Archive for May, 2009

CCS: UK and Norway join forces on North Sea CO2 storage

Friday, May 29th, 2009

A study of the role of the North Sea in providing storage space under the buy generic cialis 20mg sea-bed for carbon dioxide from European countries was commissioned today jointly by the UK and Norway.

Energy and climate change minister Lord Hunt and the Norwegian Minister Terje Riis-Johansen met to agree on a clear vision for the potential role of the North Sea in the future deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Europe at the Climate Change and Technology conference in Bergen, Norway.

The study will look at how quickly the base of the North Sea could be needed for carbon dioxide storage and what the UK, Norway and other countries have to do to get it ready in time.

“Today’s agreement reaffirms the UK’s leadership in tackling the emissions from fossil fuel power generation,” said Hunt.

“Carbon capture and storage has the potential to reduce emissions from coal-fired power stations by around 90%. The strength of the UK’s offshore industries means we are well-placed to store that carbon dioxide under the North Sea.

“The benefits of CCS are not only environmental. There are clear business and job opportunities to be found in green energy technology.

“This study will help assist the governments in Europe to work together to store carbon dioxide safely under the North Sea and to plan the implementation of CCS.”

The aim of the study will be to build a profile for the whole of the North Sea, assessing each countries’ storage potential and projections of likely volumes and locations of CO2 flows, against a rising price of carbon.
This will involve identifying network issues and proposing methods for managing CO2 flows across borders.

First carbon capture facility for commercial coal-fired plant switches on

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Generator ScottishPower today switched on the first carbon capture facility for a commercial coal-fired power station in the UK. A 30 tonne test unit will process 1,000m3 of exhaust gas per hour from Longanet power station in Fife.

Carbon dioxide will be removed using chemicals and turned into a liquid, ready for storage underground. Energy company ScottishPower wants to test technology which could lead to a full scale carbon capture plant becoming operational by 2014.
The prototype at Loganet, developed by Aker Clean Carbon, is an exact, small-scale replica of a full-scale carbon capture plant. It will allow ScottishPower to test the complex chemistry involved in capturing CO2 from powerstation flue gases.
By retrofitting the technology to an existing power station, ScottishPower believe it is well-placed to kick-start a carbon storage industry for the Central North Sea by 2014.

ScottishPower’s parent company Iberdrola today also confirmed that it will establish a global Centre of Excellence to develop Capture and Storage (CCS) technology in the UK. To launch this, the company announced today that it will be funding a Chair in Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh to provide a academic focus for the Centre of Excellence.

“We believe that the UK can lead the world with CCS technology, creating new skills, jobs and opportunities for growth,” said Iberdrola and ScottishPower chairman Ignacio Galán.

“There is the potential to create an industry on the same scale as North Sea Oil, and we will invest in Scotland and the UK to help realise this potential. Iberdrola will set-up its global Centre of Excellence for CCS in the UK to help accelerate the deployment of full-scale CCS.

“This prototype carbon capture unit is a major step on the road towards our Centre of Excellence and the essential data from the unit will shape our research. We are proud to be working with the University of Edinburgh, and this partnership will be pivotal in developing our Centre of Excellence.”

The prototype unit, which weighs 30 tonnes and covers an area of 85m2, will be able to process 1000 cubic metres of exhaust gas per hour from Longannet. Among other tests being carried out, ScottishPower scientists will be monitoring the effectiveness of the chemical amine solution that captures the CO2 under different conditions. The data will allow ScottishPower to better understand the science before a full-scale demonstration project is built, eventually capturing up to 90% of CO2 from Longannet. This would be equivalent to taking one million cars off the road.

“The test unit uses the exact same technology that we aim to retrofit to the station for a commercial scale CCS project by 2014, and the leap from 1MW to 330MW is now within sight,” said ScottishPower chief executive Nick Horler.

“There are over 50,000 fossil fuel power stations in operation throughout the world, and by proving that CCS technology can be retrofitted to existing stations, we can begin to address the carbon lock-in from these power plants.”

Solar Cells for Highways Generate Electricity Even at Night

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Solar Cells for Highways Generate Electricity Even at Night

A promising invention now being tested at Towson University in Maryland collects and stores solar energy, even when it isn’t sunny.

The inventor says the circular solar collectors placed along a wall gathers much more energy than flat panels, even when its a dim day or at night.

“Part of the ability we have that no other solar cell system in the world has is when headlights strike these tubes at night, they create electricity,” said Kahrl Retti, Solarroad Technologies.

The electrawall also stores what it collects in batteries.

Solaroad Technologies is part of a business incubator at Towson University, near Baltimore. The invention was recently shown to Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes, who’s committee is encouraging development of alternate sources of energy. The inventor claims a million feet of his collectors could match the output of a small nuclear generator.

“Solaroad is developing this technology that can be deployed very quickly across the country in ways that can capture the sun and capture light and produce energy from that,” said Congressman Sarbanes.

Professors and students at Towson are involved in testing of the solar tubes. “We have had at least one or ten student interns working in the company as well as research projects on the capabilities of the technology,” said Dyan Brasington, Towson University.

The company also wants to market a cube tube, which would be installed on top of a workers cubicle in an office and it would get energy from the florescent lights in the work space.

Every cubicle in America that has a computer, printer, light whatever could be powered using interior photo voltaic cells.

Source: Ecofriend .

New Eco-friendly Process for Wood-based Bio Fuels

Friday, May 29th, 2009

New Eco-friendly Process for Wood-based Bio Fuels

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have discovered a new eco-friendly way of dissolving wood using ionic liquids that may help its transformation into popular products such as bio fuels, textiles, clothes and paper.

Dr Héctor Rodríguez and Professor Robin Rogers from Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering worked along with The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, to come up with a more cost and energy efficient way of processing wood.

Their solution, which is reported in the journal Green Chemistry, may see a new sustainable future for industry based on bio-renewable resources. At present wood is broken down mainly by the Kraft pulping process, which originates from the 19th century and uses a wasteful technology relying on polluting chemicals.

The key reason for tolerating this method is that it is very difficult to break down and separate the different elements of wood. Until now any alternatives to the process have presented similar problems.

The Queen’s researchers found that chips of both softwood and hardwood dissolved completely in ionic liquid and only mild conditions of temperature and pressure were needed. By controlled addition of water and a water-acetone mixture, the dissolved wood was partially separated into a cellulose-rich material and pure lignin.

This process is much more environmentally-friendly than the current method as it uses less heat and pressure and produces very low toxicity while remaining biodegradable.

Professor Robin Rogers said: “This is a very important discovery because cellulose and lignin have a wide variety of uses. Cellulose can be used to make products such as paper, biofuels, cotton and linen, as well as many other commodity materials and chemicals.

“Lignin can be used to create performance additives in various applications, such as strengthening cars and airplanes with a fraction of the weight of conventional reinforcement materials. It is also a source of other chemicals which are mainly obtained from petroleum-based resources.”

Dr Héctor Rodríguez said: “The discovery is a significant step towards the development of the biorefinery concept, where biomass is transformed to produce a wide variety of chemicals. Eventually, this may open a door to a truly sustainable chemical industry based on bio-renewable resources.”

The approaches that the scientists are considering for the future include the addition of eco-friendly additives to the ionic liquid system or the use of catalysts.

The researchers are hoping to eventually achieve better dissolution under even softer conditions and are also trying to achieve complete separation of the different elements in one single step.

Both teams are also focusing on biomasses which are rich in essential oils and can later be used in processes such as the manufacture of fragrances.

The Journal reference for the study is:

Sun et al. Complete dissolution and partial delignification of wood in the ionic liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate, Green Chemistry, 2009; 11 (5): 646 DOI: 10.1039/b822702k

Source: Science Daily .

Canadian Research Team Reports Major Breakthrough in Lithium Battery Technology

Friday, May 29th, 2009

A government-funded lab at the University of Waterloo has laid the groundwork for a lithium battery that can store and deliver more than three times the power of conventional lithium ion batteries.The research team of professor Linda Nazar, graduate student David Xiulei Ji and postdoctoral fellow Kyu Tae Lee is one of the first to demonstrate robust electrochemical performance for a lithium-sulphur battery. The finding is reported  in the on-line issue of Nature Materials.

The prospect of lithium-sulphur batteries has tantalized chemists for two decades, and not just because successfully combining the two chemistries delivers much higher energy densities. Sulphur is cheaper than many other materials currently used in lithium batteries. It has always showed great promise as the ideal partner for a safe, low cost, long lasting rechargeable battery, exactly the kind of battery needed for energy storage and transportation in a low carbon emission energy economy.

“The difficult challenge was always the cathode, the part of the battery that stores and releases electrons in the charge and recharge cycles,” said Dr. Nazar. “To enable a reversible electrochemical reaction at high current rates, the electrically-active sulphur needs to remain in the most intimate contact with a conductor, such as carbon.”

The Canadian research team leap-frogged the performance of other carbon-sulphur combinations by tackling the contact issue at the nanoscale level. Although they say the same approach could be used with other materials, for their proof of concept study they chose a member of a highly structured and porous carbon family called mesoporous carbon. At the nanoscale level, this type of carbon has a very uniform pore diameter and pore volume.

Using a nanocasting method, the team assembled a structure of 6.5 nanometre thick carbon rods separated by empty three to four nanometre wide channels. Carbon microfibres spanning the empty channels kept the voids open and prevented collapse of the architecture.

Filling the tiny voids proved simple. Sulphur was heated and melted. Once in contact with the carbon, it was drawn or imbibed into the channels by capillary forces, where it solidified and shrunk to form sulphur nanofibres. Scanning electron microscope sections revealed that all the spaces were uniformly filled with sulphur, exposing an enormous surface area of the active element to carbon and driving the exceptional test results of the new battery.

“This composite material can supply up to nearly 80 percent of the theoretical capacity of sulphur, which is three times the energy density of lithium transition metal oxide cathodes, at reasonable rates with good cycling stability,” said Dr. Nazar.

What is more, the researchers say, the high capacity of the carbon to incorporate active material opens the door for similar “imbibed” composites that could have applications in many areas of materials science.

The research team continues to study the material to work out remaining challenges and refine the cathode’s architecture and performance. Dr. Nazar said a patent has been filed, and she is reviewing options for commercialization and practical applications.

The research has been funded under a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada program

Source: National Research Council of Canada .

Wind and Solar-Powered Street Lighting Skips the Grid

Friday, May 29th, 2009

French company Windela has created a street lighting system that works without any connection to the grid. The Windelux is powered by both a small vertical wind turbine and a solar PV panel.The lamp is comprised of 84 LEDs and automatically switches on when a photosensitive cell detects that it’s dark. A built-in control system stops the wind generator if the wind speed is too high and also allows the pole to act as a Wi-Fi relay.

Inside the pole is the battery that makes all this possible. A rechargable LiFePo battery stores the energy generated by the solar PV panel and wind generator and supplies four nights worth of light before needing to be recharged.

Street lighting accounts for a huge percentage of most cities energy use and costs. The Windelux seems to be an ideal solution for providing both street lighting and distributing Wi-Fi, without ever touching the grid. Currently, units have only been installed in France and Algeria.

LEED 2009: Ironing out the wrinkles

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released the newest version of LEED (v3.0) in an attempt to address longstanding concerns over technical details and the arduous review and certification process.LEED certification has often been criticized for its confusing documentation requirements and lengthy project reviews.

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Some critics have suggested the consensus process used to develop the system is not backed by hard science.

Nonetheless, in the last 11 years LEED certification has been widely accepted as a standard measure for sustainable buildings. The USGBC has approved a total 21,000 projects, representing over 5 billion sq feet of construction, and LEED certification requirements have found their way into municipal building codes and government regulations.

LEED 2009 has made several adjustments to multiple areas of concern that should serve to improve the building rating system, the online monitoring an updating tool, as well as the certification and administration process.

LEED Rating Systems

Previously, individual rating systems each had their own point totals. For example LEED for Commercial Interiors could earn 57 points in total while LEED for New Schools could earn a maximum of 79 points.

In the new system, uniform certification sets a threshold across all the rating systems and introduces new standards based on a 100-point scale. Forty points is the lowest level for certification, while 80 points, or platinum certification, is the highest level an individual building project can achieve.

To achieve 100 points, or more, projects must focus on regional development and other innovations that extend beyond one particular building. For example, a project in New York State could earn extra points for preserving agricultural land, reducing light pollution, and minimizing storm-water runoff.

The larger aim of the new system is to provide incentives for new projects that deploy strategies with greater potential for environmental or human-health-related benefits. Projects that focus on GHG reduction, and water and energy use earn the most credit.

Strategies intended to increase energy efficiency and the reliance on renewable power generated on site can earn up to 26 points (up from 13 in the old system). Locations close to public transit can earn up to 6 points (up from 1)  and ambitious water conservation schemes can gain up to 10 points (up from 5).

It is now a requirement for basic certification to reduce indoor water consumption by 20% above and beyond core-compliant buildings. In order to earn points in this category projects must achieve at least a 30% reduction in water usage.

Monitoring and Updating

The USGBC invested several million dollars to revamp LEED Online, the automated monitoring system used to collect post-occupancy water and energy use information for each building. The system is also used to facilitate communication between the LEED reviewer and the project team to hasten the review and certification process.

Such an upgrade was needed when In March of 2008, in cooperation with the New Buildings institute (NBI), the USGBC underwent an extensive survey project to assess the standards of LEED certified buildings. Large variations were noted among individual buildings with 25 per cent of projects being better then expected while 21% were below baseline.

Certification and Accreditation

USGBC has moved the administration of certification and Accredited Professional (AP) programs to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), a non-profit organization spun off from the USGBC in late 2007. For certification GCBI manages 10 organizations, including Underwriter Laboratories (UL) and Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) which oversees the quality review process.

The LEED AP program modifications now include a three tiered system of credentials, with lowest tier being a LEED Green Associate. For those that want to demonstrate a commitment to green building but not work directly on LEED projects. For example, lawyers involved in real estate development deals must take a “core concept and key points” exam, and 15 hours of education review twice a year.

The LEED AP Speciality tracks corresponds to the various LEED rating systems (Homes, Building and Design, Interiors, Neighbourhoods, etc.) and requires both a core concepts exam and one based upon the particular specialization. It also requires demonstration of LEED project experience and 30 hours of education twice a year.

Looking beyond 2009, those seeking to become a LEED Fellow, the top tier, will require an “elite” level of LEED expertise. LEED Fellows would become part of an extraordinary class of leading professionals distinguished by their years of experience and contributions to the standards of practice and body of knowledge for achieving continuous improvement in the green building field. This credential is still under development.

Lack of new homes nudges up UK house prices

Friday, May 29th, 2009

House prices have continued a tentative recovery with the average cost of a UK home rising 1.2 per cent in May driven by a lack of supply of new homes coming onto the market.

The figures from Nationwide Buidling Society showed that despite the jump, which took the average British house price to £154,016 in May, prices remained 11.3 per cent lower than they were a year ago.

Nationwide said that it was too early to call the bottom of the housing market, as unemployment continues to rise and credit remains scarce.

Nationwide’s chief economist Martin Gahbauer said: “The improvement in house price trends is consistent with signs of stabilisation in several other economic indicators and suggests that any further price declines may occur at a less rapid pace than in 2008.”

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said: “The latest data from the Nationwide Building Society provides further evidence that house prices appear to be stabilising.

“This is consistent with the recent trend in the RICS sales-to-stock ratio which has now risen for four consecutive months; historically a good lead indicator of turning points in house price inflation.

“The lack of new supply of houses coming onto the market is a key driver for the current turnaround in prices.”

UK Applications to build new homes up 10pc

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The housebuilding industry has received a boost with applications to build new homes up 10 per cent in the three months to April, figures from the National Housebuilding Council have revealed.

The National Housebuilding Council statistics show 17,859 applications to build new homes were received in the three months to the end of April 2009.

The amount is 10 per cent higher than the previous rolling quarter January to March 2009 when 16,232 applications we received.

Some encouragement can be taken from April’s figures, which show applications to start new homes in the combined private and public sectors rose for the fourth successive month in a row to 6,379.

But activity levels during the three months to the end of April were still severely depressed, with a 53 per cent reduction compared to the same period a year ago.

NHBC chief executive Imtiaz Farookhi said: “While it is still too early to assume that these are definite signs of a recovery, some positive indicators are emerging which suggest that the severe downturn in house-building activity may be beginning to turn a corner.

“Anecdotal evidence from house-builders and developers also suggests that conditions are easing slightly on site, no doubt boosted by the Government’s recent £1 billion budgetary pledge to help the housing market and the Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) Kickstart initiative to open up mothballed sites.”

REGIONAL BREAKDOWN
Region    Feb to April 2009    Feb to April 2008    Percentage Increase / (-) Decrease

England- Regions   
North East                                 630    1,223    -48%
North West                              1,127    2,633    -57%
Merseyside                                  364    1,121    -68%
Yorkshire & the Humber        967    2,320    -58%
West Midlands                          936    3,033    -69%
East Midlands                         1,381    3,017    -54%
Eastern                                    2,618    4,342    -40%
South West                             2,280    2,935    -22%
Greater London                      1,375    4,924    -72%
South East                               3,061    5,736    -47%
Totals for England            14,739    31,284    -53%
Scotland- Councils                 1,561    4,011    -61%
Wales- Unitary Authorities    786    1,374    -43%
Northern Ireland – Counties      749    968    -23%
Isle of Man                                       24    125    -81%
Totals for UK              17,859    37,762    -53%

International Energy Outlook 2009 Predicts World Energy Use to Grow

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released today its reference case projection from the “International Energy Outlook 2009” (IEO2009), which projected the world marketed energy consumption to grow by 44 percent between 2006 and 2030. The projection states that the increased energy consumption will be driven by strong long-term economic growth in the developing nations of the world, despite the current global economic downturn dampening world energy demand in the near term.

According to the projection, with economic recovery anticipated to begin within the next 12 to 24 months, most nations are expected to see energy consumption growth at rates anticipated prior to the recession. Total world energy use is expected to rise from 472 quadrillion BTU in 2006 to 552 quadrillion BTU in 2015, and then to 678 quadrillion BTU in 2030.

In the industrial industry alone, energy consumption is expected to grow from 175 quadrillion BTU in 2006 to 246 quadrillion BTU in 2030, growing at an average rate of 2.1 percent per year, according to the reference case. The “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are expected to account for more than two-thirds of the developing world’s growth in industrial energy use through 2030.

Along with increased worldwide energy consumption, the projection anticipates that the world’s economies recovering will cause increased oil prices, persisting through 2030. The IEO2009 reference case shows world oil prices rising to $110 per barrel in 2015 (in real 2007 dollars) and $130 per barrel in 2030, with total liquid fuel and petroleum consumption increasing by 22 million barrels per day. Conventional oil supplies from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are expected to contribute 8.2 million barrels per day to the total increase in world liquid fuels production, with non-OPEC countries contributing another 3.4 million barrels per day.

However, unlike the reference case, the full version of the IEO2009 includes three world oil price cases to take into account the extremely volatile nature of world oil prices. The price cases range from $50 per barrel in the low-price case to $200 per barrel in the high-price case, with supply outlooks ranging from 90 million barrels per day in the high-price case to 120 million barrels per day in the low-price case (compared to 107 million barrels per day in the EIA’s reference case).

Additionally, the reference case showed that unconventional resources, such as biofuels, oil sands, extra-heavy oil, coal-to-liquids, and gas-to-liquids from both OPEC and non-OPEC sources becoming increasingly competitive: The reference case shows the world production of unconventional resources increasing to 13.4 million barrels per day in 2030, accounting for 13 percent of total world liquids supply.

The reference case also discusses renewable energy use for electricity generation, which is expected to grow by an average of 2.9 percent per year. The renewable share of world electricity generation is expected to increase to 21 percent in 2030, up from 19 percent in 2006. Additionally, the reference case projects energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to rise from 29.1 billion metric tons in 2005 to 40.4 billion metric tons in 2030, a 39-percent increase, much of which is expected to occur among developing nations, especially in Asia. The reference case does not, however, take into account specific policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

To view the EIA’s full report on IEO2009, visit www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/index.html.

Intelligent Building (IB)

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The term “Intelligent Building” (IB) has become a very popular description covering almost all new commercial and residential buildings in major cities worldwide. In the general sense, IB relates to buildings that contain high-speed local area networks, protocols, fiber optics, multimedia environments and even satellite conferencing. It is generally believed that all modern IBs in the world possess advanced information technologies (ITs). The trend is for most building service systems to be integrated into an IT environment, which is an essential tool for an IB. IBs utilize advanced information, control and mechatronic technologies as well as employ smart structure and modern management theories. But IBs should encompass more than that; Davmark and our IIT solutions promote a true and comprehensive picture of IBs.

The definition of IB varies in different regions. Generally, an intelligent building is designed and constructed based on an appropriate selection of quality environment modules to meet users’ requirements by matching the appropriate building facilities to achieve long-termed building value. The definition includes two dimensions — the needs of the building developer/owner/occupants and the enabling technologies. The integration of these two dimensions will generate measurable long-termed building values such as productivity, market value, energy conservation, environmental friendliness and high working efficiency.

Flash Creators Reveal App for Saving Money on Energy

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Greenbox_capture_1Greenbox, a startup founded by the creators of Flash, announced the roll-out of its power consumption monitoring application today.

Installed along with networked electrical meters to a limited number of homes by Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the new trial is Greenbox’s first move into a market that’s quickly become crowded with competitors like Tendril, Agilewaves, and DIY Kyoto.

All these applications allow their users to see how much energy they’re using and, if they want to, reduce it.

“We believe we can make specific [energy-saving] recommendations based on your situation that are far more valuable than any of the general tips on websites.” said Matt Smith, the chief marketer for Greenbox.

Regardless of which application consumers end up using — they all provide similar functionality — the concept makes sense for consumers. But what’s in it for utilities?

Peakload

The shrinking gap between how much power utilities can produce and how much Americans will consume is driving the old-line industry to try to drive down demand for the product they sell.

As can be seen in the embedded chart, based on data provided by Peggy Suggs, an analyst at the Edison Electric Institute, the amount of slack in the nation’s electrical grid is shrinking. Without breathing room, the risk of blackouts increases and expensive (and dirty) backup power plants called “peakers” have to be fired up more often.

Electric companies could just build more power plants, but the permitting process is difficult and high-commodity prices are making construction increasingly expensive.

That’s led many utilities to turn to energy efficiency, which is sometimes called “the fifth fuel”. Most of the programs, though, remain in the trial stage. To make use of Greenbox or its competitors, utilities have to install some kind of smart meter for your household.
These meters can run up to $100, which multiplies out to many millions of dollars over a utility’s area of service.

Greenbox_capture_2

This cost has slowed adoption. As a result, demand-response programs only reduced peak-load by 27 gigawatts in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s not much, considering that more than 4,000 gigawatts  of power were produced by those other four fuels.

Once the meters are in place, a big key to getting “demand response”
programs to work is introducing a variable rate structure in which consumers are charged more for energy during peak times and less in the off-hours. In Oklahoma, they’re calling that variable system the Smart
Power TOU.

Greenbox_capture_3

The utilities figure that consumers will respond rationally to this price signal and cut their usage during the period by eliminating it or shifting it to a cheaper time.

But perhaps it’s the irrational drive of competition that could push consumers to save energy. Adrian Tuck, CEO of Tendril, another energy monitoring startup, said that his company has found that people who know how much electricity the Joneses consume try to keep up by driving their usage down.

“The most potent driver of change is beating your neighbors,” Tuck told Wired.com.

These applications are the beginnings of the new world Clive Thompson described about a year ago in which energy conservation isn’t just visible, it’s a public point of pride (or shame).

“Imagine if your daily consumption were part of your Facebook page — and broadcast to your friends by RSS feed,” he wrote. “You’d work harder to conserve so you don’t look like a jackass in front of your peers.”

For now, though, energy monitoring services are probably a year or two away from your desktop.

“From what the meter manufacturers say, the volumes will ramp up next year,” Greenbox’s Smith said. “That’s going to work out pretty good for us. If it was happening right now at this moment, we’d feel a little bit behind. We’re not quite ready.”

Images. 1, 3, 4: Screenshots from Greenbox. 2. Chart from EEI Data.

IIT retail solutions – A retailer’s “eyes and ears”

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Retailers and intelligent building systems form a sweet partnership that proves productive and profitable.

Retailers are always looking for an edge. With margins tight, these companies seek solutions to help run their daily operations a little smoother, a little faster, and a little cheaper. IIT technology is increasingly becoming the solution retailers choose to maximize efficiency in a wide variety of business functions while enhancing the retail experience for both retailers and consumers.

To date, some retailers are using IIT to improve internal business processes, such as energy management systems that collect data from thermostats and provide realtime insight into energy consumption in a particular store. Other retailers have discovered IIT solutions that remotely monitor store equipment to maximize uptime, or that use RFID (radio frequency identification) tags in merchandise to automatically track inventory. But this is just the beginning. Today, a trend toward self service has led to the proliferation of the vending machine, a segment of retail ideally suited for IIT.

With the rise of input devices, sensors and machines comes a host of other challenges. One of the most pressing is the need to keep track of inventory without a person being constantly onsite. Retailers also want to make sure products are in stock, and they want to know immediately about any malfunctions or tampering with the goods and equipment. Many of these issues are being addressed through some form of remote monitoring systems. So understanding how to capture these sales is very critical to this emerging and yet, growing market.

Eliminating the guesswork
The cost to implement new technology can be worth it when IIT solutions make sure retail stores and distribution hubs are running at peak efficiency and that data collected are properly integrated into backoffice systems.

Helping monitor its stock, plant and provide a proactive service. This open-architecture solution permits realtime IIT management and two-way communication.

With secondary value added srevices including utilizing the Internet WAN/LAN connections to provide ancillary services such as credit card processing, advertising, machine configuration, and other emerging technologies.

All of this information is can be accessible to operators via the Web. By analyzing the information collected through the monitoring applications, staff able to maximize its route efficiencies and better manage plant and stock.

A retailer’s “eyes and ears”
This drive towards efficiency is what the retail industry is all about: getting a small investment to generate maximum returns. The whole trend toward self-service focuses on providing value and convenience. With incredible macrotrend right now towards consumers leading busy lifestyles and wanting more control over their purchase experience and over their lives.

It is possible to provide automated retail units that use LAN & wireless communications for monitoring and control. More than provide customers product information through interactive displays that mirror an online shopping experience. But unlike Internet shopping, customers can walk away with their selection immediately.

“Everything that happens there at the store is centrally monitored, so that we can automate any service to ensure the network is performing. Alerts are generated automatically if there’s any attention needed to the store network.”

IIT technology can make sure things are running smoothly, acting as a company’s eyes and ears at the mini-store locations. IIT can take the place of a store attendant, watching what people buy and how the store ais working, taking note of things that go wrong, and communicating all this information back to the retailer. By taking on this role, IIT technology provides a better business experience for both the retailer and the consumer.

Happy customers
While intelligent retail units are much more sophisticated than traditional retail stores. Retailers  can keep retail customers satisfied: lower costs.

Retailers can use IIT data to run their units and service routes more efficiently, and as a result, increase their margins against resource price increases. This way, customers continue to enjoy low prices. When retailers can quickly identify and resolve service issues, they achieve a higher level of satisfaction. When they have realtime visibility into what is sold, they can more accurately project inventory needs and reduce safety stocks.

Retailers can fill their shelves with the right amount of product at the right time, they can reduce their distribution and merchandising expenses. IIT does not reinvent the basics of good retailing, but it allows those principles to be applied with more precision and less lead time.
Furthermore, with the realtime and historical sales data obtained through IIT technology, customers are given more of the stock items they actually want.

The bottomline
All this directly affects vending retailers’ return-on-investment. After implementing IIT Retail solutions, stores normally reporting significant savings immediately.

Brand-new world
There is another point to be made about IIT retail solutions. Remote monitoring and control solutions create new options for retailers that have never before been feasible.
Understanding of what consumers want is one of the key benefits of IIT systems that will only become more important in the future. In addition to critical machine health information—such as malfunction and out-of-stock alerts—IIT can collect and transmit a wealth of data about consumers’ shopping habits.

IIT can monitor how consumers are responding to various products, categories, and presentations so that the retailer gets analytical model data and can work with our brand partners and constantly improve the consumer experience.
The next 10 years of IIT Retailing will bring significant innovations on how retailers manage that all-important consumer experience.

“When we accurately integrate how and why people shop with where and what they buy, retailers can achieve higher level of relevance for their core shopper,” “In addition, shelf-level sales data will allow retailers to achieve even higher levels of distribution efficiency.”

With benefits that go straight to the bottomline, IIT and the Retail industry will surely continue to change the face of retail.

50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected together right now!

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

From the home, to the car, to your health, consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology are growing, and they’re slowly, but surely, changing the way we live.

There are more than 50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected using M2M (machine-to-machine) communications. From robots in manufacturing plants to trucks transporting fresh produce to refrigerators in consumer kitchens, billions of machines have data that’s just waiting to be tapped.

With such large market potential, the number of ways people and companies are using M2M today and the number of ways they will likely use M2M in the future is vast. Yet, in the current marketplace, much of the dialogue on how M2M can be applied focuses on commercial applications: how fleet managers use telematics solutions for fuel efficiency, how big-box retailers use RFID (radio frequency identification) to manage inventory levels, and how manufacturers can create new revenue streams with smart services, among others.

But of the billions of machines in the world today, some undoubtedly belong to the consumer, not the enterprise, leaving many asking: Where does the everyday Joe Smith of the world fit into the (M2M) system integration equation?

The answer to that question is tied to how M2M is impacting everyday life: It is in our home alarms it’s in our cars, and it’s even being used to monitor our vital signs.

Machine-to-machine technology is at the forefront of a “silent revolution,” a subtle, but influential transformation in which people, devices, and systems are becoming more connected.

And nowhere is this revolution happening more “silently” than among everyday consumers. It’s not so much that the technology isn’t available (because it is), or that it doesn’t work (because it does). The reason this revolution is happening “silently” is most people don’t even know it’s happening and sometimes don’t even know it’s there.

Unlike many of today’s commercial markets, the conversations with consumers about M2M products and services rarely broach the technological ins and outs of the solution. In fact, it’s probably unusual if consumers even know they are using M2M. Simply put, consumers don’t want to know how the technology works they simply want to know what it can do and that the technology will deliver on its promise.

And as such, system integration has unassumingly manipulated its way into consumers’ homes, cars, and even medical devices, taking advantage of the progress made in analogous areas in the commercial market.

“Consumer applications are a maturation of other solutions that have been put in place previously for the enterprise space. (The solutions) have proven that the technology does work,” says Dean Fledderjohn, general manager, Kyocera Wireless Corp., www.kyocera-wireless.com/m2m-business, San Diego, Calif.

IN THE HOME
When it comes to consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology, one of the areas technology providers are successfully penetrating is the home. M2M is making its mark in home-centric applications such as automated home technology systems and consumer energy-management solutions, but according to Peter Fowler, president, Cinterion Wireless Modules North America, www.cinterion.com, Issaquah, Wash., alarms have become the gateway into the North American home for M2M.

He believes this technology brings an ease-of-use factor to home security. With cellular M2M becoming more widely adopted for many of today’s new residential security alarms, installations are much easier to do.

“Rather than having to go in the old way and cut a hole in the wall and fish out a telephone line that would make an emergency call, now (installers) can simply activate a SIM (subscriber identity module) and have the customer live within a few hours of them agreeing that they want their home monitored,” explains Fowler.

An added bonus of using cellular is extra reliability. Since the alarm is not connected to a wired phone line, burglars cannot disable the alarm by simply cutting the telephone connection.

In addition, M2M has done more than improve on existing security technologies it has also helped bring security alarms to a new level, giving consumers unprecedented control of their security settings.

“What consumers want is the ability to be notified, to be proactively engaged, and to change the setting on their security systems,” explains Brent Barrs, vice president North American sales, Enfora Inc., www.enfora.com, Richardson, Texas. “They desire to (have the ability) to log in and check the status of the various sensors associated with the system.”

According to Barrs, the days are gone when consumers settle for notifications from a call center. “They don’t want to wait to receive that phone call from the call center alarming them that (an alarm went off) at the house. They like the ability to also receive realtime SMS (short-message service) notifications and email notifications, and consumers are very savvy (since) they have the portable devices that allow them to be comfortable with checking and changing these systems.”

One company providing this level of control to consumers is Alarm.com, www.alarm.com, Tysons Center, Va. Using communication modules from Enfora and sensors and security panels from GE Security Inc., www.gesecurity.com, Bradenton, Fla., Alarm.com offers a wide array of remote monitoring and control capabilities that extend its consumer security offerings into what could more accurately be described as home awareness systems in which security is just one facet of the solution.

“(In the past), most people had residential security systems that were useful only when the systems were turned on, in an armed state,” explains Mary Knebel, vice president of marketing, Alarm.com. Because most people don’t arm their security systems on a daily basis, Knebel adds, the system only delivers value once or twice a month when the homeowner arms the system.

Alarm.com’s solutions combine traditional security alarm capabilities with remote monitoring and control capabilities. Sensors installed throughout a home allow a number of different events, including the opening and closing of doors and windows and whether or not children arrive home from school on time, to be monitored. Homeowners can also use the system to remotely control their homes through a Web interface, performing tasks such as adjusting the temperature of their HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems.

“Alarm.com enables the consumer to know what is (occurring) on the property even if the security alarm is in a disarmed state, giving value on a daily basis versus just once or twice a month,” explains Knebel.

Interest in these types of systems is gaining momentum. According to Knebel, when the company entered the market at the end of 2003, Alarm.com worked with only a handful of dealers. Now, she says Alarm.com has a network of more than 900 dealers.

Alarm.com’s solutions are an extension of what many classify as automated home technology systems, an area previously relegated to only the very wealthy.

“Compared to five years ago, (automated home technology) has grown quite dramatically,” says Bob Gohn, vice president of marketing, Ember Corp., www.ember.com, Boston, Mass. “The home automation systems that were traditionally reserved for the rich and famous … have really come down in price and have gotten more popular,” he adds.

Gohn points out this trend doesn’t mean that each and every home will have a home automation system, but he does see home automation moving downstream from the top 0.1% of homes to a wider base.

Analysts echo Gohn’s observations. According to a new report from ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, Oyster Bay, N.Y., shipments of automated home technology systems are expected to increase to four million by 2013, up from the 237,000 shipped in 2007.

POWER MANAGEMENT
While security systems are the gateway to North American homes, that’s not the case in Europe and other parts of the world. “(Home security) alarms is a growing business in Europe, but it’s more focused on businesses,” says Fowler. “Alarms that are being developed by U.S. companies like Honeywell (are) being sold in Dubai and Europe, but the focus in those markets tends to be on commercial buildings more so than homes.”

So, how is M2M entering homes abroad? Through intelligent metering, Fowler says.

With government regulation pushing widespread adoption of AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) in Europe, and other parts of the world such as Canada, intelligent meters are becoming more commonplace, and as a result, M2M has entered the home in much larger numbers throughout regions with more pervasive intelligent metering.

In North America, where intelligent metering is gaining traction, but has yet to be government mandated on a large scale, only 16% of all M2M connections are home centric, according to ABI Research. In comparison, that figure rises to 43% for Europe, and for regions like Scandinavia and Italy, where regulatory-inspired smart-metering projects began some years ago, the percentage of home-based M2M connections stands at more than 65%.

Traditionally, smart metering solutions were installed with the intention of helping utilities improve their operations, but with the advent of AMI, or the two-way communication between the home and the utility, smart metering is now part of energy-management consumer applications. And the proliferation of AMI infrastructure couldn’t come at a better time.

“All of our ears are greatly attuned to the idea of managing energy or controlling energy and minimizing costs,” says Gohn.

With an AMI infrastructure in place, consumers can use in-home displays to monitor their realtime energy use, receive information on pricing during peak events, and adjust energy consumption levels in response.

“AMI … now allows the consumer to have the information and to have the ability to opt in to various control mechanisms so that they can modulate their use,” explains Gohn. He adds one of the opt-in programs that consumers can agree to participate is one in which energy loads are controlled by the utility. For example, a homeowner gives the utility permission to raise the setting on the home’s HVAC system by several degrees during a peak event, thereby reducing the energy consumption for that home.

Gohn points out, “That’s really where the most exciting penetration for this technology will be in the homes because it won’t be just (in) the top 1% or 2% of homes it’s going to be rolled out for entire regions.”

IN THE CAR
Like the home, the consumer vehicle has garnered a lot of attention from the M2M community. Some of the most notable consumer-focused automotive M2M applications involve auto insurance, vehicle-tracking as part of loan terms for borrowers with bad credit and after-market service.

What these three applications have in common is their impact on the consumer wallet. “With (consumers) in particular, it’s all about the wallet. The wallet is on everyone’s mind right now,” explains Kyocera’s Fledderjohn.

With PAYD (pay-as-you-drive) insurance, consumers save money on their auto insurance if they drive less. For consumers with bad credit, agreeing to have a vehicle tracking device may be the only way to obtain a car loan with a reasonable interest rate. And when it comes to fuel prices, anything that helps ensure the fuel efficiency of a car—such as telematics offerings that catch potential mileage-impacting mechanical problems—is appealing to the consumer.

Using M2M to improve vehicle performance has been prevalent in commercial markets for quite some time, but as drivers continue to feel the pinch at the pump, these applications certainly captured consumer attention.

“It started out with fleets, but the individual consumers are obviously worried about the same things because they’re (also experiencing) the higher costs of fuel,” says Shawn Aleman, vice president business development, Xirgo Technologies LLC, www.xirgotech.com, Camarillo, Calif.

In the North American vehicle telematics market, OnStar has led the pack, dominating consumer marketshare for telematics offerings in the U.S. According to OnStar, it had 2.5 million subscribers at the end of 2003, and the company expects to have more than 5.8 million subscribers by the end of this year. If OnStar meets the projection, it will have experienced a 130% increase in its subscriber base during a five-year period.

“What was really successful in the U.S. was the business model,” says Ralf Hug, vice president product management and marketing, Airbiquity, www.airbiquity.com, Seattle, Wash., regarding OnStar’s success in the U.S. market. He points out carmakers in this market decided to put this equipment in as many vehicles as possible, while in comparison Europe chose to only offer it as an option.

While the telematics market continues to gain significant marketshare, there are still some cost factors that have to be sorted out in order to meet consumers’ expectations. Aleman explains, “The end customer is not concerned much about the technology rather than overall cost of ownership. … The hardware costs have come down quite a bit during the last couple years. But I don’t think the network costs (of communicating vehicle data) have come down as much. The recurring cost is what I believe is preventing a lot of consumers from adopting the technology.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH
Another area in which M2M has made significant inroads into the consumer world is healthcare. According to a report released earlier this year from ON World, www.onworld.com, San Diego, Calif., the use of wireless sensor networks—one of the key enabling technologies for M2M solutions—is growing within the healthcare industry, and the technology could save the healthcare industry $25 billion in 2012 by reducing hospitalizations and extending independent living for seniors.

Analysts say two of the most promising WSN (wireless sensor networking) healthcare solutions are AAL (ambient assisted living) and BSNs (body sensor networks), both of which are used directly by consumers.

AAL solutions give the elderly the ability to live independently longer. Using a network of sensors placed throughout the person’s home, caregivers and family members can remotely monitor the activity (and inactivity) of the person throughout the day to ensure his or her safety and well-being.

CMI (Community Management Initiative Inc.), www.simplyhome-cmi.com, Green Bay, Wis., is one company that provides AAL solutions. Its SimplyHome offering, which is based on technology from Alarm.com, uses a network of sensors, including motion detectors, door/window contacts, and a panic pendant, to keep caregivers informed on what’s happening in an elderly person’s home.

The system is directly shipped to the consumer, and the company says customers can set up the system in 20 minutes. Wireless sensors are placed throughout the home, and they communicate to a central base station that’s either placed on a counter or mounted to the wall. The base station then sends the information wirelessly to a central processing center.

The caregiver manages the “rules” for the system, such as the times of the day the front door should not be opened, through the Web. If the event occurs, an email or text message is sent to a designated contact person.

BSNs, on the other hand, are based on wearable or implantable devices that can sense vital signs such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, or blood glucose levels. In the past, when a patient suffered from a heart attack or other abnormal occurrence, healthcare providers had to depend on symptoms conveyed by the patient and/or results from tests conducted after the fact in order to prescribe the right treatment.

BSNs give nurses and doctors the ability to access near-realtime data on vital signs, such as abnormal fluctuations in heart rate or blood glucose levels, as the event is happening or immediately following the event. In turn, consumers can better manage their own health and possibly reduce hospitalizations and doctor visits.

Moreover, remote healthcare monitoring solutions can also mean dollar savings for the consumer. Enfora’s Barrs calls attention to the example of glucose monitoring.

Unlike in the past when patients took glucose readings, but didn’t necessarily pass that data on to their doctor or other healthcare organization, with M2M-enabled devices, “those measurements are transmitted to a datacenter in realtime,” explains Barrs. He adds, “The benefits are Medicare, Medicaid, and other organizations steeply discount diabetic drugs and other types of precautionary pharmaceuticals from the standpoint that they are hoping they’re eliminating a hospital visit by taking precautionary care with the patients.”

Without these M2M-enabled medical devices, healthcare organizations simply had no way to confirm the patient was following the prescribed treatment plan.

“By having this availability to pass this data and have statistical information to them in realtime, they have the ability to continue discounting (prescriptions for) those folks that are managing their conditions by taking the discounted drugs and by taking those readings in a timely manner,” explains Barrs.

While BSNs and other remote monitoring technologies are far from being pervasive tools in today’s healthcare industry, interest is definitely growing.

According to Medtronic Inc., www.medtronic.com, Minneapolis, Minn., a provider of remote cardiac monitoring solutions, the number of consumers using its technology has grown significantly during the past several years. The company says today nearly 290,000 patients and 2,600 clinics use its remote monitoring technology, compared to the 50,000 patients and 550 clinics that were using the technology three years ago.

Moreover, Enfora is observing significant growth in M2M applications for the healthcare industry. According to Barrs, Enfora believes the volume of rollouts it will ship for healthcare applications in 2009 will likely match the number of those it will ship for security applications, which is currently Enfora’s top consumer M2M market.

INNOVATION TO COME
So, what can everyday Joe Smith expect from the M2M industry in the coming years? While the answer is not cut and dry, the possibilities are certainly endless.

Greg Jones, vice president marketing and business development, Sensorlogic, www.sensorlogic.com, Addison, Texas, says the consumer market is ready for M2M. Now, it’s just a matter of educating the SMBs (small-to-midsize businesses) and entrepreneurs that serve the consumer market that M2M technology is available at a reasonable price point.

“Our biggest issue right now is that people don’t know it’s possible (to get these consumer applications to market),” he explains. “We have, as an industry, a marketing challenge to get the word out that this stuff is doable. A lot of people are doing it today. It can be done cost effectively. And you can actually launch products fairly quickly.”

Jones adds, “As consumer apps start to really roll into the market, that’s also going to help raise market awareness about what might be possible. So, it could potentially (create) a snowball effect.”

Integration

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Integration – “a combination of parts or objects that work together well”

This is our commitment to our customers – to provide an automation system that works well, to do this we take the best components and put them together is such a way that they do.

They work to reduce the cost of operation of buildings. They do this by being simple and easy to use.

Currently it is estimated that 70% of buildings in the UK have a  “Building Management System” – of this 70% very few are being used effectively, and most are only applied to the boiler system.

A system that is not being used effectively is contributing to the cost of operating a building – its contributing to climate change – not helping to protect the climate – not helping reduce costs.

Where systems are not being used effectively they might as well not be there at all.

They are not being used effectively because most are impossible to use on a day to day basis, having plantroom based unfriendly feature starved screens, and having no control of other services in a building, such as air conditioning, or lighting.

An automation system brings control out of the plantroom and puts it on the desktops of those who need it, at low cost. It brings control of services down to an individual room – optimising each room space as a single entity, controlling air conditioning, heating, lighting level, solar shading and interacting with room occupants if required.

Only in this way can air conditioning be inhibited from operation when a window is open, lighting maintained at constant lux levels, individual radiators switched off automatically and solar shading operated to prevent unwanted heat gains.

This is automation in action – the old “BMS” is so rooted in the plantroom, so unfriendly, so inflexible, and so impossible to provide a sensible Return on Investment.

Davmark Services

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Control is the core element to building efficiency.

Building efficiency is the key to reducing energy consumption.

Reducing energy consumption is the key to reducing Co2 emissions.

Simple elegant control systems are the key to end users being able to control their environment and reduce.

Open control systems are the key element in reducing whole life cost of ownership and operation.

Davmark is your one stop shop for open control systems.

A control system for Heating, Air conditioning (including VRVF), Ventilation (including natural ventilation) and Lighting Control available in any combination – one system – one solution.

Call us now on 07824638853 – email us at david.slade@davmark.co.uk

We offer open systems technology with field based integration for robust reliable simple to use interfaces.

Smart Energy, Courtesy of Google

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Companies large and small are excited about smart metering, but one of the biggest companies to enter the space has been Google, www.google.com, Mountain View, Calif. Earlier this year, Google.org, the search-engine giant’s philanthropic arm, announced the PowerMeter system, designed to help consumers manage their energy consumption.

This week, Google announced the first utility partnerships for the PowerMeter initiative. Eight electric utilities in the United States, Canada, and India will help roll out the technology to consumers. PowerMeter is a Google gadget that lets consumers view information about their electricity consumption over the Web on their home computers. The software requires the use of smart meters, which the eight utility partners are implementing for customers, and which provide two-way data transfer between the customer and the utility.

Google’s partners range from utilities with millions of customers to utilities with only a few thousand customers. The PowerMeter partner utilities are: San Diego Gas & Electric, www.sdge.com, San Diego, Calif.; TXU Energy, www.txu.com, Dallas, Texas; JEA, www.jea.com, Jacksonville, Fla.; Reliance Energy, www.rel.co.in, Mumbai, India; Wisconsin Public Service Corp., www.wisconsinpublicservice.com, Green Bay, Wis.; White River Valley Electric Cooperative, www.whiteriver.org, Branson, Mo.; Toronto Hydro–Electric System Ltd., www.torontohydro.com, Toronto, Ont.; and Glasgow EPB, www.glasgowepb.net, Glasgow, Ky.

Google will also work with integration partner Itron, www.itron.com, Liberty Lake, Wash., for the project. Itron is a provider of intelligent metering, data collection, and utility software solutions.

In the future, Google plans to expand the number of customers and utilities using the PowerMeter system.

In the tech world, everybody used to break into hives at the slightest hint that the all-knowing, all-seeing Google was going to enter their business, providing free tools and doing everything better.
But slowly people realized that Google isn’t the best company to do everything. They don’t always win, and they may well not win here either.

First, where’s all that data going to come from? Sure, Barack Obama’s stimulus plan calls for 40 million more smart meters to be installed, but as we noted last year, the functionality of these little devices varies widely. Some track things in real-time, others don’t.

And they’re expensive. The sensors required to track all of the major appliances in your home would be hundreds of dollars and Google isn’t just going to send you a kit with all of the smart devices.

Absent the data gathering ecosystem, all Google is really offering you is a graphing utility. And we’ve already seen plenty of companies, including the guys who made Flash, offer up similar or better products.

To become the de facto window into your energy usage, Google will have to use their size and weight to bring some standardization to smart metering practices. To do that, they’ll need hardware manufacturers to come out with very cheap Google-ready devices and then they’ll have talk dozens of utilities into eschewing their own smart meter plans to follow Google’s lead.

Or they’ll have to get the government to mandate that Google’s approach is correct. This could be where Google earns its money. Some utilities aren’t really interested in helping consumers cut their usage — what they’re really after is just simply knowing how much power people are using at any given, so they know when they have to fire up their expensive, dirty peaker power plants. Smart-meter makers have responded with products that aren’t always consumer friendly or even consumer facing.

Google, on the other hand, has a vested interest in making sure that information is freely available in real-time and that it can be tied to real-time electricity pricing information. That’s a very consumer-friendly approach — and we’re glad to see someone pushing that agenda.

BAA radically overhauls procurement procedures

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Airport operator BAA’ s procurement procedures were overhauled last week in a bid to cut costs, with major projects being put out to tender rather than awarded through its framework of contractors.

Under the new system, projects of more than £25M will be procured through open tender, projects worth between £10M and £25M will be bid for by framework members and projects less than £10M in value will be allocated to framework contractors according to BAA’s criteria. “BAA is looking to introduce a more efficient, fairer way of doing things,” said a BAA spokesman.

Opening it up

The spokesman added: “In the past BAA has worked with contractors and consultants that we have had a long-term relationship with, but now we are going down the route of opening it up.”

In addition to the procurement overhaul, plans for a second runway at Stansted were put on hold this week when BAA announced that it plans to appeal against the Competition Commission’s report that dictates it should sell Stansted and Gatwick and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports.

RICS: Construction workloads continue to fall

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Construction workloads in the first quarter of 2009 continued to weaken the latest construction market survey published by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors today revealed.

Around 45 per cent of surveyors reported a fall in overall workloads for the first three months of 2009 up from a net balance of 47 per cent.

But the housing market has shown an easing in the pace decline.

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said: This slight easing we are seeing in both public and private housing is broadly in line with the figures coming from the Government on the number of housing starts, which saw a small rise in the first quarter of 2009, and could be aligned to recent signs of a gentle pick-up in the housing market.”

Private commercial and industrial workloads recorded the worst figures with net balances of 57 and 61 respectively. The infrastructure sector’s decline accelerated at the fastest pace in the surveys history.

The outlook for the next year remains ‘downbeat’ with the 46 per cent of surveyors expecting employment levels to fall and 72 per cent surveyors expecting profits to be down over the coming months.

Mr Rubinsohn added: “Despite some sub-sectors showing slightly more positive signs, construction output is likely to post a double digit drop over the course of 2009 with a further loss of employment and skills in the industry.”

Lifetime homes

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

 The Lifetime Homes Standard is the result of careful study and research. The design Criteria forming the Standard relate to interior and exterior features of
the home.

There are a total of 16 design Criteria. Each is valuable in itself, but to achieve the Lifetime Homes Standard a dwelling must incorporate all relevant Criteria.

Wheelchair accessibility was chosen as the benchmark for a good space requirement. Good space requirements also help many other people – for example, parents with pushchairs and small children, or people carrying bags
of shopping. Good accessibility helps everyone, not just people who use wheelchairs.

See www.lifetimehomes.org.uk