Can buildings in East Africa run more efficiently?

Can buildings in East Africa run more efficiently?

We spend 90% of our lives inside buildings, whether working or spending time with family.  In a nutshell, the major hurdles to attaining sustainability for these buildings are: Acute shortage of residential and commercial buildings which has led to a supply of substandard buildings.

Good regulations with little reinforcement, a trend across East Africa Lack of awareness into sustainable building solutions.

Slow leadership by governments

With regards to buildings in East Africa, a majority of them are concentrated in urban areas, with national Governments owning the largest portfolio. Across this region, buildings are estimated to consume between 15%-25% of electrical energy from the grid.

In East Africa, little has been done to create a benchmark for rating building performance. It is still up to the building owners to effect any energy efficiency initiatives. Common areas of energy usage in buildings as shown in the figure below point to lighting, plug loads, air conditioning and other equipment Potential areas for energy efficiency in commercial buildings Behaviour and Attitude By far the largest contributor of inefficiency is the lack of awareness by the building operators.

Common practices you’ll come across include: Leaving windows open when the air conditioning (AC) unit is running Not switching off lights when leaving unoccupied rooms Desktop computers left on overnight Leaving sink taps partially open Training and awareness programmes go a long way in ensuring your building users use energy and water resources thoughtfully.

Lighting Traditional lighting in buildings has mostly been fluorescent and other metal halide fixtures. Modern standards have paved the way for LED technology, which in turn has brought about a 30%-50% drop in energy consumption for the same light output of previous technologies. Long life span, minimal heat generation and affordability has made LED lighting the technology of choice for new and retrofit projects.

Air Conditioning

Firstly, don’t turn on your AC and leave windows or doors open in the same room. Air conditioning units are responsible for about 35% of energy consumption in local buildings. Once an AC unit is running, it will not stop until the room conditions are met. Should windows and doors be open, it simply means your unit will run continuously without achieving the set temperatures.

Newer technologies of ACs come with a fan mode that does not operate the compressor when external air is good enough to be channeled in directly. Energy efficient glazing can offset the need for an AC unit as the amount of sunlight (and heat) coming into buildings gets regulated. Automation of the AC units can also put them off when the room is unoccupied, saving you on your energy bill.

Facility Power Factor

Power Factor simply refers to the effectiveness of power utilization at your facility.  It is given as a decimal value above 0 and or equal to 1. As good practice, ensure your facility power factor value remains above 0.9.

The utility will also slap you with a power factor surcharge on every billing cycle that you have low power factor values (below 0.9). What’s more? They might never really tell you about it. Having an energy expert survey your facility can help you understand what is causing low power factor, and possible ways of addressing it.

Water fixtures

Water savings have a direct impact on energy savings.Water usage in many cases relies on water pumps within the premises. The largest water consumers in commercial buildings are toilets. Common areas of water wastage occur with flushing systems.

An average flush on a standard toilet uses up 10 Liters of water. It is also not uncommon to find urinals having a constant flow of water. Old sinks might be having worn out parts and even after closure, continue to drip. Technologies such as infrared sensors and occupancy sensors can be used to activate water flow only when someone is in the washroom, or using the facilities.

Solving these issues can turn the building segment into a profitable venture. Energy generation and storage Factors making it more feasible to install rooftop solar include: reducing cost of the Solar PV and battery systems Availability of financing options, and having experienced professionals in the region.

Rising energy costs

Government provision for net metering meaning (in future) you can sell power to the utility (in Kenya) Energy monitoring and Benchmarking Real time monitoring of building consumption and energy intensity can help building operators understand their efficiency levels.

Having an accessible database of other buildings in their segment means they can start finding best practices to improve on efficiency.

EDGE  is one such tool to benchmark buildings in developing economies. Staff training Paramount to realizing obvious and subtle changes in efficiency, training sharpens and keeps building operators ahead of the curve. Common trainings include: Energy management awareness Forming and maintaining an energy committee and the internationally recognized Certified Energy Manager Training

The cost of monitoring and control technologies including smart meters, occupancy sensors and variable frequency drives have declined steadily while features improve. What East Africa needs is to train more professionals in energy management in order to take advantage of the advances in technology.

In the age of big data and artificial intelligence, building performance benchmarks can be developed and maintained between countries. Regional governments and professional organisations can also collaborate in making energy efficiency a component of building standards.

 

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