Myth busters: Is efficiency possible in old buildings?
Originally published on SmartEnergyDecisions.com on August 3, 2017
If your organization is working toward achieving energy efficiency and sustainability goals, it’s important to understand that you can make relatively simple and inexpensive changes to get there. While many business leaders think the path to sustainability lies solely in costly capital projects, organizations continue to successfully implement no-cost and low-cost changes that translate to major savings and sustainability progress. With buildings making up 41% of global energy savings potential by 2035, businesses can impact the triple bottom line (financial performance, social engagement and reduced environmental impact) through small adjustments to their behaviors impacting energy consumption.
Effective Tracking = Effective Management
Tracking energy consumption is a key component to cost-effective energy management. We have worked with numerous organizations that have decreased utility costs by adjusting equipment schedules and modifying occupant behavior – all thanks to timely energy consumption data.
For example, do you have a strong handle on your HVAC schedules? One group we worked with realized their HVAC was running 24/7 (previously unbeknownst to them), so they properly scheduled three rooftop units. In doing so, they reduced overnight energy consumption by more than 70 percent, which was an estimated savings of $15,000 annually. This was a simple change — scheduling can be fixed with one visit from a qualified contractor.
Another example comes from an already efficient Olentangy Local School District in Central Ohio that saved millions of dollars through low-cost and behavior changes. In just one week, tracking efforts identified two potential issues. First, the building’s automation system started air conditioning due to an unusually warm day in early February. The facilities team immediately turned off the air conditioning and used alternative methods to cool the building, but the peak demand day was set— creating unnecessary cost. The building control system settings were then adjusted to not automatically turn on cooling during the winter months, so the situation would not repeat itself.
Next, a commercial dishwasher had a relay that failed, causing the equipment to short-cycle and run unnecessarily. The facilities team identified these issues through real-time monitoring, enabling the school to act quickly to prevent unnecessary costs and energy consumption, rather than retroactively identifying the issue after the utility bill arrived.
Age Doesn’t Matter. Measurement Does.
Many organizations are faced with the challenge of implementing energy and sustainability practices within old buildings. While old systems are often neglected because they are believed ineffective or difficult to operate, it’s actually common for new buildings to be as wasteful with energy consumption as older buildings. Whether they are state-of-the-art or desperately aging, opportunities typically lie within the controls. Once you gain greater management of the controls, benchmark and track your sustainability efforts prior to considering large capital investments for energy efficiency.
Whether your building is new or old, metrics matter. Technology, specifically the emergence of cloud-based software and the Internet of Things, has broken down barriers to tracking energy and sustainability metrics. By creating solid benchmarks from the outset of your program, you can measure your progress, which is critical to a successful ongoing sustainability initiative. Without solid measurement, your organization will lack the data it needs to continue to optimize its utility consumption.
Maintaining energy efficient buildings is no longer only for environmental activists. Business leaders have integrated sustainability into strategic planning as they have seen its positive impact on financial performance, the environment and their company culture. The good news is — success in sustainability is possible with even the smallest, albeit strategic, efforts.