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Building Operating Management

Controls Upgrades: Step 3: Justify the Upgrade

Research is also important for justifying an EMS/BAS upgrade. The experts agree that comparing costs of the new units with savings in consumption, reduced maintenance and repair costs, etc., helps sell upper management on the upgrades.

From earlier projects, Brandywine aggregated cost and consumption-savings data. "We saw the results of the EMS upgrades and were surprised by the relatively short payback periods, the increase in performance and reduced electrical expense," says Cichocki. The earlier data gave Brandywine a performance baseline that showed how much electrical expenses could be reduced while still maintaining tenant comfort. "In one building, we reduced the electrical expense by more than $1.75 per square foot," says Cichocki.

When planning controls upgrades, Brandywine also investigates utility and legislative rebates for installing or retrofitting to more energy efficient equipment.

Brandywine recognizes that controls bring benefits beyond reductions in electrical costs. "The building engineers love it," says Cichocki. "The web-based system takes all the guesswork out of trying to find out what's wrong. You can do 95 percent of the troubleshooting via your computer before you go on the roof or in a tenant space to make the fix."

Control upgrades are also one part of a strategy to increase the number of Brandywine properties that have Energy Star certification.

"We have moved our inventory of Energy Star buildings from six in 2009 to more than 60 owned, managed and joint venture properties, comprising more than 11.6 million square feet of space, and we are not done yet," says Molotsky. "Our goal for 2012 is to increase this number to 75 properties, representing more than 50 percent of the portfolio's square footage."

While controls upgrades sometimes bring quick paybacks, that isn't necessarily the case. Still, just because an upgrade doesn't produce dramatic energy savings in the short term, that doesn't mean the project isn't worth doing. Oklahoma started about three years ago on concerted energy conservation efforts. "We were able to reduce our use by 25 percent," says Cherry. "Now, it's harder to reduce, but we don't want to slip backward. We're installing the new controllers to maintain our savings and even improve them."

Savings may come from the ability to respond quickly to changing business parameters. "For example, our utility company got a rate change approved and we got a 30 day notice," says Cherry. "The new cost structure was a drastic difference from what we had been paying. We needed to implement changes, reprogram controllers so that we would not have our usage increase or our cost increase." The changes enabled the state to avoid spending $30,000 more on higher kilowatt-hour use.

Jim Sinopoli, managing principal of Smart Buildings, is involved in a massive upgrade of legacy controllers at a major health care facility in Ohio. In all, a dozen or so buildings throughout the medical campus are getting new controllers. The replacement budget is $2.5 million. Because the medical facility has stringent health care compliance requirements, upgrading requires careful scheduling so that patient care is not compromised during the upgrade process.

Sinopoli says multiple factors helped justify the upgrade. "Getting parts and maintenance for the older controllers was a problem," says Sinopoli, "so they were cannibalizing older controllers."

Another issue was reliability. In a health care facility, temperature setpoints and humidity controls must be maintained for patient safety. The last thing a health care facility is for the HVAC to falter in the operating suites.

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  posted on 1/13/2012   Article Use Policy

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