In the fall of 2011, a new consortium, led by Ygrene Energy Fund (Santa Rosa, CA) and including Lockheed Martin and Barclays Bank among others, was announced with its goal to reduce the energy consumption of buildings located in the areas of Miami and Sacramento.
For its part, the consortium planned to invest as much as $650 million over the following few years focusing primarily on older commercial properties.
The process they planned to use included capitalizing on a tax incentive which enabled property owners to upgrade their buildings at no upfront costs in order to achieve an estimated1/3 reduction in their building’s energy use.
Under the plan, the property owners would pay for their building’s upgrades over the subsequent 5-20 year period, applying surcharges on their property tax bills which would be less than the savings achieved. The consortium and its plan now underway were hailed by government officials as an excellent way to help address the nation’s prevailing problem of older buildings and their energy waste.
We too applaud this concept and see it as a viable option for other regions in the country including New York which has an abundance of aging buildings. Even with newer buildings, many were constructed with the wrong priority of achieving the lowest first cost. There was minimal regard for the building’s long-term operations and related costs, which are often unknown to the new owner/occupant.
Every building can achieve significant improvements in their energy efficiency, air quality, occupants’ comfort and safety, while earning an excellent return on investment (ROI) for their owners. This ROI includes reducing their building’s energy consumption by 20-30%. The measures are neither as exhaustive nor costly as many property owners believe and will deliver a high ROI.
The right approach recognizes that every building has multiple systems (i.e., heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting and security systems), all of which are operated with different mechanisms (i.e., switches are used to turn lights on and off, thermostats control HVAC units, etc.). Consider how a building’s operation can be streamlined and its energy consumption reduced by leveraging leading-edge technologies to integrate and control building systems.
A building automation system (BAS) can be used to automate and integrate all of a building’s systems. Consisting of a network of hardware and software, a BAS is designed and programmed to create an intelligent network which gives property owners and facility managers control over their building operations.
Owners can capture and monitor key building data including: energy usage, building systems run time, systems maintenance, alarms and even employees’ time and attendance records, among other important criteria. When used to its full functionality, a BAS will significantly lower a building’s operating and utility costs concurrent with generating higher occupant comfort, productivity and safety. To accomplish this objective, the BAS system must integrate with the owner and occupants needs and skills.
A BAS delivers maximum benefit to building owners when used in conjunction with other advanced technologies, for example:
- Intelligent lighting controls detect motion, sound and ambient light to determine whether lights should be on in various rooms or parts of a building at various times.
- Variable frequency drives (VFDs) enable a BAS to vary the speeds of a building’s HVAC system’s fans and pumps which are used to heat and cool a building (faster speeds for higher demands, lower speeds when demand is low). By controlling component speeds, unnecessary wear and tear is avoided for a longer equipment life span, and operating and utility costs are reduced exponentially.
- Sophisticated building security systems such as Internet Protocol (IP) Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance systems can be integrated via the BAS with other building systems such as intelligent lights to improve building security with enhanced security breach event management and staff productivity.
In November 2011, the “Energy Benchmarking Report for New York City Municipal Buildings” was published. It presented how the City’s municipal buildings (i.e., schools, courthouses, medical offices, warehouses and offices) were performing against national averages in terms of their energy efficiency and carbon reduction strategies.
The study found that the buildings, on average, performed near the national level, but that “…there is still much work to be done to achieve the City’s greenhouse gas reduction goal of 30% by 2017.”
he report presents a list of all the buildings audited, along with each building’s “Current Source Energy Intensity” (kBtu/Sq.Ft.) and its “Current Total GHG Emissions” (MtCO2e) mtCO2e. It reflects how much more building owners – both in the public and private sector – can do to reduce their carbon footprints, lower their energy costs, and help advance the national initiative to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Applying state-of-the-art technologies with other prudent green measures (i.e., energy efficient windows and appliances, daylighting and renewable energy solutions such as solar), building owners can contribute significantly to the greening of New York, while realizing many benefits including lower operating costs.