By Kevin R. Brown
Facility management executives can realize dramatic reductions in energy consumption and operating costs by installing high performance equipment. But without proper maintenance and monitoring programs, those cost and consumption reductions could eventually fade away.
Inevitably, the performance of high efficiency equipment will begin to decline due to environmental factors as well as normal wear and tear. Standard efficiency equipment will degrade as well but the performance of high efficiency systems will suffer more rapidly without proper maintenance. Preventive maintenance and monitoring programs are key to ensuring a building’s equipment remains efficient, durable, and exceeds its lifespan.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council, building and facility managers could pay up to 6.5% more for high efficiency construction and equipment compared to conventional buildings and equipment. However, this increased upfront investment could yield lifecycle energy consumption and operational savings of 20% to 50% per year. But with the investment comes the mandate to maintain this high efficiency equipment to assure optimal performance. Some of these high efficiency systems are more complex than standard efficiency equipment and thus often require additional knowledge to maintain and operate. Fully understanding how these systems operate is important when performing maintenance on these systems.
Preventive maintenance programs not only ensure equipment and building systems are running effectively and efficiently, but also help avoid costly downtime, repairs, and early replacement costs. Another key effect when buildings are running inefficiently is that the occupants often suffer due to comfort issues, which can have a negative effect on productivity.
Performance Contracting Helps With Preventive Maintenance
High performance buildings aren’t just limited to new construction. Older buildings can be brought up to high performance building standards through deep energy retrofitting. These services can be provided through programs known as performance contracting or energy retrofit programs.
Performance contracting programs, which are designed as financial solutions to help clients meet technical facility needs and sustainability goals, while reducing energy and operating costs. Regular measurement and verification (M&V) programs are part of performance contracting programs in order to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of high performance equipment.
Performance contracting programs have demonstrated their value time and time again. Examples of facilities that have taken this budget-neutral approach to make building improvements include:
- In the two-phase Southern California Federal Buildings project, 54 energy conservation measures were implemented across several federally-owned buildings. The project replaced and retro commissioned heating and cooling equipment with state-of-the-art systems, such as low-load chillers, upgraded automation controls to regulate energy usage, LED lighting and occupancy control devices to reduce wasted lighting energy, a transformer upgrade, and solar window tinting. The project guarantees savings of at least $48.4 million in energy and operating costs over the next 20 years and to reduce the buildings’ energy use by 38%. Continuous monitoring of the building automation systems was implemented to ensure the high performance systems operate at peak efficiency. When anomalies are seen, action will be taken in a timely manner to ensure guaranteed savings numbers are met.
- In the three-phase Madison County, GA School District project, over 600 HVAC systems and 700 water consuming devices were replaced and upgraded across the district. In addition to the HVAC and water energy conservation measures, over 11,000 lighting fixtures throughout the district and two roofs were replaced. The guaranteed energy savings are expected to total over $12 million in a 15-year period.
- BrandsMart USA was able to make critical infrastructure upgrades, including installing HVAC systems, an enhanced building automation system, energy efficient lighting and a new roof, making it the largest Property Assessed Clean Energy project (PACE Program) on the East Coast in 2015 and the largest ever in Florida and the broader Southeastern United States.
Monitor And Measure For Results
Installing equipment and hoping to get results is no way to operate. Facility managers must monitor and measure their buildings’ outputs on an ongoing basis to identify opportunities for improvement. Understanding how a building system is operating versus how it should operate plays a key role in ensuring energy savings guarantees are met.
There are several ways to monitor a building for efficiency — from simply tracking utility bills through Portfolio Manager by EPA’s Energy Star, to fault detection and diagnostics (FDD), which uses software to analyze performance every five to 15 minutes and notify facility personnel automatically when performance deviates from limits they set. These deviations can include unscheduled runtimes for HVAC equipment or building areas operating outside of set temperature limits. No matter the method, monitoring should always be conducted in high performance buildings.
A preventive maintenance program for a high performance building is like an insurance policy. It’s an investment in protecting and prolonging the life of the equipment and systems and ensuring a building or facility manager’s actions have the greatest impact.
Brown is vice president of engineering at ABM, a provider of facility services with solutions that include electrical and lighting, energy, facilities engineering, and HVAC and mechanical. He actively develops opportunities into self-funding solutions for ABM’s clients and leads a team of energy engineers and project developers who are located throughout the United States. Brown is a Licensed Professional Engineer (LPE) concentrating on energy savings driven performance contracting.