Category Archives: Energy

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

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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.

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Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situations, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Series Post #3: Benchmarking)

In my last blog, I provided an overview of the energy audit process. I highlighted the importance of energy audits and want to further this discussion by exploring the topic of benchmarking. Due to rising energy cost and the negative impact of burning fossil fuels, legislators have been demanding, in addition to energy audits, benchmarking. The benchmarking process creates a baseline of comparison for buildings in order to accurately set energy performance/sustainability goals that are specific to your facility, such as reducing overall energy or water usage.

What is Benchmarking?
Benchmarking your building’s performance will show you how the energy performance of your building compares to other, similar buildings. This process involves tracking a building’s energy and water usage and applying a standard metric to compare the building’s performance against past performance and to buildings of similar stature. This information allows us to identify the energy intensive buildings, set energy and cost saving priorities and monitor progress.

Benchmarking in Legislation.
With cities growing at alarming rates, energy demands are skyrocketing. NYC has stepped up to the challenge and is a proven frontrunner for energy legislation, including benchmarking. New York City’s largest buildings, just 2% of roughly 1 million buildings, account for 45% of the energy expended. Building a better, greener, greater New York City starts with Local Law 84 (LL84); which was signed into action in 2009 by Mayor Bloomberg. This law mandates annual energy and water benchmark reports for privately owned buildings over 50,000 square feet. Since the enactment of LL84, California and Washington State have instituted statewide requirements for benchmarking in cities such as: Austin; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis and Boston. Cities across the United States are jumping on the benchmarking movement every day in a fight to reduce buildings’ energy consumption.

Problems with Benchmarking.
Building owners and operators often do not have access to basic information on how their building performs. If building owners and operators obtain this information, it can be difficult to interpret it accurately. Misinterpreting the numbers can be very misleading. Another difficulty is comparing your building to other “similar” buildings. Do you compare your building against one of similar size, but the building use is different? Factors such as facility size and occupancy information, vacancy data and number of computers used can all manipulate data. How can one make an accurate comparison?

Suggestions.
The key to accurate benchmarking is the activities of the end users. Another key factor is communication. Facilities operators and owners must clearly articulate the goals of benchmarking their building, so that intentions are understood from the start. There are several motivations behind benchmarking, the main reasons given by facilities professionals for benchmarking according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study in 2007 are as follows: a) to identify energy-efficiency opportunities, b) to prioritize investments, and c) to make comparisons to other facilities.

Data presentation should explain findings clearly; what you were investigating and what you found. Once you have your benchmarking data, it will help to identify why and where a building is losing energy and where and how you can save energy. A tool that can help includes the newly upgraded EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager Benchmarking Tool. Read about it here.

What Type of Energy Audit Will Produce Accurate Benchmarking Data?
In my next blog post, I will discuss the building technology society founded in 1894 known as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). This professional association focuses on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. I will explore what ASHRAE’s standards and guidelines are for energy auditing in my next post.

Do you have any questions regarding benchmarking? Leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to address them.

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Filed under Building efficiency, Energy, energy audit, energy consumption, energy efficiency, energy monitoring, energy usage, EPA

Existing Building Energy Consumption: Current Situations, Trends, Legislature and Solutions (Series Post #2: Energy Audits)

Right now, many building managers do not have access to the information needed to make the most energy efficient capital improvement decisions. Information such as energy saving measures, paybacks and life cycle costs of implementing energy efficient strategies are integral. This barrier has deterred the momentum of energy efficient building systems. The solution to help building managers make energy efficient capital improvement decisions are energy audits. Energy audits can identify where energy is being expended (and/or wasted) and provide methods for improving a building’s performance.

What is an energy audit?

An energy audit is a systematic approach to quantify how building systems are currently performing, how performance can be improved, what benefits will occur if these improvement are implemented and the cost and payback for each improvement. The goal of the audit is to identify ways to reduce energy consumption in the building by giving information to owners so they can make informed business decisions. I recommend applying an ASHRAE Level II energy audit, as it is simple yet comprehensive. Below are all the steps taken to achieve a Level II energy audit:

  • Preliminary Energy-Use Analysis: Includes a general space analysis, utility bill analysis, Energy Utilization Index generation and comparison to similar buildings.
  • Level 1: Walk-through: Includes the investigation of operational practices via interview, space function analysis, rough estimates of energy end-use, identifies low or no cost changes to the facility or O&M procedures, potential capital improvements for further study and provides an initial estimate of potential costs and savings.
  • Level 2: Energy Survey & Analysis: Includes a review of mechanical, electrical and plumbing design and operation, maintenance problems, comparison of key operating parameters to design levels, annual energy end-use breakdown, equipment modifications and practical measures and financial and cost analysis.

Who can perform an energy audit?
Energy audits can be facilitated by owners/facility managers ,however, public utility and independent, private sector companies will provide important third party perspective.
There are many individuals that can perform energy audits, but who is truly qualified? According to NYC, the following five types of certifications are approved to provide PlaNYC Local Law 87: Energy Audit and Retro-commissioning (to be discussed as a future topic):

  • NYSERDA approved FlexTech consultants
  • Certified Energy Manager (CEM)
  • Certified Energy Auditor (CEA)
  • High Performance Building Design Professional (HPBD)
  • Multi-family Building Analyst (MFBA)

Have you had an energy audit done on your building? Share your experiences in the comments below. My next blog will explain the term benchmarking, which can help you to understand how your building operates in comparison to similar buildings and explain why this is important.

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