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Building Operating Management

5-Year Plan Delivers Energy Savings, Stable ROI





Every building owner or investor, whether engaged in a quick flip or in for a long-term hold, is looking for a return on investment (ROI). But the owner who is taking a long-term view of the property — whether an investor, a private sector owner-occupier, or a unit of government — has to consider a wide range of factors that contribute to stable and enduring ROI. Energy savings is a key to ROI, of course. But for the long-term owner, it is crucial for a facility to be, not only energy efficient, but also healthy, comfortable, and functional for all its inhabitants. Careful planning can ensure that in-vestments in building systems not only lower operating costs, but also promote productivity and ultimately deliver the desired ROI.

The best way to achieve those goals is by creating a five-year strategic capital plan to guide investments. While planning at least a minimum of a year in advance is recommended for any capital improvement project, the five-year strategic capital plan allows owners to layer operational improvements and equipment upgrades, ultimately creating a cascading effect that enables the owner to maximize energy efficiency.

A well-thought-out five-year plan has another advantage: It enables the owner to minimize repair costs and to replace items before they fail. That approach gives the owner the opportunity to identify the best option for replacement of aging systems, to get the best prices on the work, and also to minimize tenant disruption.

The foundation for the five-year capital plan is a three-step process that ensures the owner will capture the best value for investments in energy efficiency. Using this approach, the owner starts small and moves up through a strategically planned hierarchy of system improvements.

Five-Year Plan is Helping Chicago High-Rise Cut Energy Use

Built in 1974, the 575,897-square-foot high-rise at 125 S. Wacker in Chicago’s Loop financial district had an aging mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP) infrastructure. A five-year capital plan was developed that would both appeal to tenants and meet the owner’s long-term energy expenditure goals. Instead of just changing out each piece of equipment or system for its most updated version, a path was created for the renovations based on a cascading ROI.

Currently halfway into the five-year master plan, the MEP upgrades aim to reduce the energy expenditure of the building by 50 percent over the course of the five years while increasing the building’s reliability and occupancy comfort and reducing its operating costs — all while fully occupied.

The 125 S. Wacker upgrades began with the building’s control system in order to maximize efficiencies as the rest of the new MEP equipment was brought online. Subsequently, new boilers, a chiller plant upgrade and the addition of VAV equipment was championed, all allowing the building to heat and cool its spaces based on actual occupancy numbers, providing variable and part-load performance abilities.

Still on the docket for the second half of 125 S. Wacker’s five-year plan: an area cooling tower upgrade, the addition of integrated controls and sensors for the building’s lighting system and more. Currently, two years into the five-year strategic plan, 125 S. Wacker has raised its Energy Star rating by 12 percent and counting.

“It’s really about understanding the building as the asset of our client. We needed to bring in the appropriate tools, technologies and mechanical systems to achieve that,” says William Schuch, senior vice president, midwest regional engineering manager, Jones Lang LaSalle, property manager for 125 S. Wacker. “Tying that all together with a global vision will help them achieve where they want this asset to be in five to seven years: to be fully leased and to be energy-efficient, comparable to other buildings of its type.”

— David P. Callan


posted on 12/21/2014

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