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HEI's Bob Holesko, Other FMXcellence Winners Share How They Made A Big Impact On A Large Portfolio

By Naomi Millán, Senior Editor - August 2013 - Facilities Management


The 2013 FMXcellence award winners all have one thing in common: They've made a big impact on a large portfolio. One of the winners is Bob Holesko, vice president of facilities for HEI Hotels & Resorts.

There may as well have been a big flashing arrow saying “Start Here” when Holesko took over.

“Before I raised my hand and said, ‘Energy efficiency gold mine!’ it was just laying there dormant,” Holesko says.

The “it” Holesko is talking about is the potential for a 30 percent (and counting) energy savings since 2005 across more than 10 million square feet of space in hotels in 16 states. The initial goal was to reduce energy costs by upgrading outdated lighting and HVAC systems. Once the recession hit, the efficiency efforts got kicked up a notch to cover efficiency in operations as well as systems.

Holesko used incentive programs and leveraged in-house data tools to achieve year-over-year consumption reductions, and the effort has been recognized by several awards, including a 2012 Energy Star Sustained Excellence award and Building Operating Management’s FMXcellence award this year.

HEI is in good company, as the six 2013 FMXcellence winners all had ambitious projects and programs over large real estate portfolios. In addition to HEI, the 2013 winners are BAE Systems, TD Bank Group, the New York City Department of Education, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Georgia Tech Department of Housing. They all instituted policies and practices that brought profound benefit to their organizations. And none of them started off as grandiose glory-seeking strategies. Simply, each FM department was presented with the option of taking the more challenging path, and each department ran with it. But before the excellent execution and superior results was the moment each department took its first step.

Although Holesko could see the incandescent writing on the wall, it was not so obvious to some of the chief engineers who had been with the properties long before Holesko showed up. At one hotel, the chief politely told him, “No offense, but I think I run a pretty tight ship,” Holesko remembers. That property broke 20 percent savings over the first five years.

To overcome initial resistance, Holesko says he had to show the lifers some short-term success. That came through the lighting and HVAC retrofits, funded with capital dollars. The next step was to get some visibility into the savings, by partnering with a third-party to audit the utility bills starting in 2006 and creating an in-house energy dashboard called the Energy Looking Glass (ELG) in 2008. The ELG normalized for weather, occupancy, and capital projects and is “take-it-to-the-bank accurate,” Holesko says. “Since then it’s been the backbone of our program.”

The chiefs were on board, but to make significant energy gains you need the whole team. Starting with the general managers and moving on to include the four departments that consume the most energy (engineering, kitchen, housekeeping, and banquets), Holesko held incentive programs in each year from 2009 to 2011. The big cultural shift he’d been looking for happened in 2009, Holesko says. Before, it was difficult to get a chef to save energy by thawing a chicken in the refrigerator instead of in the sink with running water. Suddenly, a flat screen TV was in the balance, and that was a different story. Over the three years, Holesko gave away 50 TVs. “It cost me $50,000,” he says, “and it saved me over $2 million.”

Tip: Enforce Energy Set Points

In a multi-property portfolio, thermostat set points can vary by a few degrees, needlessly. “If you have multiple locations and you don’t know what you’re supplying on domestic and chilled water, you are leaving money on the table,” Holesko says. Simply require every property to certify all their temps, and make sure they are supplying what is needed without a 5 degree “just in case” cushion.

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