4  FM quick reads on Energy Efficiency

1. How To Make Data-Based Decisions

Today's tip is about how facility managers can use data to make decisions. Facility managers are probably well familiar with the idea that "you can't manage what you can't measure." That may be true, but to truly manage, that maxim should be expanded upon a bit. Really, "you can't manage what you can't measure, analyze and make decisions as a result of."

Some facility managers think simply collecting data is enough. They think, "Well, now that I'm measuring this, if a problem ever arises, now I'll have the data to investigate." That's too passive, most experts would say. Only collect data if you can be sure you have a way to analyze it with a specific goal in mind - reducing energy use or lowering your space-per-occupant standard, for instance.

Let's take a look at an example: Rob Pearlman, who is the senior facilities and administration officer at International Finance Corporation, a Washington D.C., based member of the World Bank Group, has been running an experiment at the company's 1.2 million square foot headquarters. He uses his building automation system to tweak setpoints in particular areas of the building, and then tracks complaint calls into his facilities help desk to determine if the new setpoint is to hot or too cold for the occupants. If complaint calls don't fall outside of an already-carefully-monitored threshold, Pearlman leaves the setpoint and then begins tracking how much energy the new setpoint saves. It's a brilliant strategy to squeeze every last ounce of energy out of a building that is already at a 94 Energy Star rating.

Health care facility managers may be familiar with this concept, which they call evidence-based design or evidence-based management. It's a concept that facility managers would do well to become familiar with and implement in their own organizations.

2.  Considering The Energy To Make a Product in a Life-Cycle Assessment

Today's tip is about how to consider the energy required to make a product - otherwise known as its embodied energy - in an environmental life-cycle assessment.

These days, facility managers are considering more than just how products perform after they're installed in their buildings. To accurately calculate the Scope 3 emissions - or indirect emissions in the sort of miscellaneous category - facility managers need to know the embodied energy of the products they put in their buildings.

The most systematic way to do that is by conducting an environmental life-cycle assessment for all products that are installed in a building. This means looking at every phase of a product - from how it is manufactured, to its useful life in the facility, to what happens to the product when it's useful life is over.

Embodied energy is a key tenet of this environmental life-cycle assessment. Embodied energy is the energy required from a product's raw material extraction, through its manufacturing process, to its delivery and installation in a building. Products in the same class with lower embodied energy signify that those manufacturers have themselves committed to being energy efficient in their processes, thus reducing the product's footprint on the environment. Often times, building products with lower embodied energies are also less expensive, because the manufacturer's energy waste isn't being tacked on to the price of the product. So it's a win-win: A similar quality product that required less energy to produce and at a lesser cost.

An important caveat, however, is that facility managers must examine all aspects of a product's life cycle and weigh the different pwerformance criteria against each other. It'd be hard to argue that a product with a low embodied energy that only lasts for five years and must be replaced is more environmentally responsible than one with a bit higher embodied energy that lasts for 50.

3.  A Look At New Energy Incentives

Today's tip is about relatively new types of rebate and incentive programs facility managers can take advantage of. According to Lindsay Audin, president of EnergyWhiz, four types of efficiency and incentive programs offer money for various efficiency or renewable strategies.

The first is natural gas efficiency and fuel switching. Because the price of natural gas has come down relative to oil, incentives have popped up to raise gas-use efficiency, replace electric equipment with gas systems and switch from oil to natural gas, which emits about 30 percent fewer carbon emissions for the same heat output.

Secondly, feed-in tariffs for on site renewable energy generation are gaining support. Common in Europe, a feed-in tariff is a fee paid by the utility to the end user for every kWh fed back into the grid. As opposed to a one-time rebate or grant, this gives facility managers a constant stream of revenue from their investment in renewable energy.

A third is demand response. Facility managers are probably well-familiar with these agreements with utilities to reduce load when called upon to do so. Now available in more than 20 states, demand response programs are becoming more prevalent with the advent of smart meters and real-time pricing.

Finally, tax incentives spelled out in the federal stimulus and recently extended by the tax bill can continue to help facility managers with energy efficiency investments. Tax deductions in the Energy Policy Act of 2007 of up to $1.80 are still in play, as well. And President Obama has promised to continue work on a national energy policy with further incentives for efficiency.

For a more comprehensive look at tax incentives and other monetary assistance, visit www.energytaxincentives.org.

4.  Water Treatment Demand Planning and Ongoing Attention

Today's tip comes from James Piper, contributing editor for Building Operating Management: Water treatment programs require careful planning and ongoing attention if they are to provide the benefits that they are capable of providing.

Experienced facility managers realize the importance of water treatment programs for HVAC systems. Although water treatment programs are unglamorous, they help ensure that HVAC systems operate at peak efficiency by keeping heat transfer surfaces clean and free of scale. They also help to maximize the life of the equipment and enhance safety, protecting both staff and equipment.

Water treatment might seem to be nothing more than adding chemicals to water. But in reality effective water treatment must be part of a program.

For example, water treatment efforts will require installation of specialized equipment, generally including chemical feeders, monitoring sensors and sampling ports. Once this equipment has been installed, it should be monitored. Water samples must be taken and analyzed, typically weekly, to determine the contaminants that are present in the water and their concentrations. And adjustments will have to be made in the program to match changing water conditions.

Facilities have the option of implementing the program in-house or contracting all or part of the program out to firms that specialize in water treatment. If in-house personnel are used, it is essential that they be fully trained in all of the procedures involved in the water treatment program, including the safe handling of chemicals used in the program. If the program is contracted out, it is important that a qualified contractor be selected, one that is experienced in working with systems similar to the ones in the facility. Regardless of the method of implementation, the staff responsible for water treatment should be monitored and supported by the facility manager to ensure that proper procedures are being followed.


Energy Efficiency , Managing With Data

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