Improving productivity and reducing costs with intelligently connected buildings

Technical Insight

Due to rising costs and heightened environmental awareness, energy is a key focus in today’s world, not least in the commercial property sector where building owners, operators and tenants are seeking increasingly intelligent and flexible energy management solutions. While saving energy is an obvious goal, clever use of energy and techniques such as ‘load balancing’ can deliver significant cost savings, without changing the amount of energy used.

As one of the world’s largest owners and operators of advanced warehousing, at Prologis we see intelligent building management as a way of delivering competitive advantage. Buildings that operate at maximum efficiency provide advantages to occupiers and landlords alike.

In this technical insight, Simon Cox, Head of Sustainability for Prologis UK examines the changing energy requirements of the warehouse of the future and how intelligently connected buildings will provide the data and analytics to drive efficiencies and encourage deeper engagement between landlord and tenant.

Balancing Supply

One of the greatest challenges in electricity generation today is balancing supply and demand and this is especially important as currently, renewable energy capacity struggles to bridge the gap between base loads  and peak time demands. One way in which energy suppliers are trying to address this is through structured pricing where peak time energy is significantly more expensive than off-peak.

As energy costs continue to rise, a lot of focus is being put on reducing energy usage to reduce costs and, while this is somewhat obvious and a laudable goal to protect natural resources, many people - including commercial building operators - are understanding that there are also cost savings to be had through using the same amount of energy more intelligently - over and above any savings due to reduced usage.

The roofs of warehouses, for example, are increasingly being fitted with solar panels to provide photovoltaic (PV) energy for the building. At Prologis we have long recognised the benefits of providing sustainable, low carbon energy for our tenants, whilst adding value to our buildings.

As PV is integral to Prologis’ energy strategy, our buildings are designed and built in such a way that the roofs support up to 25 kg/m2 of loading which is considerably more capacity than is needed for a full PV installation. As an example, a 151,000 sq. ft warehouse at Prologis Park Marston Gate, Milton Keynes has a 100 kWp grid-connected solar PV array that generates around 92,300 kWh of electricity for the tenant.

Supporting 24 Hour Operations

However, as solar PV electricity is generated during the day and the demand for the highest energy use (for lighting) is during the evening / night there is a mismatch and some form of storage is needed to allow more electricity to be retained on site so that it can be used at a later time. We know that 85% of our customers operate round the clock operations and, therefore, providing them with solutions to reduce energy costs at peak charging periods is key.

In order to address this need, we are installing multiple small-scale battery storage systems in our buildings to allow electrical energy to be stored during the day and then released at night.

Occupiers can use this locally stored energy at times when demand at both building and grid level is high, leading to higher electricity tariffs. By releasing stored energy at these peak times, occupiers can reduce operating costs without necessarily reducing the amount of electricity used.
 
At Prologis DIRFT in Daventry, for example, leading warehousing and haulage group Kinaxia money is realising savings on utility costs through a combination of 15% roof lights and a rooftop solar installation paired with three 15kWH Tesla Powerwall battery storage units. This system will enable the company to generate free energy by storing excess solar energy and using it to offset high energy costs during peak charging periods.
 
With more and more logistics companies operating around the clock and rising concerns about energy costs and environmental impacts, intelligently connected buildings can make significant contributions towards more efficient, environmentally friendly operations ensuring an optimum working environment and controlling energy usage.

You can read Simon's full technical paper here
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