The ABC’s of Efficient Building Operation
There are many local utility programs available which provide financial incentives to assist building owners with the cost of energy audits, benchmarking and retro-commissioning.
Building Energy Audits are a comprehensive study of all the energy consuming systems within a building. An energy audit includes making a complete inventory of the major systems and equipment within the building together with the age and condition of all major plant items such as boilers, chillers, pumps and fans. The systems are checked for leaks and the equipment is tested to measure efficiency.
An energy audit includes a list of energy conservation measures which are recommended for the building along with details of the cost to install, any grants or incentives which are available from the local utility companies and simple payback calculations.
Benchmarking your building’s energy usage allows you to know how your building is actually performing in comparison with other buildings of a similar type. Building details such as the size, occupancy, type and operating hours are entered into the benchmarking software along with the building's location. Electricity, gas, heating oil, district steam and water bills for the previous 12 months are then added and an Energy Star score of between 1 and 100 is produced for the building.
The consumption data is normalized for weather and the location then evaluated on a per square foot basis against thousands of other properties of a similar type across the country.
Buildings which achieve a benchmarking score above 75 are eligible for Energy Star certification.
Retro-commissioning is equivalent to minor corrective action – similar to a tune up of your car. Air and water flow rates are measured around the building to check that all the systems are circulating as they were designed to. Heating and cooling setpoints and schedules are checked to ensure that energy is not being wasted by overheating or overcooling the building, or that the building systems are not operating when the building is unoccupied. Light levels are checked to see if areas are overlit and energy could be saved by turning off or removing light fixtures.
Studies have shown that annual energy costs can be reduced by 10% - 20% following a retro-commissioning study of a building with no major capital expenditure projects required to replace pieces of equipment.