4  FM quick reads on Energy efficiency

1. Guaranteed Energy Performance

Today's tip is about guaranteeing energy performance.

There are very few guarantees in life, and even fewer in the facilities industry. But try this one on for size: A design team guaranteeing, and staking a portion of their fee on, a particular energy performance after the first year a new building is open.

If you're a facility manager, you'd think such a guarantee should be the rule rather than the exception. It only makes sense that if a designer promises a level of performance, and a building winds up using much more energy than that promised level, the designers should be held accountable.

Designers see things quite differently. Why should they be responsible for how a building is operated after they design it to be high-performance, and commission it? If it doesn't perform, it must be either the occupants' fault, or the FM's, right?

This is, of course, a vast oversimplification — but the basic question remains: How does the industry bridge the gap between a building designed to be high-performance and a building operated as efficiently as they were designed? It's the $64,000 question in new construction these days.

One answer comes via a contract structure worked out between the General Services Administration (GSA) and a designer for a new Army Corps of Engineers headquarters building in Seattle. The designer and contractor each staked 0.5 percent of their contract that the building would hit a particular performance target after its first year in operation. And it did! It worked!

You can read more about this building and the details of its unique contracting structure in the June issue of Building Operating Management magazine. Needless to say, there are a few caveats.

Even so, all involved with the project say they strongly believe that this type of contracting structure is an idea whose time has come. Both the designer and the owner say they think this isn't just a "showcase" project — that this type of agreement can be repeatable and can work throughout the industry

2.  How Do You Manage Big Data?

Today's tip is about how to manage big data.

Information is easy to collect, but it's often much more difficult to find tangible uses for that data, beyond just "Hmm, that's interesting." Any facility manager with a sophisticated, high-performance BAS probably has at one time or another spent a bleary-eyed afternoon combing through a database. And while comparing the energy use of Fan 1 vs Fan 2 in July 2007 is probably interesting to most engineering types, it's not especially useful for reducing overall energy consumption in July 2014.

So how do you sift through data to find actionable information? Of course, it all depends on your situation — use Portfolio Manager to benchmark energy use, set up alerts for when energy performance fall outside certain parameters, run experiments on set points and on/off times. As the kids say these days, "You do you."

What's important though is that you do have a plan in place for analyzing data. As facility managers often say, un-analyzed data is as useless as data never collected in the first place. But what's more data collected and not used is often a distraction. So before you check all the boxes on that sophisticated energy management new program, make sure you have the time and capability to use what you're collecting.

3.  Submetering Helps FMs Take Control Of Power

Most facilities have one master meter that records such factors as total facility energy use, peak demand, and power factor. While this system gives a utility information it uses to bill a facility, it does not indicate specific areas of a facility using the electricity. But submetering, through the installation of meters at various locations throughout the facility, can provide that data.

Managers who have embraced the technology and installed submeters in their facilities have been able to collect data on how much, where, and when their facilities use energy, and they can use it to guide their conservation efforts. Those who have not implemented the technology most likely do not understand the benefits of the information submeters provide.

A typical submeter installation includes the installation of split-core current sensors installed around electrical feeds to monitor current, and a separate sensor to monitor feeder voltage. Meters can be standalone units or can transmit data generated by the sensors to a host computer by cable, modem, or radio-frequency technology. Software on the host computer can be used to generate individual utility bills or equipment load profiles.

Probably the first users of submetering technology used meters to fairly allocate energy costs among users. Before the installation of submeters, facilities with master meters used some arbitrary means of allocating electrical energy costs among occupants and tenants, such as basing the bill on square footage occupied. Such a system rewarded those who used the most energy but penalized those who used the least. The strategy also removed any incentive to conserve. Submetering fairly allocates utility costs based on actual use and motivates occupants to become more energy-efficient.

Similar situations existed in educational facilities and in particular universities, which feature a mix of education, research, residential and support activities. In many such cases, the research, athletic, recreational, student housing, and other support activities had to pay for their energy use with income they generated. Without metered data, many developed arbitrary, inaccurate and sometimes complex systems for billing these groups. The installation of submeters enables managers to replace these billing systems with systems that are fair and accurate.

4.  Energy Recovery Systems Can Cut Energy Use Significantly

Energy recovery in buildings today is a true paradigm shift from traditional practice of 20-30 years ago, because the technology to accomplish it didn't exist. '"It is now commonplace to expect some type of energy recovery incorporated into the building's HVAC system," says Ron Holdaway, an engineer at Smith Seckman Reid. "Rather than throwing away the low grade energy generated in the building, technology today allows the energy to be recovered in efficient and practical ways." Especially for building owners who are large energy consumers, energy-recovery systems have the potential to cut conditioning energy use significantly.

Holdaway cited an airside heat recovery system that was recently designed for a 200,000 square hospital in the Memphis area. Hospitals require significant amounts of outside air to ensure proper control of microorganisms.

"By using heat-recovery systems, the air conditioning tonnage was reduced by over 200 tons," Holdaway notes. "The system also resulted improved indoor air quality by improved temperature and humidity control in the space."

Payback is anticipated to be four years or less.

Increasingly, these systems are required. For commercial buildings, airside and waterside heat recovery are required by ASHRAE 90.1-2010 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Holdaway notes that exhaust air energy recovery is required if the outside air exceeds a prescriptive quantity. The quantity of outside air is dependent on the climate zone of the building. Energy recovery system installation requires the aid of an engineer who can calculate the energy savings against current building energy use. Holdaway notes that it's essential to size the systems appropriately.

"Systems that are oversized will not perform well and result in unnecessary added costs. Systems that are undersized do not generate sufficient energy savings to pay back the initial investment," he says.


Energy efficiency , GSA , high-performance , commissioning

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