The InterContinental San Francisco sits glittering like sunlight on the bay in the downtown SoMa neighborhood. The hotel was built in 2007 to California's Title 24, among the most stringent energy efficiency standards in the country. Imagine, then, the reaction Harry Hobbs, area director of engineering at Intercontinental Hotels Group, got when six months after opening he started campaigning for a retrocommissioning effort at the luxury hotel.
"Everybody thought I was crazy," Hobbs says. But Hobbs has opened more than 5 million square feet of commercial space and four hotels in his career, and he knew better than to think "new" equaled "perfect."
"Current construction practices are subject to value engineering at any time," Hobbs says. "And our building wasn't any different than many other buildings that get built. Unless you have deep pockets, you're likely to find that some of the initial design intent gets parked by the wayside because of the timeline or budget constraints."
Though it took a bit of persuading to get going, Hobbs prevailed in getting the process underway in the 11th month of the warranty and started unearthing saving after saving for the hotel. To begin with, the retrocommissioning investigation led Hobbs' team to be able to claim in warranty 28 considerable omissions that weren't addressed during the punch process, Hobbs says.
During the first year of operation, Hobbs was careful to operate the building exactly as it was handed to him, in order to establish a baseline of energy use. Through improvements discovered by the retrocommissioning, in the second year of operations, the hotel was able to save 16 percent in electricity costs and 25 percent in natural gas costs from that baseline.
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