Category Archives: commissioning

Top Tips and Pitfalls of Implementing Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs)

Now that we have developed an energy audit and/or retro-commissioning report, it is time to implement some of our findings. Which energy conservation measure (ECM) to implement has a lot to do with your facility’s priorities and needs. Typically, the ECM that makes the most sense to implement is the one with the greatest return on investment. When investigating implementation, one must keep in mind that some ECMs may be linked. For example, if an ECM involves upgrading your current BMS system, it may initially seem unappealing because of the long return on investment. However, you may want to consider this ECM if it is tied to another ECM, such as adding a reset control or an air side economizer. Both of these are better served if the BMS is upgraded first.

An example of a pitfall, however, includes upgrading current motors to energy efficient motors. I am always a proponent of saving energy, but this particular investment may not make sense based on your facility’s current utility rate and the run time of your motors. A real-life example of this is in a primary school we recently worked. It was identified that the existing HVAC motors were not premium efficiency motors. However, after investigation and pricing, the payback was calculated to be 180 years! This ECM was therefore not recommended, however, if the motors should fail and require replacement, it was recommended to replace them with premium efficiency motors. The most logical thing to do is to work on your low cost/no cost measures. This includes items such as schedules, thermostat recalibrations, sensor recalibrations, etc.

The key to implementing ECMs is to have a plan and document what your intentions are with your report. Identify which measures you are going to implement going forward, who is going to do the work and how you are going to check that the implementation measures were installed correctly and are working. Once we have a plan, it is crucial to share it with ownership so they understand what you are doing with the report and their recommendations

Whether you are planning to use in-house labor or contract labor, a clear scope of work is imperative to making your implementations successful. Clearly define the level of expectations, desired results and most importantly who plans to be in charge of and manage the implementation program.

Scheduling your work to minimize disruptions to your tenants and end users is also important. Having regular job check-in meetings are vital to keeping the project on track with either formal or tool box sessions.

Over the next couple of months, I will be discussing details regarding a dozen or so commonly found ECMs and the pros and cons of implementing them. Stay tuned! As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment below.

1 Comment

Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Energy, energy audit, energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy usage

Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situations, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Series Post #8: Real World Application, Case Study)

After all this talk about how great energy audits and retro-commissioning is, let’s take a look at a case study which shows the power of these tools in action. We worked on a historic 555,000 sf museum, originally built in 1897. After an energy audit and retro-commissioning study, the facility will save approximately $520,000 in annual energy savings with a simple payback of a little over 2 years.

Major energy conservation measures (ECMs) that were found in the energy auditing process include: retrofitting gallery light fixtures from incandescent and halogen to CFL/LED lamps, upgrading the old pneumatic controls to direct digital controls (DDC) for AHUs and implementing several control strategy upgrades, such as gallery VFD speed optimization, economizer controls and demand control ventilation.

Through the retro-commissioning process, HEA determined several key retro-commissioning measures (RCMs). A selection of issues found include: non-functioning hand-off-auto switches, inactive BMS points, improperly wired supply and return fans, leaking cooling and heating coils, faulty smoke detectors and AHU steam valve leaks. Testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) for all air and water systems, setting up an AHU BMS scheduling program and the partial free cooling in the chilled water system were key low to no cost RCMs that were identified.

Major operations and maintenance measures (OMMs) include a steam trap survey, boiler tune-up and cleaning and AHU temperature and humidity sensor calibration.

These results prove that proper energy audits and retro-commissioning services can help significantly reduce energy usage in existing buildings. In some cases, repairing or replacing equipment may not be the best fiscal decision based on ROI. The key is to implement the ECMs that make sense for your facility; both operationally and fiscally. Make sure your provider has the proper understanding to prioritize and recommend the best path for the future of your facility.

Thank you for reading my series about existing building energy consumption. Please feel free to ask me any questions and/or leave a comment below.

2 Comments

Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Energy, energy audit, energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy usage

Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situations, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Series Post #7: PlaNYC Local Law 84 and 87)

Energy use in NYC buildings contributes to 74% of citywide GHG emissions through the use of heating fuel, natural gas, electricity and steam. Energy expenses are up to $15 billion per year; therefore, NYC needed to act. NYC responded to this problem with the development of PlaNYC. In particular I’d like to focus on Local Law 84: Benchmarking (LL84) and Local Law 87: Energy Audits & Retro-commissioning (LL87).

“Released in 2007, PlaNYC was an unprecedented effort undertaken by Mayor Bloomberg to prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen our economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The Plan brought together over 25 City agencies to work toward the vision of a greener, greater New York. Since then, we have made significant progress towards our long-term goals.”

LL84 began in 2009 and requires owners of large buildings to annually measure and report their energy consumption through the previously mentioned benchmarking practice. In July, they upgraded the online energy star reporting tool (www.energystar.gov/portfoliomanager). They also recently released their second year benchmarking scores (read the report here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/gbee/html/plan/ll84_scores.shtml).

The first energy efficiency reports for LL87 are due at the end of this year. Due dates are based on a building’s tax block id #. Those ending in 3 are required to comply in 2013, those ending in 4 are required to comply in 2014 and so on and so forth. LL87 requires that all buildings 50,000 sf or larger undergo not only an energy audit but also retro-commissioning.
LL87 requires the following base building energy systems to be investigated:
•    Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
•    Electrical and light
•    Domestic hot water
•    Building envelope
•    Conveying systems

The approved certified engineers that can help one comply with LL87 include:
•    Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP)
•    Certified Building Commissioning Professional (CBCP)
•    Commissioning Process Management Professional (CPMP)
•    Accredited Commissioning Process Authority Professional (ACPAP)

Horizon Engineering Associates, LLP (HEA) has conducted nearly 70 energy audits and retro-commissioning projects for LL87 compliance. The facilities have ranged from museums to hospitals. Just to put into perspective how effective energy audits and retro-commissioning has been, when we surveyed 9 buildings, HEA was able to identify over 70 energy conservation measures that, when implemented, will save over $3.36 million in energy costs annually.

Has your building complied with LL84 and LL87? Are you aware of early compliance? Is your city implementing similar laws to NYC’s PlaNYC? Share your experiences in the comments below!

My next post will highlight an energy audit and retro-commissioning case study and comment on my experience with retro-commissioning.

1 Comment

Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Energy, energy audit, energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy usage, EPA, GHG

Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situations, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Series Post #6: Retro-commissioning)

This blog series is focused on different methods to evaluate and reduce energy consumption of buildings. The demand for energy is increasing at an alarming rate and the building sector is one of the largest consumers of energy; gaining more and more prominence over the past few decades. Retro-commissioning is a proven process to help combat this problem. Let’s start with a quick overview of what building commissioning is.

Commissioning is a quality assurance process that provides documented confirmation that a building is operating at optimum level of the owner’s requirements. Commissioning ensures that building systems are planned, installed, tested, operated and maintained the way the owner intended. Commissioning often provides:
•    Increased energy efficiency
•    Maximized occupancy comfort
•    Extended life cycle of equipment
•    Reduces O&M costs

During the retro-commissioning process, existing building systems are inspected for physical, functional and performance conditions. All issues are documented and presented in a comprehensive report to the owner. Diagnostic test equipment is used to assess existing equipment efficiency and operating characteristics. This analysis is used to identify opportunities for energy conservation. The retro-commissioning process usually occurs in four distinct phases as illustrated below:

Image

A research study on commissioning and retro-commissioning performed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2009 found that the average retro-commissioning project cost $0.30 per square foot with energy savings of 16% and with a simple payback of 1.1 years. Which brings us to the glaring question, why isn’t everyone doing this? Some possible reasons could be unfamiliarity with the retro-commissioning process and fear of any upfront costs. In order to overcome these hurdles, many cities across the nation are recognizing the importance of retro-commissioning/energy audits and are developing legislation that makes it a mandatory procedure. For example, New York City has developed PlaNYC, an agenda to meet energy challenges to building a greener, greater New York. Included in this plan is Local Law 84: Benchmarking and Local Law 87: Energy Audits and Retro-commissioning. In my next blog, I will discuss these laws in detail.

Do you have any questions regarding retro-commissioning? Drop me a line in the comments section below!

2 Comments

Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Energy, energy audit, energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy usage

Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situations, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Series Post #5: Intro to Retro-commissioning)

Now that we have an understanding of what ASHRAE is, let’s discuss how their standards are applied, particularly with the retro-commissioning process.

When it comes to maintaining a building, it is important to keep up with the continuous environmental and economic factors attributed to occupancy and utilization patterns. This blog series is intended to highlight the different trends and avenues towards reducing a building’s carbon footprint for an optimized and energy efficient building system. We have identified that buildings present the best opportunity to make a large scale impact towards reducing energy usage. In my earlier posts, we have discussed energy audits and benchmarking as great starting points to access your building’s energy consumption and as a pathway to understanding the functionality of a building. ASHRAE has led the way in providing standards and guidelines to conduct an energy audit, benchmarking and, commissioning and retro-commissioning.

Energy auditing is a practical tool to help determine capital improvement plans. Developing a plan to replace outdated equipment with energy efficient measures is a great way to reduce energy costs. However, this method’s initial costs tend to be higher and return on investments (ROIs) take longer than those of retro-commissioning.

Retro-commissioning enables you to improve the performance of your existing systems by helping you to return your building to optimum performance. It is the number one process that can provide energy efficiency, improved tenant comfort, training for operations staff and improved documentation. Retro-commissioning is a systematic process for optimizing the energy efficiency and operations of existing base building systems. Adjustments that occur throughout this process include, but are not limited to: repairs of defects, cleaning, adjustments of valves, sensors, controls or programmed settings, and/or changes in operational practices. These items are typically low cost to no cost measures that yield high ROIs. Median commissioning costs: $0.30 and $1.16 per square foot for existing buildings and return on investments are typically 13%-15% with payback times of anywhere between 1.0 and 4.2 years. In some cases you are seeing cash on cash returns of 91%.

Good candidates for retro-commissioning include underperforming buildings, older buildings and facilities with large loads. Do you manage and/or own any of these types of buildings? What are common problems you are experiencing? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

In my next blog, I will be walking you through the retro-commissioning process and going into details about each of the four phases.

Leave a comment

Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Energy, energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy usage

Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situation, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Post #1: Introduction)

Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situations, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Series Post #1: Introduction)

Our nation’s current energy appetite needs to be curbed. And while there are many solutions out there, I wanted to share my thoughts specifically with energy use and efficiency in buildings. My reason for choosing this topic is twofold: 1) Buildings account for a large portion of the US energy consumption (see more details below) and 2) Throughout my 20 years of experience with building commissioning (new construction and existing building), I have witnessed how commissioning and energy studies contribute to not only energy savings, but lower maintenance costs, increased occupant satisfaction and improved building documentation.

Why look to buildings?
The U.S. buildings sector accounted for 7% of global energy consumption in 2010. We must re-evaluate our fossil fuel consumption patterns which have been directly linked to climate change in order to mitigate the adversities we are facing. Buildings accounted for 41% of primary energy consumption in the U.S.; that is 44% more than the transportation sector and 36% more than the industrial sector. Buildings are identified as being responsible for the largest portion of our country’s carbon dioxide emissions; therefore, it seems the best way to combat climate change and create a sustainable future is to demand a higher standard from our buildings.

The federal government estimated that we can save $40 billion dollars annually by reducing energy use in commercial buildings by 20% by 2020. With people spending 90% of their lives inside buildings, we must work to provide buildings that are operating at ultimate performance. We need leadership and coordination to implement legislation. We need education to allow people to make the best choices. We need research and development to cultivate the technology and practices to ensure sustainable energy solutions. My future posts to this blog series will look at current trends in energy efficient buildings such as energy audits and the impact they have on building systems. The posts will explore the different organizations and principles set forth for better building systems such as ASHRAE. I will then tie in my personal experience and lessons learned as an active commissioning professional in order to explain and exemplify the importance of commissioning, retro-commissioning and energy audits.

I will be publishing a new post every other Thursday. Any topics and/or questions you would like me to address? Leave me a comment and I’ll make sure to reply. I hope this is the beginning of a great discussion.

9 Comments

Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Energy, energy audit, energy efficiency, energy usage

Smart Grid…What’s the Big Deal?

If Thomas Edison were alive today, he would probably agree that not a whole lot has changed since his design of the electrical distribution system in America. As the pioneer behind electricity and electrical distribution, he would be disappointed that we have not made more progress in the evolution of electricity.

Many may wonder exactly how electricity is transmitted. Electricity is transmitted across a vast network of wires called the electrical grid. Power plants feed this electrical grid and allow for the production of power. Currently, electricity is bought and produced by the power plant with the least amount of cost associated with it regardless of where it is located. However, there is a price to transmit that power. Costs increase when electricity travels over greater distances due to resistance it encounters during the transmission.

Technology has changed over time giving us access to an abundance of information. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where and when we are using energy in this country? The electrical grid is about to embark on a major overhaul in the way we distribute electricity. We are about to make our electrical distribution system “smart,” thus enabling the re-routing of electricity to areas with greater demands for power.

The smart grid will communicate with power plants by raising or lowering outputs to match usage locally. It will also decipher which customers need more electricity and direct the proper amount to customers in real time. Plants will be able to produce power locally, thus reducing the costs associated with transmitting electricity over a long distance. This will allow for a more efficient electrical distribution system.

For example, if a group of buildings in Philadelphia requires a certain amount of electricity at 10:30am, the grid will have the capacity to anticipate the load adjustment and respond accordingly. This can also allow the customer to purchase its electricity more intelligently based on the time of day when they use the most electricity instead of having it available all the time.

Peak demand is a term used to define the highest energy usage of a facility at any given time. More power is consumed, potentially causing power plants to increase output beyond their optimum efficiency. Electric utilities will then charge more for the delivered electricity. This high cost of electricity is monitored by every facility manager in the country and should be avoided as it impacts their energy budgets.

The smart grid can help us understand how we consume energy so proper mechanisms can be put in place to adjust peak loads and conserve energy. Being smart about our energy consumption will allow us to keep energy usage and costs down.

Leave a comment

Filed under Building efficiency, commissioning, Electrical Distribution, energy efficiency, Uncategorized