Case Study

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Hospital Saves Energy with Integrated Architecture

Vital Efficienci replaces legacy energy control solution with a contemporary Allen-Bradley Integrated Architecture in order to make continuous energy savings over the next 15 years

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  • York Hospital needed to both manage save energy and any investment it made in new technology had to be covered by the savings made – for the next 15 years.



  • Open, scalable system deployed on robust, industry-proven COTS hardware
  • Significant savings already being forecast
  • “Outstanding support from Rockwell Automation”
  • Open solution will adapt and evolve much more easily over 25 year lifecycle
  • Secure and controllable remote access via browser or app


York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was designed in the 1960s and built in the 1970s and, as such, much of its energy infrastructure is now reaching end of life. This gave the Trust the opportunity to make significant improvements in the way the hospital generates and consumes heat and power.

With over 8,000 staff, the Trust treats over 700,000 people per year, giving it similar energy requirements to a small town. Indeed, in 2012/13, the Trust had a combined gas and electricity bill of £2.45 million and emitted 13,586 tonnes of CO2.

Following a competitive procurement process, the Vital Energi Group was selected to deliver a low-carbon energy solution, with guaranteed carbon and financial savings through its operating companies:

  • Vital Energi Utilities who design, build and operate low carbon based energy solutions for the localised generation, supply and distribution of heat, power and cooling
  • Vital Solutions, who develop and structure long term Energy Performance contracts for hospitals, universities and large commercial and industrial sites
  • Vital Efficienci, who design and deliver energy and carbon reduction solutions by measuring, managing, controlling and implementing solutions to reduce energy consumption

Vital Efficienci was tasked with reducing the hospital’s energy demand. A challenge made all the more difficult by the fact that the project would go from procurement stage to going live in just 20 months. The money saved by the new infrastructure could then be invested in front-line clinical care, improving services and offering real, tangible benefits to the people of Yorkshire.

Vital Efficienci worked with Rockwell Automation to develop a bespoke energy-management and control solution that would help the Trust to both measure and manage its energy consumption, while giving Vital Energi Group real-time remote access into the site for on-going management, balancing and monitoring.


The project at York was procured and delivered in conjunction with the Carbon and Energy Fund, a procurement framework created to facilitate and manage complex energy infrastructure upgrades for the NHS and wider public sector. The money invested in CO2 reduction solutions is funded from the savings generated. The Vital Group has a 15-year operation and maintenance contract, which will ensure that savings are achieved every year. When possible it will try to exceed guaranteed savings, and these are then shared between the Trust and the Vital Energi Group.

Vital Energi Utilities was responsible for delivering the overall project and Vital Efficienci delivered the complete SCADA solution, alongside the operating principals and philosophies, and optimisation methodology developed for the plant. The control solution is split in two:

  • The BMS – supplied by a specialist supply partner – which manages and optimises the downstream energy assets
  • The SCADA system, supplied by Vital Efficienci, which manages and optimises the main energy centre (boiler house), with its two main plant rooms, and uses an Allen-Bradley architecture

According to Kenneth Kunz, Technical Director at Vital Efficienci: “This is a 15-year agreement, so we needed a robust industrial system that can work in a demanding environment and remain stable. It is for this reason that we decided to go with our own SCADA system and based it on proven, open industrial systems, with Rockwell Automation CompactLogix PACs at the heart.”


The existing energy system comprised gas-fired steam boilers controlled by an older and now unsupported control architecture. The Trust decided to proceed with the ECS (Energy Control Solution) typically known as SCADA from Vital Efficienci, based primarily on Allen-Bradley Integrated Architecture products.

The Trust was actually the first client of the new system, and required a complete upgrade and deployment of a new control infrastructure. “We developed different modules into our ECS system,” Kenneth explains, “which are unique to Vital Energi Group. Our solution is very open, unlike other typical BMS systems, which can often be a little more ‘black box' like and closed. They are satisfactory for alarming and monitoring, but they are often not optimized for energy centers. We developed new modules to make it unique and make it different to the market.”

Vital Efficienci did the coding in-house and worked together with Rockwell Automation on the design and writing of software for the MBus protocol (communications). Standard industry power meters use MBus communications and, at the time, it was not possible to integrate these meters into the CompactLogix PACs. So the Rockwell Automation Global OEM Technical Consultant (GOTC) and Kenneth wrote new software, which supported the implementation of certain power meters into the overall control system.“

MBus is not a standard,” Kenneth explains, “but I found a serial communications module from ProSoft Technology (a Rockwell Automation Encompass Partner) within the Logix family, so we were able to develop an ASCII driver that would communicate with the MBus protocol. MBus is only really used for heat meters, but these days, more and more heat meters are offering the ability to use Modbus. We used MBus in York, but going forwards we will use Modbus RTU/TCP-IP.”

The Vital Efficienci ECS system runs on Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ L33ER & L24ER programmable automation controllers running on a fibre EtherNet/IP™ network served by multiple I/O points and Stratix 5700™ managed Ethernet switches.

“We need these different interfaces because we have a lot of gas, steam, electrical and heat meters around the energy centre measuring set points,” Kenneth elaborates. “These data points allow us to populate a daily CSV file with raw data, which is sent out at midnight to our head office in Blackburn and then stored in the cloud. The data, collected every 30 minutes, is then entered into specialist software so we can see where savings are being made and compare figures against desired set points.”

Last year Kenneth changed Vital's meter standard in order to gather better quality, more uniform data. “Now it is all the same, it is much easier to work with on a day-to- day basis. The data collection is based on SQL, a flexible solution which also interfaces to a lot of other systems, and the system has been built based on good standards using products that will be on the market for many years.

“Above the CompactLogix PACs are a set of full servers that help ensure the whole system we design and deliver is robust, stable and future proof,” Kenneth explains. “The ECS Supervisor Server handles the Graphics and the SQL solution, while the ECS Report Server works beside it generating the data. Both are controlled with one screen, one keyboard and one mouse. The servers are also fail safe in case one stops working or we need to shut one down for maintenance."

Kenneth also believes that Vital Energi Group offer a unique solution compared to typical approaches. “We have two ways to remotely access the Trust's system, either back access or via a smartphone app. Back access is via a browser using a fixed IP. With this we are able to connect into the Trust's ECS supervisor. It's all encrypted and offers different levels of access and includes an operator interface where our own engineers can change different things such as set points or alarms. App access is more for our engineers, but we can open it to others and our open-source app is very popular and can be downloaded free for Apple or Android.”

Vital Efficienci also developed an alarm management and recording system that is monitored by personnel at Vital and used by its engineers to manage its on-call system. It uses an industrial mobile modem and SIM card (with antenna). Every time an alarm is generated in the Allen-Bradley PAC, it flashes on panel, appears on the ECS supervisor server and is sent to the engineer on duty via SMS, phone call and e-mail. Vital Energi or the Trust can then determine what sort of actions they want and can base the priorities on the severity of the issue.

“Now the ECS solution has been delivered, installed and proven we are fully prepared to handle a much wider range of projects and applications,” Kenneth enthuses, “and not just hospitals – any large establishment can benefit. We will soon be looking at industrial complexes; our system is flexible and can handle the variety.”


Brian Golding, the Trust's Energy Manager explains: “We wanted Vital to look at our fundamental aims: reduce our carbon footprint, reduce our energy consumption, enhance our electricity resilience and take the project forward 15 years.”

“Brian is suitably impressed with our solution,” Kenneth elaborates, “it was delivered and installed within the agreed timescales and has not experienced any issues after one year of operation, and is delivering the level of control and energy savings envisaged in the original design. The system will continue to be developed and with the flexibility and scalability of the Allen-Bradley Integrated Architecture, can be easily deployed on existing systems, such as we have seen in York.

“Quality is a key driver and we need to have faith in the equipment we deploy” Kenneth explains. “We need robust solutions based on high-end materials. We insist on delivering quality on every project we work on, and must therefore use quality inputs to be able to deliver quality outcomes.

“The support from Rockwell Automation in the UK has been outstanding,” Kenneth concludes. “Without the right team around you and the right input from suppliers you cannot achieve goals and have success – Rockwell Automation is very much part of our team.”

The results mentioned above are specific to Vital Energi Group and York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.


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