Retrocommissioning Is Often Overlooked Way To Manage Energy Costs

By John Lembo  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Energy Master Plan Can Help Manage Costs On Demand Side, Supply Side Pt. 2: Demand Side Management Helps Cut Energy Consumption, CostsPt. 3: This Page

3. Retrocommissioning. Building systems need to continually be tuned in order to ensure that they perform optimally. Retrocommissioning (RCx) is the systematic process by which mechanical and electrical systems are tested, adjusted, and balanced to produce a building that operates as efficiently as possible and provides a safe, comfortable work environment. The RCx process should also include training on operating and maintenance procedures. Professionals, trained in this skill with qualified certifications from ASHRAE, NEBB, AEE, etc., or licensed professional engineers with many years of experience in building system design and operation are best qualified to perform a comprehensive retrocommissioning.

4. Financial Incentives. Energy projects can be costly but the paybacks, in many cases, make them excellent investments. It never hurts, however, to have additional funding available to help buy down the cost of these projects. The benefit is further enhanced when this funding does not have to be paid back to the provider, as is the case in most utility- and state-funded rebate and incentive programs. Virtually every state has money available to customers for energy efficiency or renewable energy upgrades and installations, for new construction and for existing facilities. Much of this money is funded by the rate payer through what is known as a systems (or in some cases, societal) benefits charge, listed as a line item on the utility bill. Identification of this funding and estimated amounts available for energy conservation projects should be noted as part of the audit.

5. Dashboards and Reporting. At-a-glance dashboards are becoming more prevalent in the energy management realm. A tool that can take data from utility bills or directly from meters, either independently or via the facilities' building management system, helps facility managers to better understand the operation of their buildings. This information can then be represented in metrics that pertain to the business operation and are deemed important to stakeholders such as controllers, CFOs, and occupants. Energy costs directly affect a business's bottom line, so presenting data in a user-friendly format, in reports or on an ad-hoc basis, to financial decision makers is key to determining how capital has been spent. It's also key to showing whether projects are paying back, and critical to optimal operation of a facility — you can't manage what you can't measure and energy reporting is a key component to measurement and verification.

Energy and water use and costs are affected greatly by facility managers' abilities to understand and apply tried and true energy management strategies. It is incumbent upon these business professionals to reach out to experts in the industry and engage them to assist in the development and implementation of a plan that addresses an organization's unique requirements. Facility managers can enhance their influence in an organization by becoming familiar with the nuances of, not only the technical but the financial impact of fuel, water and power and thus provide significant value to any business.

John Lembo, CEA, LEED AP, is vice president with TRC, a national engineering, consulting, and construction management firm. Lembo has more than 25 years of experience in corporate energy management and sustainability, facility operations, and business development. He can be reached at JLembo@trcsolutions.com.

Slow Adoption Of Retrocommissioning As Energy Savings Tool

What percentage of your portfolio has been recommissioned?
None 50%
Some, but less than 10 percent 20%
10 percent but less than 30 percent 14%
30 percent but less than 50 percent 7%
More than 50 percent 9%
Total Respondents = 446Source: BOM Survey

Online Resources

For more information on energy auditing and the basic types of energy audit, please visit: http://1.usa.gov/1p6at8I, which is The US Department of Energy, Building Technologies Program document entitled "A Guide to Energy Audits." Although the title doesn't say so, the document addresses water use as well as fuel and power.

To find out more about demand response, visit
http://1.usa.gov/1ePEzKe or contact your local electric utility representative and inquire about DR programs in your area.

To learn more about retrocommissioning visit the EPA's site that focuses on retrocommissioning:

Search to see if there is funding available in your area at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency:

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  posted on 4/18/2014   Article Use Policy

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