Centralizing Energy Management in City of Boston Buildings

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Todd Isherwood Transforming City of Boston's Energy StrategiesPt. 2: Library Energy Project Replaced Outmoded SystemsPt. 3: This PagePt. 4: Making Retrocommissioning a PriorityPt. 5: Boston's EPC, PPA Plans Have Potential Big Impact

Part of Todd Isherwood's goal of standardizing building management system protocols across the city departments includes what was his biggest project over the course of 2014: procuring and installing an enterprise energy management system across the city's portfolio of buildings that will centralize energy management. Another important initiative was studying how to integrate energy efficiency into the capital planning process.

Isherwood says he has three goals for the new energy management system. First, the system will help Isherwood measure and monitor not only energy use, but also energy cost over the whole of the city's 2,700 utility accounts. Secondly, the system will help track progress on the city's greenhouse gas reduction goals. And finally, the system will help track the effectiveness of energy projects — again matching project intent with long-term operational efficiency.

The first goal is one that Isherwood has spent a lot of time on in the last few years, entering data for 321 buildings into Energy Star's Portfolio Manager to begin benchmarking city buildings. But, he says, there's still a lot of data missing. "If there's a hiccup in utility billing, it really messes up the data." So Isherwood hopes he can expand his staff of two by one person whose charge will be working on energy data management and Portfolio Manager. "We have a lot of work to do," he says. "The goal is aggregating all our energy use into one database. That'll be huge."

But you have to crawl before you can walk. Isherwood says the progress they've made so far on compiling energy data has allowed energy to be seen as more of a priority both among the city's budgeting folks and with the facility managers with whom he works closely.

"Both energy cost impact and climate preparedness considerations are now factors in the capital planning process," says David Sweeney, Boston's chief of finance and budget.

That ties into another major project Isherwood completed in 2014: an eight-month study on the capital planning process. "We determined how to integrate energy efficiency into the capital planning process," he says. He and his team did this by compiling energy profiles for each building consisting of energy use, capital projects requested and needed, age of building, age of equipment, etc. Now they can benchmark buildings against one another, see which need the most work, and identify where spending money has the most impact. The enterprise energy management system, he says, has been great for helping build energy profiles of individual buildings, which then show where requested capital projects can have the greatest impact.

Understanding Energy Use

In total, making these building profiles and collecting data feed into what Isherwood has been trying to do since he started with the city: better understand how the city's buildings use energy. From the beginning, retrocommissioning and energy audits have been a focus of Isherwood's plans. "At first, we were just doing audits to determine low-hanging-fruit projects, and we had to spend time educating facility managers and budget managers on their benefits," he says. But as Isherwood has built a more complete picture of the city's buildings, the data is beginning to pay dividends.

Once an audit on a building is completed, "we can begin to correlate hard- and soft-cost budget numbers," he says. "We can actually put into our capital planning process numbers as a line item. Then the powers that be can make informed decisions."

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  posted on 2/4/2015   Article Use Policy

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