Energy Efficiency: Why does it matter and how to get there?
By: Angela Aeschliman
One of the most significant issues we tackle daily is building energy, whether it be hot or cold calls, interior air quality or the mass amounts of cost for energy. I have found that many building managers overlook the core issue to solve these time-consuming problems at the building. Here are some simple steps to get your arms around improving your buildings energy usage and efficiency.
Start with measuring your energy. I always suggest getting the building on the Energy Star Portfolio Manager platform. Additionally, many utility companies now have online platforms. You first have to find out what is happening at the building to improve its performance.
Next, do a building envelope inspection and review your run times on your HVAC systems. Significant strides can be made with these two items alone. The building envelope would include all door closures, windows, dock areas, and any other physical separators between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of the property. Where are doors not sealed correctly, being held open or simply too slow to close? If you have a vestibule turnabout, encourage your tenants to use that instead of double doors. This will significantly impact how much heating and cooling you will need in your lobbies. As it relates to HVAC systems run times; many buildings run 24/7 simply due to issues with their base equipment. However, if you could cut back run times by just a few hours each day your energy usage would reduce 8-15%.
Enlist the help of others. Start to talk about your goals with your staff and vendors. Great ideas can come from any one of them. Look into rebate programs and free inspections provided by local utility companies. ComEd in our area offers several facility assessments that cost you no money and provide recommendations and many times can cover the cost of recommended improvements.
Track your progress. A large percentage of buildings fall into a B or C class. Those buildings have options to gain certifications to value add to the tenants, owners, and staff. IREM offers a CSP program (Certified Sustainable Property) that allows you to track step by step your changes, roll out new policies to your building, and help to draft lease language and contract language to ensure the long-lasting effects. You can find this information at IREM.org.
Energy efficiency first saves a significant amount of money. One building in our portfolio, Olympian Center, is an all-electric building that was running about $320,000 in electricity annually. Through some of what I mentioned above and a window film project, we have cut our usage by 20%, in less than one year. That’s $64,000. I can imagine you could tell your own great story to owners and Tenant with this type of reduction. However; more important than the money, our building is running with much fewer hot and cold calls, Tenants are pleased, and staff and vendors feel like they have been part of making the changes.
Lastly, never feel these projects are too big to tackle. There are several passionate people, including myself, that can help. If you need advice, ask a Vendor, ask your Utility companies, create your building on the Portfolio Manager platform and start your plan with the CSP.