4 FM quick reads on Energy Efficiency
1. Energy Efficiency You Can’t Control (Or Can You?)
Hello. This is Greg Zimmerman, executive editor of Building Operating Management magazine.
Today’s topic is promoting energy efficiency in departments or for pieces of equipment not usually associated with facilities. If you’re managing specialized space, like a hospital, medical office facility or lab space, learn about the pieces of equipment that are using the most energy and ask those in charge how they might be able to reduce this equipments’ energy use. Would it be as simple as just shutting it off at night, or would it require more complex procedural changes? Is the equipment running at peak efficiency, and if not, what would need to be done to ensure that it is? Is there anything the facilities department can do to assist? Being willing to stick your nose where it may not belong may result in pretty significant energy gains.
Another approach is forming energy teams in various departments and asking them to identify opportunities for savings. Provide submeters for energy use in specific areas or departments and make energy savings a competition between departments. Start an energy conservation newsletter that keeps all departments apprised on each other’s progress. See if you can work out a deal with upper management that allows departments that save energy to keep a portion of the savings. Then, illustrate to these departments with calculations related directly to things they care about. In other words, show them that if they can save so many kilowatt-hours in a year, they’ll be able to afford a new fancy gadget they may not have been able to justify before.
2. Tax Breaks for Efficient HVAC Systems Extended
I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is the fate of tax breaks for very efficient HVAC systems.
For the past few years, federal law has allowed tax deductions for the installation of extremely efficient HVAC systems. Under the original version of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, known as EPAct, new or upgraded HVAC systems that were at least 16.7 percent more efficient than required by ASHRAE 90.1-2001 could qualify for tax deductions of up to 60 cents per square foot.
That deduction was set to expire at the end of 2008. Although there was widespread support for an extension, the measure was stalled in Congress.
But the EPAct extension finally did pass, as part of the financial bailout bill approved by Congress. The deduction is now available until Dec. 31, 2013. That five-year window provides ample opportunity for facility executives considering very efficient HVAC systems to take advantage of the tax break. That planning time is important, because of the fairly demanding requirements that must be met to gain the deduction. If an HVAC project will be using energy modeling, for example, in a building aiming for LEED certification, it’s worthwhile to investigate whether the project will qualify for the tax break.
3. Increasing the Energy Efficiency of Walls
There are a few ways to increase the energy efficiency of the building’s envelope at the walls. One is to increase their R-value. Another is to provide an air barrier.
Taking it one step further, consider making the air barrier, vapor retarder and backup waterproofing one component. Introducing this component requires installing the material on the exterior side of the sheathing so it can function as a waterproofing layer.
But because the vapor barrier is now on the wall’s outside surface, the insulation must move to the exterior in cold climates. Introducing rigid insulation on the outboard side of the wall studs will increase the wall thickness, but the resulting drop in occupant complaints and rise in energy savings will make up for lost square footage.
4. What Is a Green Performance Contract?
Today’s tip is about a way that facility executives can cheaply and easily finance green upgrades in their facilities: green performance contracts. The idea of a green performance contract is that they expand the scope beyond the energy upgrades normally included in a performance contract to focus on a facility’s sustainability holistically. Green performance contracts are a terrific option for facility executives who don’t have the upfront capital to pay for major renovation projects.
Most green performance contracts, which almost always include energy efficiency projects as well, work similarly to straight energy performance contracts – a third-party service company pays for and handles the installation of green retrofits and then is paid back by the savings from the projects. Green performance contracts can include projects that cover water use reduction, green purchasing, renewable energy and emissions offsets, indoor environmental quality, recycling and many other facets of sustainability beyond just energy savings.
Facility executives in either public or private organizations can use green performance contracts, and local, state and federal legislation is being passed more and more frequently to smooth the process and provide even more incentive.
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