Nigel Thomas from ABB answers questions about Swansea’s new landmark student accommodation block. Its electrical distribution system is designed to optimise energy consumption while minimising reporting and red tape.

Due to open in September 2021, Fusion Swansea is a new £50 million purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). The 17-storey development is one of the city’s tallest buildings. It features 780 student bedrooms and shared facilities, as well as a reception and ground floor retail units.

What were the electrical requirements for Fusion Swansea?

The developer RDE Silex and operator Fusion Students wanted the new block to be a welcoming home from home for students as well as having a low-energy building design. From an electrical point of view, that meant providing students with individual control over the heating in their rooms.

However, from an operator’s perspective, Fusion also wanted the ability to monitor and optimise its overall energy consumption, with accurate metering, remote monitoring and 24/7 automatic alerts to optimise service continuity. In the long term, the operator also wanted the system to support its goal to further shrink its carbon footprint.

To achieve this, it needed its electrical system to comply with Part L of the Building Regulations, as well as meeting the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) TM 39 guidance for energy metering and submetering in non-domestic buildings.

What electrical distribution technologies have been deployed at Fusion Swansea?

The operator selected a cloud-based energy management platform utilising the ABB Ability Energy and Asset Manager to form the backbone of its energy management system. Fusion Swansea’s managers can log into it from any device to monitor energy consumption, run reports, access alerts and check the status of hardware or its operational history.

Operational costs such as energy and maintenance typically represent 80 percent of a building’s lifetime cost, so by deploying the system, Fusion Swansea can reduce its energy bills and be greener.

The cloud-based system receives detailed data from various connected electrical loads. These provide a high rate of data sampling to keep the system up to date in real time, ensuring that facility managers are informed of status.

Hardware includes all the equipment needed to control, monitor and manage electricity from the incoming utility supply to individual circuits. It includes circuit monitoring systems and Internet of Things (IoT) gateways, as well as smart air circuit breakers (ACBs), moulded case circuit breakers (MCCBs), automatic transfer switches and energy meters.

During the project, we also provided technical guidance and advice on how to deploy metering and digital energy monitoring.

Does the technology have other benefits?

An additional benefit was time saved during the project’s installation phase. Our latest hardware has digital measurement and communication technology built in and this enabled most of the pre-commissioning to be undertaken offsite.

That saved time for the contractor, as they did not need to install, test and commission additional components such as meters and communication modules during construction. Furthermore, it also saved time for the electrical consultant as it reduced the need for designing and engineering the system.

The project had the additional challenge of very limited space within the riser cupboards housing the main panels that feed each floor. Rather than using traditional energy meters, which would have required their own metering cubicle, we used energy sensors in the panels. These connected devices and communicate directly with the digital monitoring platform.

Overall, the project is an example of how the latest technology can help developers create comfortable and sustainable accommodation for students while controlling costs and supporting energy efficiency legislation.