software installed by BBP.
BBP is an accredited ESCO, or energy service company, by the NEA and a certified Energy Performance Contractor by the Singapore Green Building Council, an industry association providing accreditation for green building service providers in Singapore.
This attests to the firm’s expertise, financial resources and environmental commitment – all of which are required in long-term energy performance contracts in the industry.
To achieve long term sustainable savings, the company undertakes a systematic, five-step approach to evaluate their clients’ needs.
First, their engineers perform a site audit to gather the necessary information at no cost to their clients. Next, they create a simulation of the building’s current chiller plant efficiency and benchmark it internally to calculate potential efficiency improvements.
The results are presented to client as a shared savings agreement with no upfront cost.
Upon securing the agreement, the BBP team performs an in-depth investigation into the building performance, including “extensive data logging and site evaluation for one to two weeks”, says its management.
The next steps include developing and installing hardware and software solutions for their clients and installing the solution. Before the system is up and running, an independent third party creates a baseline of the current building performance for comparison at a later date in order to determine the solution’s effectiveness.
“ We ensure that our clients receive true value before we get paid. Our solution is always paid through the savings we achieve over the long term,” says Poyan Rajamand, chief executive of BBP.
Under this model, Philips and BBP inked a long-term performance contract in which BBP will only be paid upon showing measurable improvements.
‘’The Lumileds Singapore team really was prepared to push the boundaries. If a client wants to go the extra mile, the savings can be much greater,” Rajamand says.
“They showed that an existing plant can be run at the highest level of efficiency in the market without the need of new equipment or any capex investment. This could inspire others to what can be achieved.”
Following the success of projects such as the Lumileds plant, this payment scheme could encourage more companies to make their chiller plants more energy efficient.
They do not need to worry about capital expenditure or financial risk, and there is no operational risk as a company can still revert to operating its existing cooling system as they do today, adds Rajamand. “With the shared savings scheme we wanted to make the decision-making process as easy as we can for our clients.”
However, shared savings is still a new concept for the industry, BBP anticipates it will take time to change people’s mindsets, and it needs the legal and procurement departments to come on board.
Currently, the average energy savings from optimising a company’s chiller plant range from 20 percent to 30 percent, says BBP. The potential for saving money is therefore huge, as in many cases, the cooling system accounts for about 60 per cent of a building’s total energy costs given the humidity of Singapore.
Although the BCA Green Mark Platinum award is a milestone for Lumileds Singapore, the site team is continuing its efforts to improve operations and reduce environmental impact.
BBP says it is working with Lumileds to further evaluate the plant and the office’s Air Handling Unit (AHU) system with the goal of further reducing energy consumption.
Beyond the Lumileds plant, BBP is eyeing the thousands of existing buildings in Singapore that are ripe for retrofits.
The BCA has set a target to accelerate the “greening” of 80 percent of all existing buildings in Singapore by 2030 in its broad green building masterplan, which represents an enormous opportunity for the green building services sector.
To highlight what it can do to help building owners achieve that, BBP will be one of the sponsors of the International Green Building Conference, to be held in Singapore from 2-4 September.
Rajamand says: “BBP’s efforts are aligned with this broad vision. We’re excited about the prospects.”