Evaluate Use of Building Machinery to Save Energy

By Casey Laughman, Managing Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Building Operations Are First Place to Look to Improve Energy PerformancePt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Facility Energy Efficiency Efforts Start With DataPt. 4: Ernst & Young Plaza Scores Big With LEED-EBOM

Another good starting point is looking at the use of basic building machinery before trying to dig deep into set points or strict lighting schedules, says Rafael Mendez, building manager, General Services Administration. Mendez' building, the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr., U.S. Courthouse in Miami, has cut more than $1 million in energy costs as part of the pilot of GSA's Energy Shave program.

"One of the things I noticed first was we have three escalators from the lobby to the 5th floor," Mendez says. "We had them operating most of the day and they weren't heavily used." The escalator schedule has been revised to run from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with exceptions made when necessary, such as when a new jury pool comes in, Mendez says.

Keeping a close eye on usage by examining utility bills can also help spot problems. Brenna Walraven, managing director, USAA Real Estate Co., experienced this when one of USAA's buildings was using a baffling amount of energy, yet the energy management system showed nothing wrong.

"What was happening is there were several faulty relays, so the EMS would send out 'turned off' signals. In actuality the building was running nonstop," she says. "It literally cost about a couple hundred bucks to replace those and saved us about 10 percent."

Scheduling the building systems properly can pay off as well, says David Gray, central office building management specialist, General Services Administration. Gray, who leads the Energy Shave project, says that even if you have buildings in varying climates, they probably share the common problem of being turned on too early. So don't be afraid to re-evaluate when buildings are coming on, even in areas with more extreme weather.

"There may be a 15 to 20 minute difference between a building coming on in New York and a building coming on in Miami, but the variation isn't that much for the different weather patterns," he says.

Training Is Essential

Energy management systems (EMS) and building automation systems (BAS) continue to offer more bells and louder whistles as technology evolves. But simply installing a new EMS or BAS doesn't mean savings will magically appear.

"The building systems will be dumbed down to the level of the least-trained person who works on those systems," says Wayne Robertson, president, Energy Ace. "So you can put in a $25,000 building automation system that will knock your socks off. It'll do everything but dust your floor for you, but if you've got a person there who is the kind of guy who uses a hammer and vice grips to fix everything, then it's going to be dumbed down to his level and (energy-using systems are) probably going to be on 24 hours a day. You need to accompany that building automation system with training."

Training is critical not only for day-to-day operations, but for ensuring systems are scheduled properly and days off are accounted for, says Frank Santella, director of smart and sustainable buildings, GSA. One focus of GSA lately has been trying to take full advantage of the information-sharing and scheduling available from having EMS/BAS in place.

"Why don't we run a report on all the buildings on the day after a holiday and see who ran the building on a holiday?" he says. "That's going to tell us that somebody didn't change the BAS schedule."

Another area where GSA has had success is in buy-in from building occupants, reinforcing that if you stick to your operations plan, those in the building will be more willing to help out how they can.

"Our security guards and our employees come and say to me, 'Hey, you've got these lights on,'" Mendez says. "They come and remind me of things" that are out of the ordinary.

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  posted on 10/5/2012   Article Use Policy

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