Most folks don’t realize just how easy (and lucrative) energy efficiency improvements in an existing building may be, even for buildings that have undergone audits or retrofits in the past. Our clients are often surprised to find that an energy audit or retro-commissioning program with special focus on actually picking these low hanging fruit, can easily uncover 10-15% or more in no cost and low cost changes alone. This is not to mention the indoor comfort improvements and extensions on equipment life of your vital building systems.

This is often just a matter of knowing what to look for and understanding a building’s systems.  This can either be accomplished with a more basic walk-through audit, or for more complex facilities, by taking a more sophisticated approach to analyzing a building.

As you take stock of your facility, ask the following questions:

– Has the building ever been retro-commissioned?

– Do you receive complaints from building occupants (too hot, too cold, too noisy, etc.)

– Does your facility have occupancy sensor controls?

– Have you completed a lighting systems upgrade in recent years?

– Have you aligned the operating schedules HVAC equipment with the occupants work hours?

– Have you optimized start sequences for HVAC equipment?

– Have you ever optimized the high and low limits for occupant thermostat controls?

Chances are there is lots of room for improvement.  I’ve never audited a building that was 100% perfect, and in an evolving market for energy efficiency there are always ways to make a building more efficient.  Some of the measures are easy and obvious, and some are trickier to identify.  Some of the measures will cost you little or nothing, while some have a price tag.  The important thing to note is that a good audit will arm you with the data you need to make the best decisions that make operational and financial sense for you.

Low Cost / No Cost

In most cases the discovery and implementation of low cost / no cost measures alone will generate enough savings to pay for the cost of an audit in no time.  These are the no-brainer steps that will conserve energy, save money, and increase occupant comfort – all for little or no cost.  Examples of such measures are adjusting schedules and set points, or tuning up a sequence of operations the next time your service contractor visits.

For those of you looking to go even deeper than low cost/no cost changes, there are lots of options available to you.  For example, while low-cost and no-cost measures might save 5-10% annual energy savings, there are often other measures with modest costs which can be bundled with no-cost measures for an aggregate payback of 3-5 years with savings of 30% or more.

Your best bet is to start with a comprehensive energy audit, which will give you the information  you need to put together an energy investment plan which outlines prioritized energy and water efficiency investments along with their projected capital costs, savings, return on investment, and operational impacts. When you have this report in hand don’t let it just sit on the shelf. Take some extra steps out of your normal workflow and implement the measures that make sense. A good energy audit will offer support and leave you with explicit guidance how to carry out each measure.

For more complex facilities with building automation systems, we often recommend our clients use an automated data analytics platform to help gather and organize data.  This approach helps building operators extract value from a data stream which is already available, but otherwise difficult to organize.  Use of such programs help to easily uncover operational inefficiencies, and helps train building staff on methods to detect, diagnose, and resolve performance issues.

Regardless of whether you work with Altura or not, you should take a step back from the day to day operations and ask if there is room for improvement in your facility.

mattMatt Schwartz is a Professional Engineer and Certified Building Commissioning Professional (CBCP).  As an Associate at Altura, he is responsible for leading energy management projects which encompass new construction commissioning, energy modeling, retro-commissioning, and energy auditing.

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