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Building Operating Management

Sustainability Program Must Account For Tenant Behavior





Most areas of a sustainability program can and will be affected by tenant behavior, including complaints. While individual tenants may have some flexibility in how warm or cool they keep their space, they usually don't have the final say on how the building is heated or cooled. But, in an effort to ensure that tenants get the desired temperatures, property managers commonly make the mistake of basically letting them have the final say by not wanting to risk complaints.

Bergman points out that deviating from the sustainable operations plan can bring big expenses with it. On one building that Terrus consulted on, "the building engineers really wanted to minimize any temperature complaints," he says. "So they were basically letting heating and cooling run at the same time; rather than sequencing — making sure you're delivering the right temperature to the right space at the right time — it was just everything pretty much running all out all the time." By revamping the system's operation to avoid that, the building knocked 30 percent off its annual electric bill.

In addition to deviating from the plan, Skodowski points out that oftentimes the plan itself is flawed when it comes to when the building is in operation.

"'What time do I start the building?' is still one of the most common things we miss across the board," he says. "When we go into buildings and we do assessments or audits, invariably the building's just running too long. It's running on Saturdays, it's running on Sundays, we're starting the building at four o'clock in the morning so we can be comfortable by 8."

Starting the building too early is grounded in solid logic: Occupancy starts at, for example, 8 a.m., so the building has to be heated or cooled by then; otherwise, the staff spends all morning responding to temperature complaints. But do the math on how much you could save in energy costs by starting the building at 5 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.

Or, Skodowski says, how about this: How much could you save by starting the building at 7:15 a.m.? Educating the building staff on just how late the building can be started can lead to big savings. But it requires re-examining the standard operating procedure.

"How do I make sure that you as a building engineer understand that you have enough capacity — fan capacity, chiller capacity, pump capacity, cooling tower capacity — to cool this building down in 45 minutes?" he says.

The catch, which he says applies to "99.9 percent" of the buildings he assesses: If the first thing you do when the fans come on is start bringing in outside air, you can't get the building cooled down that quickly. You need to make sure that outside air and exhaust are both closed so that the only air being cooled is the recirculated air inside. Then, if occupancy starts at 8 a.m., start bringing in outside air at 7:45 a.m.

An idea like this is pretty radical compared to the conventional way of doing things. So, Skodowski says, start slowly to help bolster your case.

"Peel back 15 minutes a day," he says. "Just peel back 15 minutes a day every week for four weeks, and see if you have any complaints."


posted on 8/15/2012

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