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There has been growing recognition for the exemplary efforts of the National Library of Scotland’s (NLS) estate management team, led by head of estates Ian Symonds. These have included the winning of multiple FM industry awards in recognition of the team’s considerable commitment, which has resulted in sustainable reductions in energy usage and carbon emissions.

While these are essential in the drive to reduce the impact of increases in energy prices, they are also important in meeting the net zero carbon emissions agenda. In order to obtain more appreciation of the outcomes achieved, it is essential to gain greater understanding of the requirements of the NLS to appreciate the scope of the team’s success.

It is one of the major research libraries in Europe and one of six legal deposit libraries in Great Britain and Ireland, containing approximately 24m items in its extensive collection. This ranges from rare and original publications of books, manuscripts and maps to photographs, posters and postcards, many of which are unique and therefore of great value, both historically and financially.

In addition to its reference library duties, the NLS curates live exhibitions and events, along with providing a growing number of online services. It also conducts tours, hosts visits and offers numerous other activities to engage with the local and international community.

This means that further to ensuring that the NLS estate is managed efficiently and effectively, the FM team must guarantee that the millions of items in its collection are kept in the optimum environmental conditions to avoid any deterioration in their condition, regardless of whether they are in the library’s underground storage areas or on display to the public.

Any action or adjustment to the interior environment of the estate and main library facility in particular has to be carefully considered, implemented and monitored so that the important priorities of protecting its unique collections are delivered. Further appreciation of the estate team’s many successes can be gleaned from the fact that when head of estates Ian Symonds joined the library, he found details of approximately 8,000 assets and an absence of up-to-date drawings or plans of library facilities.

“One of the first things that needed to be done when I joined was commission new drawings along with identifying as many assets as possible and see what was required in their running and maintenance,” says Mr Symonds. “We currently have more than 20,000 assets identified, and we can view any of these from our system at any time of day or night.”

Although the mapping of the estate and its assets involved considerable effort and expense, this was just the start of the journey to improve its overall efficiency and sustainability levels. Having gained greater understanding of the condition and location of all assets, the task of updating the existing closed protocol building management system (BMS) could then begin.

“It cost us around £35,000, but when our data shows that this saved us nearly 10 times that amount, it was really a no-brainer,” he continues. “We also reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 32% and a lot of people started to take notice of what we were doing, including the Scottish government.”

Working in close cooperation with Craigalan Controls, the estates team began the onerous task of creating its BMS system, which provides a range of benefits enhanced by additional elements. These are demonstrated to FM Director by Mr Symonds on his desktop PC, providing an instant view of the library’s facilities, all of which can be viewed online from any location in minute detail.

Ian Symonds with the three PFM Partnership Awards trophies won by the NLS.

In addition to live monitoring of all assets, the system also utilises Internet of Things (IoT) technology to predict the impact of outside temperatures on the various facilities. This enables it to make the necessary adjustments to maintain the optimum conditions within the buildings. The system provides the essential data to generate a detailed overview essential for the team to continue to drive efficiencies without impacting on the library’s core requirements.

One example of how this results in savings can be seen with the heating system bringing the buildings up to temperature during the winter months. The NLS has configured its BMS to shut down the heating before it reaches optimum temperature, which is achieved with residual heat and avoids the cooling system being used to combat overheating.

“There’s obviously been a huge amount of work required to reach this stage, but the data shows the savings we’ve made and continues to show where further reductions in energy usage can be made in future,” says Mr Symonds. He illustrates this with a few clicks within the system  to show the level of energy usage for each building in the estate.

This shows gas and electricity consumption levels that can be viewed in a number of formats, including daily, weekly, monthly or annually. Clicking on the weekly option shows peak levels of gas and electricity to prepare for the library’s opening, which then decline throughout the day as indoor temperatures and conditions stabilise.

With reductions in utilities usage continuing after the closing of the offices and library facilities at the end of the working day, Mr Symonds looks at the levels throughout the evening, night-time and early morning. “You can see a slight difference in the early hours of the morning, which shows we can still look at what’s been left on during the night and make more savings,” he says.

The use of more facts and figures helps to illustrate the significant savings resulting from the NLS estates team’s efforts. Within the Estates Management Review 2019/20 its figures showed a 51% reduction in energy and a 69% drop in greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in savings of just under £2.3m.

With the NLS estate including a variety of facilities, its FM operations have been adjusted accordingly to meet the different requirements. Waste management is an important aspect, and the estates team organises the collection of more than 27 tonnes of unwanted material and items on an annual basis, with 57% of this either recycled or used for the creation of energy.

Mr Symonds is additionally keen to explain that the benefits of its single protocol BMS system go far beyond the delivery of savings. Although this is important for every FM and client, the fact that the NLS is now compliant in the vast majority of its areas and operations – which was not the case five years ago – means that all staff and members of the public now work in and attend buildings that operate to the highest standards.

“We have to make sure that we prioritise the health and safety and security of everyone, and the system has been designed to show this and where more work is needed. It takes years to build a good reputation and that can be lost in just seconds, so having easy access to the data and proof of compliancy levels means the library is taking care of visitors, staff and all the irreplaceable collections,” says Mr Symonds.

His demonstration of the BMS system is completed within 10 minutes and during that time the data for energy usage, lighting and environmental controls are viewed, including examination of individual assets in some cases. The details of the CCTV, fire and intruder and access alarms are also displayed, leading to a discussion on how one of the more recent benefits is being explored.

“False alarms can be a frustrating part of any system, but we’re looking at how we can identify these as soon as they occur to see what’s going on. By accessing the cameras of the area affected we can quickly see if there’s a genuine reason for the alarm, but if there’s not, we can then look at how we can reduce the inconvenience that this could cause,” he says.

Attention to detail is an important factor in all areas of the FM operation at NLS and this is especially relevant to health, safety and security. An example of how this has delivered further improvements is provided by the updates to its sprinkler system.

“In the course of gaining a greater understanding of the estate we found that the water tank for the sprinkler system was too small, and the sprinklers would only work for a few minutes in the event of a fire. That means you need to either accept the risk and the consequences that could follow or do something about it.

“So we installed a larger tank and that solved the problem straight away. There’s always a fluidity of assets, of course, and there’s always more to do, but we can use the system to predict when actions will be needed. If we can fix something before it goes wrong, that can help us to avoid the expense and issues caused,” he says.

Having developed the open protocol BMS system and enjoyed the benefits described above, the library has numerous additional areas of success to celebrate. An example of this is when Mr Symonds and his team made the decision to enter the PFM Partnership Awards 2019 at the start of that year.

Its entry, submitted in partnership with Craigalan Controls, was announced as the winner in the Partners in Smart FM category at the presentation ceremony in November of that year. The final announcement of the evening provided further cause for celebration when the entry was confirmed as the Overall Winner, which means it was judged to be the best entry for that year.

Another entry submitted to the same awards in 2021 in partnership with Heriot-Watt University and Craigalan Controls resulted in the presentation of the Partners in Energy Management trophy. This was followed by two entries into the IWFM Impact Awards 2022, both of which proved successful and saw the library receive five trophies from seven entries.

“It’s strange to think that we never thought of entering any awards when we first began mapping the estate and designing the new BMS system,” says Mr Symonds. “But this has been an added bonus and provides further recognition for the efforts everyone has committed to.”

NLS continues to receive international interest for its efforts and, in addition to its standards being promoted by the Scottish government for the running of public facilities, it has also worked with the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) and the International Association of Museum Facility Administrators (IAMFA) in recognition of its exemplary management of historic buildings.

Although it would be understandable if Mr Symonds decided to site and enjoy the many areas of success achieved as a result of his efforts in recent years, he remains determined to continue the drive for improvement. “We still have £9m worth of deferred maintenance projects within the estate and £8m of these are critical,” he says. “There’s more work to be done and more savings to deliver.”

Following the many changes seen within the FM industry over the last three years, the example of the NLS estates team provides incontrovertible evidence that the application of carefully considered and expertly delivered FM processes – that use the latest technology in the most effective manner -will continue to ensure that facilities can be operated efficiently, sustainably and safely, while meeting the objectives of clients and facilities users.

NLS estate at a glance

38,510 sq m gross internal area

46% of internal area for archive storage

Nine buildings within six sites

Net value of £63m (2019 value)

Estate running cost £3.5m (2019 value)