Energy Efficiency in Buildings: A Guide for Facilities Managers

//Energy Efficiency in Buildings: A Guide for Facilities Managers

Energy Efficiency in Buildings: A Guide for Facilities Managers

The title of facilities manager implies monitoring a number of building processes with the goal of having everything run smoothly and efficiently. However, the title does not allude to the purpose of a facilities manager. Buildings that a facility manager supervises offers space for businesses, organizations, and brands in shared office spaces, but more importantly they house people. So, while a facilities manager’s title keys into their daily responsibilities, it rarely highlights who their service benefits.

That being said, facilities managers are now being tasked with improving energy efficiency. Energy efficiency measures first began being implemented in the state of California during the mid-1970’s. That movement has continued over the past five decades to the point where the term energy efficiency has become enveloped into the term of ‘green building.’ Green buildings have become synonymous with energy efficiency with the basic understanding being that these are cost-saving measures. Although it’s true that these methods do save building owners and managers a great deal in operational costs, the human element is often lost in figures. To elaborate, let’s start with a clear understanding of energy efficiency.

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As defined by the U.S. Green Building Council,

Using less energy to accomplish the same amount of work. Getting the most work per unit of energy is often described as a measure of energy intensity. Common metrics for buildings and neighborhoods include energy use per square foot and use per capita.

As explained by the USGBC, energy efficiency is measured in units of square footage. Again, this is correct, but continues to undercut the human element. What is meant by the human element?

By establishing that building occupants create the need for a facilities manager, it’s easier to understand the symbiotic relationship between a manager and occupant. The building is merely the medium where these two subjects interact and conduct their business. By folding in energy efficiency measures into building caretaking, a manager uses best practices to protect their occupants.

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HVAC experts Green Air EnvironmentalTM understand that humans/consumers underscore every business’ motivation. Subsequently, they understand from a more granular perspective how energy efficiency measures affect both a building managers and its occupants success.

That is why Green Air has adapted its own version of the United Nations Energy Efficiency in Buildings Guide. Its version of the guide focuses primarily on HVAC air exchange functions that impede energy efficiency and occupant health. However, the points below provide a simple outline of actionable measures to help facilities managers confidently tackle the process of becoming energy efficient through HVAC systems.

To begin with, the first step toward energy efficiency is tracking your usage. Monitoring your energy consumption by reading your meters is an overarching process underscored by a series of sub-processes:

  1. Establish an Energy Consumption Benchmark
  2. Implement No-cost Measures
  3. Implement Low-cost Measures
  4. Assess Medium-cost Measures
  5. Prioritize Implementation

The chain of energy measurement operates in a cyclical manner, continuously updating itself as you add new data. Monitoring your consumption for a calendar year will reveal seasonal energy usage, trends and spikes. Two years worth of tracking will reveal major changes in your consumption, equipment efficiency, and seasonal climate trends/spikes.

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Why Focus on Energy Efficiency?

The bullet points below derive from a United Nations energy efficiency guide for building owners/managers.

  • Economic: Energy is not a fixed-cost, so by implementing energy efficiency measures are available which are simple to implement and have a good payback time.
  • Security: Global energy prices are rising as demand outstrips conventional supply, improving energy efficiency now will give you first mover advantage, and pay dividends in the future by ensuring your operational security.
  • Environmental: Saving fossil fuel energy cuts the greenhouse gas emissions associated with business operations, helps demonstrate green credentials to UN’s shareholders, and helps to meet ISO14001 commitments.

Far too often, Green Air has met clients without an established Preventative Maintenance [PM] schedule, who experience frequent HVAC failure. This typically alerts them to greater problems i.e. a lack of energy measurement. The compounded problems of a lacking energy management system correlates to compounded HVAC and Air Handler Unit problems. Seasonal conditions can warped, clog and weather HVAC system components housed outdoors. This affects the system overall causing it to operate with reduced efficiency and causing greater energy consumption. Ultimately, it can lead to complete equipment failure. To avoid the hefty cost of purchasing a new HVAC unit, it’s best to put into practice a few simple procedures that will not only extend the life of your unit, but reduce your energy footprint.

Green Air on Energy Management

1. Consumption Tracking

“The first maxim of energy management is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, thus establishing a baseline of energy use should be your top priority as a facilities manager.” Without an established baseline, you’ll never know from month-to-month whether a change has occurred. Keeping a record of your monthly energy statement is the first step in discovering trends in your consumption, but more importantly whether or not your HVAC unit is operating at maximum efficiency. It’s worth noting that extreme climate changes may drastically affect your energy consumption. Duly noted, it’s important to check your meters yourself as well to see if the device readings are distorted due to equipment failure.

2. Implementing Low-cost, No-cost Measures

The next step requires implementing ‘no cost’ and ‘low cost’ measures. No-cost measures tend to be free, requiring only a small payment of your time while low-cost measures are will pay for themselves within a foreseeable six month time frame. An example of a no-cost measure is checking your meters weekly and tracking your energy statement monthly. A low-cost measure would be investing in a spreadsheet or database service to perform analytics on your data.

Energy efficiency, Windows, HVAC, Indoor Air Quality, Green building, Energy efficiency, Green Air Environmental3. Implementing Medium-cost Measures

Following suit are ‘medium-cost measures, which with proper implementation and budgeting will pay for themselves in less than two years. An example of a medium-cost measure would be installing energy-efficiency windows. “Lease renewal negotiations are an ideal time to request energy efficiency changes, as landlords may prefer a small capital spend to keep a tenant rather than risk an empty building.” – USGBC

4. Developing a Building Portfolio

Track your consumption to develop detailed building portfolio for future decision-making. Also, in the event of construction project, a portfolio is a benchmark to estimate cost-effective measures.

Energy efficiency, Air condenser unit, HVAC, Indoor Air Quality, Green building, Energy efficiency, Green Air Environmental5. Creating a Preventative Maintenance Schedule

Lastly, monitor your energy consumption and track your savings to develop a detailed energy efficiency plan. Compare meter readings on a quarterly basis against previous data to discover whether energy consumption has decreased/increased. A spreadsheet is a major asset in monitoring your progress. Additionally, these findings can ultimately be used to create PM schedule which can be the impetus for performing an Indoor Air Quality [IAQ] Test.

Green Air EnvironmentalTM is a certified, award-winning team of HVAC experts with extensive knowledge creating the highest IAQ possible. Green Air works with over 70 hospitals in the southeast, K-12 schools, colleges/universities, public, and privately owned buildings. To better understand cost-benefits of energy efficiency for building managers, contact Green Air by clicking here.