Breakfast and Bed - Reverse Engineering Triumph

Last week I visited three truly world-class companies who are active in the building services arena. 

I can't reveal names but for fun I aggregated some quick statistics:

Combined turnover was 137 $ Billion

This is what One Billion $ looks like !
imagine 137 of those - it could really wear a hole in your pocket
Combined Employed staff exceeds 408,000 , that's more than the population of Nice in France,
And that's a Nice crowd! 
 or even Tulsa, Oklahoma !
Tulsa - Never been there - but if you're going there's plenty to sing about

So annual turnover per employee is more than 250,000 US  

That sum is rather greater than the modest beer tab I ran up in the fantastic B&B where I stayed near Gatwick Airport
No your eyes do not deceive:  
Yes that is a Lotus Evora parked by the front door !
Click to Enlarge
So, to the boring part of the blog...(c'mon you can handle it) 

What does a Lotus Evora, the worlds Greatest Engineering Companies, a Great Bed and Breakfast and Me have in common ?

To answer I will be criticising the B&B (a little), but not before adding; fantastic food (The Whitebait was really spectacular), really friendly staff and a 24hr service to Gatwick and local rail stations and sensible prices.

The title of this post was "Breakfast and Bed - Reverse Engineering Triumph".  I will explain this but first let me point out that most (over 90%) of big buildings have exactly the same problem as this small B&B has in some form or another.  So to the explanation.

It looked rather like this
As I sat having my Full English Breakfast, I realised that I knew what the heating pipework system must look like (is it just me or does that sort of thing happen to you too ?). 

So this is where the reverse engineering comes in...

The normal approaches to energy waste

You see we commonly look at energy consumption, and tell people what they have wrong in their buildings by recognising patterns (usually working with VERY large engineering companies on behalf of their clients), we then explain the comfort and cost implications.

We also often look at what buildings have wrong and back this up with engineering theory, show the energy waste, and explain the comfort implications.

On this occasion I found myself doing the very opposite.

So this is the normal story (many of you reading this will have heard this brief story and seen the accompanying graphs from me before but the interesting part is that the engineering is reversible)

First - We show a graph where heating energy consumption is systematically higher in Spring than Autumn despite similar weather conditions (below is a pub showing 23% waste caused by making clients uncomfortable)

Pale Blue bounds different monthly average consumption (vertical) at the same average monthly temperatures (horizontal)

Then - we explain this in the context of a pub (where in the UK the economic crisis has been forcing may to close).

"As Autumn closes in temperatures fall (pun;) and clients get cold. So landlords turns up thermostats. In spring clients get hot so they open windows and leave doors open - Voila - waste as a response to discomfort. Later an observant client says `hey the doors open but the heating's on' and things return to normal (happens at around 12.5C on graph above)"

We finally conclude - Obviously this is silly ! From personal experience I have seen in in pubs, restaurants, hotels, office blocks, prisons, factories, schools (need I go on).  BUT I have never reversed engineered it !

The solution is simple - correct compensation previous post, but this is what happened to me last week and it's rather different...
I arrived on a pretty horrid delayed flight out of Basel, was picked up at the airport, and five minutes later chatted happily as I registered. I was taken to a smallish, but clean room and closed the door behind me.  I then stopped breathing !...
It was so hot I ran to the window to open it.  I then isolated the radiator in the bedroom and the one in the en-suite bathroom. But still it stayed hot.  I went and ate, and (after some beers while tidying a presentation for the next day, I returned to my room) - It was still too hot. so I slept with the window open in March in the UK ! 
The next morning I showered, went to breakfast and realised that despite TRVs (thermostats on radiators that respond to hot rooms), the entire heating system was overly hot - there was no direct compensation to weather (this is common in Europe with Germany, Scandinavia and Switzerland providing notable exceptions).
So I also knew that there was no bypass loop (to prevent unwanted hot water flowing round the whole hotel and to trigger early shut-down of the boiler) and therefore no valve mechanism to drive it.  
Given that sometimes I can't help myself, I mentioned this to the owner over breakfast (delightful chap - nice car) who proudly showed me his new heating system  
But who then confirmed that on warm mornings he tells cleaning staff to shut valves on radiators and on cold mornings he tells them the opposite!

The fundamental control system is the discomfort of guests, who regulate the rate of waste to match personal preferences !

There is a very easy fix for this hotel, and I will be returning (it is so good), so in a few weeks I hope to take a photo of the system and will provide a bit of "free advice" which if the owner is happy I will publish here.

A quick primer on direct compensation the idea behind the fix is here - but now (after my reverse engineering breakfast) I know from personal experience that the advice we have been giving is spot on !!!

Finally - What relates great engineering companies, the operator of this B&B, and the full English breakfast to a Lotus Evora ?

"A demand for excellence, coupled with determination to deliver and improve !"
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