Greater understanding.

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If Christmas isn't White and looks a little different, is it still Christmas? 

It is almost time for the biggest shopping day of the year! There are probably some great Black Friday deals out there, but your best deal ever might come from investing in your business. For the life of me, I'll never understand the desire to stand in line at 2am for a new toaster, but to each their own :).  Whether or not you are stimulating the economy this Friday morning, these savings will last and can be a substantial benefits for your business. 

Waiting is sometimes the worst. Have you ever left the movie theatre after watching a “To Be Continued” movie, frustrated you have to wait to see the next part? Do you remember the panic between the release of Harry Potter Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix? We live in a microwave society, and struggle to wait. You maybe be asking yourself, “What's this got to do with my energy bills?” I'm glad you asked!

Sometimes I think the world of “Energy Efficiency” has been built up to a mythical ideology. I don't want to downplay how important it is to hire a processional, but there are some ways, with assistance of a pro, to make efficiency and reducing operating costs much easier. We will cover these over the next few posts, but first we want to start with energy bills. 

We live in a microwave society. We want things 10 minutes ago. Because of this impatience, we not only sacrifice custom products, but also sacrifice trusted relationships with advisers. Gone are the days when you would walk into a butcher's store and get a cut of meat. The butcher knew you and what you liked (after some time) and could make valuable recommendations that made the trip well worthwhile. 
 
Ironically, the cookie cutter experience is not near as rewarding as the custom experience. A great example of this is the purchase of golf clubs. Walk into any sporting goods or big chain store and you can walk out with a set of golf clubs and bag--they probably even have multiple options in stock. Are those clubs the best fit? Time and again, golfers have said they have more enjoyment playing with clubs that are custom fitted to their specifications. “Cookie cutter” is faster and may be lower cost in the short run, but there could be hidden, substantial cost which is almost inevitably paid for the convenience.
 
In the energy efficiency world, it's very easy to recommend cookie cutter solutions and they sound very credible.  Claims for “average savings of up to 50%” or “typical savings of $5,000 per year” sound pretty enticing. Most recommendations are well intentioned and may have some data to back them up, but they leave something lacking. They lack a Greater Understanding of your business and your needs. You don’t have a “typical” or “average” building – and the difference can easily be a deal breaker or a deal maker. Wouldn’t you like to know which is true before putting down your hard-earned money?
 
A trusted, 3rd party expert is able to look at your specific situation without a product bias, and provide focused insight. Just like purchasing golf clubs, isn't it easier to trust a club fitter that sells an assortment of clubs than one that sells just one brand? That same unbiased custom approach should be applied to your building. Your building will work better with solutions tailored specifically to your building. Yes, having a custom energy analysis might cost a little bit more, but you will have greater understanding and confidence that the solutions discussed will fit your  facility the best. 
 
If you’re interested in a complimentary facility walk-thru to kick-start your efficiency savings, email me at jim@buildingperformanceteam.com. 

Why Commissioning shouldn’t just be a checklist 

   
   

 

When we purchase products we usually have basic assumptions about what we will receive. When you order a hot dog, it's common practice to expect a bun and condiments (sometimes we even ask if it comes with “chips and a drink?”). When you purchase a cell phone, you expect the packaging to contain at least a way to charge the phone. We expect these additional benefits when we order basic products, but when we construct a new building, I have the feeling that many owners don’t know what is supposed to be included in the “package”. That can work against them.

Typically a commissioning agent’s (CxA) job is to verify that the equipment is installed as specified in the construction documents. That’s the bare minimum and there is nothing wrong with this approach, assuming that the construction documents are perfectly clear, not only about installation but also how the equipment should run (e.g., HVAC controls). “The devil is in the details” and the details of operation make a dramatic impact, especially on the cost of operation.

Keep in mind that the owner has no idea what to expect regarding energy costs, so they have no idea whether they’re “low”, “just right” or “too high”. The same is true for the contracting team. And it’s often true that the CxA is unaware of the energy impact of various ways to meet the specifications. “Energy-Focused Cx” is a natural extension of BPT’s expertise in the energy world--striving to provide Greater Understanding for all. We know from our experience that certain “levers” in the energy machine have a big impact (for good or for ill). We know that certain strategies always work better at no additional cost. Our energy-focused CxA pays special attention to helping a building function optimally and works with all parties to ensure that … in addition to meeting the project’s specific goals.

We want to take a brief segue here and say that this is where Cx could become contentious with the design or construction teams. They can feel like they are having someone babysit them instead of letting them do their job. The saying goes, “A rising tide raises all ships”, and picking a CxA with that will “assume the best” of all parties, respect them AND add value will make everyone look great. Construction schedules and budgets are very tight, and it is easy for things to be overlooked, communication to be flawed, mistakes to happen. An energy-focused Cx effort will make sure the owner gets the building they deserve, not the bare minimum. Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog…

When commissioning a building, it isn't enough to know just about the equipment being installed, but it is important to know how to optimize it for that facility. This also becomes an issue when a building is being retrofitted for a new purpose, i.e. an old office building becomes a restaurant and nightclub. Making sure the equipment is “tuned” for its use is paramount.

Here are a couple examples from recent projects:

  • At a college in the Midwest, we reviewed construction documents that had a complicated scheme which determined when outdoor air should be used for cooling. We recommended a simpler setup that was easier for the maintenance staff to maintain and used less energy.
  • The same college, had outrageous energy spend on a similar building. We recommended no-cost control enhancements which made sure these problems wouldn't appear at the new building.
  • At a Michigan school, construction documents gave no specific details on how a new boiler and chiller were to work with existing boiler and chiller system, creating a potentially expensive oversight. We recommended a plan that would optimize operating costs for the system and clearly define how the old and new systems should work together.

These are just a handful of examples where we have applied Energy-Focused Cx to help our client in the long term. Not only does this Cx approach reduce energy costs, but often it will cost the owner less to maintain the systems.

We will continue to discuss the benefits of Cx in future blogs. At Building Performance Team, we believe the best way to get a handle on operational costs is by making sure everything functions in the best possible way for the owner. In the meantime, what are some of the best and worst things you have found while commissioning a building?

That's kinda like burning $100 bills

Commissioning (Cx) new buildings is not a new thing. It started in the 1980s and gained traction in the 90s and ignited when LEED certification became popular. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the energy world about why you wouldn’t commission a building. Eaishvarya Sharma wrote a great article about why Cx is important (read it here). The next question is, who benefits from Cx? The answer is: Everyone!

Building Performance Team was formed from a constant desire to understand the Truth. Our core mission is to understand the constantly changing energy ecosystem in unique buildings. We don’t want the understanding solely for our own purposes; we want to pass that understanding on to our customers.

Energy modeling can be very useful. It can also be very mis-leading. We wrote the article below, which appeared in the May 2016 ASHRAE Journal in order to highlight best practices and also potential pitfalls.

The article is copyrighted by ASHRAE 2016 and reprinted here by permission.

 

Business Dictionary defines an energy audit as, “Formal examination process of identification of every energy consuming device in a facility 

 

An energy audit is used to identify where the energy wasters of your building are hiding and our job is eliminate of them. An energy audit can save you money, anywhere from 10%-40% in costs around your building. Energy audits also help your company to reduce its environmental impact. Sustainability is getting a lot of attention in the business world lately but it can be hard knowing how to involve it in your operations.

 

Energy Audits are great because they provide you with the tools you need to make sustainable changes while saving more money. Here are the ways in which energy audits help promote sustainability

 

  • Improved Air Quality: Audits can reveal issues with insulation, ventilation, and other factors that affect overall air quality. This improves the work environment for your employees and ensures better air quality surrounding your facilities too.

  • Efficient HVAC Systems: HVAC work takes highly skilled professionals like BPT because these systems are complex. When properly updated and maintained, a series of benefits are created for the environment. One of these is an increase in employee health, with less bacteria, mold, pollen and fewer viruses in the air. Utility rebates are also usually available for energy efficient systems, so you get paid to save money and the environment! It is a win-win you can’t deny.

 

Imagine a workplace conducive to productivity, comfort, and efficiency. Sustainability is a way to get the most out of your resources by enhancing efficiency. An energy audit can bring out hidden potential in your building. However, as you can see it is not only an investment in your building but an an investment in the health of your employees and environment as well. Energy audits are a great way to gain control over your operations.

If you are interested in energy auditing and other specialized utilities services, contact Building Performance Team by calling 616-643-7724.

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