building energy consumption

Energy Audits of Small Government Buildings

A walk through audit is just that--walking through a building, looking for quick and easy ways to save energy.  You're not looking to see if the occupancy sensor in a room needs to be relocated, but rather finding obvious energy-saving measures.  And when performed after benchmarking your building(s), you can save time and money by only auditing buildings that have a really high energy foot print for the type of building it is.  Here at SJVCEO we benchmark A LOT of small government buildings, so we have a pretty good sense of how much energy a City Hall of a certain size consumes here in the San Joaquin Valley.  Or a fire station, or even a police station.  And the more similar facilities we benchmark, the stronger our case is when we say “This building needs an audit. Here’s where it falls on the spectrum of similar facilities in the San Joaquin Valley.”  Wouldn't you like to know if you should be keeping up with the Joneses?  Or, what if you are the Joneses?
The first part of performing a walk through audit is to gather up all the information and equipment you may need before you walk in.  That includes:
  • An energy consumption chart of the past 12 month of energy consumption.  It may help you identify and/or confirms problems in the building.
  • Satellite imagery.  How large is the building?  Does it have an attached parking lot?  How many rooftop units might you encounter?  Google Streetview can help you here too.
  • The building's floor plan.  If you're marking potential energy-saving measures, you'll want to note where they are.  Also, so you don't get lost!
  • A camera phone.  An iPhone takes really pictures, has a built-in flash, and is thin enough to fit around tight corners.  And sometimes, the zoom is pretty decent too.
  • A light meter.  How much light hits the surfaces that are to be illuminated?  Is it enough, too much or not enough?  Ensuring there's the right amount of light hitting surfaces can reduce your energy consumption and/or increase office productivity.
  • A fluorescent ballast checker.  A T-8 lamp may look energy efficient, but it could be running on a magnetic ballast, known to consume more energy than necessary.  Using one of these lets you find out if they are without opening up the fixture.
  • A clipboard and paper.  You may not have a surface available to write on, and you'll definitely be taking notes along the way.
  • Typical energy consumption breakdown for the building's use.  You can go to the California End Use Survey (CEUS) website, which will show you on average how much each end use (lighting, cooling, heating) consumes for a type of building. The charts it produces help you focus your efforts by identifying where the largest amount of energy goes.
    Lighting, office equipment, and air conditioning
    are the largest consumers of energy
    in San Joaquin Valley small offices. Source: CEUS
Once you're in the building, you'll want to talk to individuals how may know the most about how the building operates.  When does the lights come on?  Who turns off and on the thermostat?  Speaking of thermostats...

Be sure to record the schedule and temperature settings of the thermostats.  Workers don't like to be uncomfortable, so the settings they plug into it might indicate a lot.  If they have the cooling temperature set really low, that might indicate a failing compressor or vents located in the wrong places.  You may not be able to point out a fix, but the building operators should definitely know to consider looking more into it.

Also, the schedule might be off!  Maybe it comes on 2 hours before work starts, or stays on longer than it needs to.  A lot of City Halls also hold City Council meetings at night, but typically not weekends, and especially not every night.  Those changes are quick and painless, and result in instant and often impressive savings.

Look in the cubicles.  Are there smart power strips?  Often overlooked, but employees aren’t at their desk all the time. If there’s nothing to turn off auxiliary devices when their space is vacant, there’s some additional savings.  While you're there, ask if the computers go to sleep or into hibernation automatically.  If they don't, there's even more savings there too!

Look for occupancy sensors in areas that aren't occupied often, like bathrooms and conference rooms, and especially Council chambers.  Lights in those areas are often left on longer than they need to be, and can be easily retrofitted for quick savings.

Take a look outside, too.  Some building-attached lighting can be really inefficient, and even more so if they are on an indoor switch.  Changing them to a photo sensor or time clock can save a lot of money without a lot of headache.  Even more can be saved by switching to LED.  The same goes for parking lot lights.  Their long run hours make for a quick payback, even if the building is on a time-of-use rate.

Once you're finished tallying up all the measures, you'll want to calculate how much each will save. Some will be easier (like lighting) than others.  Energy rates can be found on their respective utility company's website, or you can use a general Annual Consumption divided by Annual Cost for an average Cost per kWh.  Don't bother getting too bogged down in calculating exactly how much each measure will save, as this is just a walk through audit.  Prices for materials are easy to find, but labor can be a different story.  Find the prevailing wage rate for the type of work (for electrical, its typically Inside Wireman) and make an assumption for how much time the work might take, or ask your City Engineer for an estimate.  Take that cost, and divide it by annual cost savings, and you have yourself the Simple Payback.  You can even take the inverse of that number (1/X) and get the Return on Investment percentage too.  Do this for every measure, total it up, and do it again.  Some measures might have a long payback, but combined with faster payback measures, you can get a lot of savings very quickly!

Analyzing Your Energy Consumption in Micro Increments, at a Macro Level

Energy consumption can be tricky to manage, even on a single building level.  Most utility bills don’t go into much detail, showing only what’s being drawn from the grid, not how much power your refrigerator or air conditioner consumes.  And even then, you find out how much in almost 30-day increments—how useful is that?  By taking advantage of your smart meter data, you can find a lot of information about the operational characteristics of your building.

This is a chart of hourly energy consumption over the course of 13 months for a small office.  It’s been averaged out over every hour of the day and separated out by day of the week, with the addition of holidays being its own day of the week.  As we can imagine, when the business is closed, you should be consuming less energy—the lights are off, the thermostat is set to a higher temperature, and far fewer people are in the building, reducing the energy load.  But what do you notice with the standard Monday through Friday?  Consumption slowly rises throughout the day, as more people arrive at work, turn on their computers and go about their day.  Around 7 at night, everything begins to slowly shut down.  We could, for this example, call that our baseline active usage.
How about weekend usage?  The light blue and orange lines represent the weekend days, and they’re pretty low—we could almost call that our baseline vacant usage. But look at the energy spike from 8pm to what looks like almost 10pm—it’s even greater than on the weekdays!  Remember, the usage is averaged from every weekend day out of the year, so if this was an anomaly, we would see maybe a little blip than a spike.
Now let’s look at the holiday usage.  Assuming that the office is closed, we’re seeing higher than expected usage from 9 to 8, compared to Saturday and Sunday usages.  Maybe the thermostat wasn’t turned off on the Thursday or Friday before the holiday.  Remembering to do so could bring in a lot of savings.
So after looking at this chart, we’ve noticed some more-than-likely quick and effective energy conservation measures—turning off the thermostat before holidays.  With a baseline vacant consumption day of around 2,000 kWh, this building could potentially save around 19,000 kWh per year, or $3,600 per year just by turning down the thermostat.  That’s some big savings just by reminding staff to turn down the thermostat before they leave!
If that weekend spike could be addressed too, that alone could potentially save 63,000 kWh per year, or about $12,000 per year.

Bottlemaker, building owners embrace efficiencies & save big

Greg Rhames has been studying energy efficiency like Humphrey Bogart on the case of the Maltese Falcon.

Any clue, no matter how tiny, can yield a break in the case. And in Rhames' Madera manufacturing plant, it's the little things that add up big. Real big.

Rhames, energy manager for Verallia, a subsidiary of winemaker Saint Gobain, rattles off the upgrades and system refinements at his facility like only somebody intimately familiar with their complex industrial workings can. His fixes havve resulted in energy cost savings of about 20 percent.

Put another way: Utility bills have gone from $1 million a month some years back to about $800,000.

"A little savings can go a long way," Rhames says.

Less power, more cash

Energy efficiency continues to gain proponents across the corporate spectrum, especially as its value can be immedicately seen in reduced energy and operations costs. With recent federal encouragement through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, local governments have taken up the banner, installing myriad retrofits and sometimes preventing economic-related layoffs in the process.

Universities and government agencies have begun to retrofit entire buildings to conform to the stringent Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings through the U.S. Green Building Council. The rigorous LEED certification process has multiple levels, right up the line to platinum. About 9 billion square feet of building space participates in the suite of ratings programs.

In fact, platinum LEED is the high-orbital level that the University of California Merced is pursuing for many of its buildings on campus. The university, like other institutions of higher learning, has discovered that not only does meeting the rigorous environmental standards earn the goodwill of its students, but the enhanced building techniques, retrofits and materials enable it to better deal with crippling state budget cuts.

LEED gains increasing foothold

A little to the south of Rhames in Fresno, the former headquarters of regional clothing retailer Gottschalks has undergone a serious transformation. The 88,000-square-foot property at 9 River Park Place East was in sad shape back in 2009 when the retailer closed and sold off assets to pay creditors.

Don Veatch, property manager for Lance-Kashian & Co., says the owners are progressive and looking to give the property an edge. The building received extensive upgrades, and it's a candidate for a LEED gold rating.

Rhames and Veatch presented their project accomplishments before a recent meeting of the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County's Clean Energy Cluster.

"We had to make a lot of changes," Veatch says, referring to water, lighting, AC and roof upgrades. "It's quite extensive," but "we thought it was the right thing to do."

Veatch says additional payback will come as the building attracts bigger and better tenants. It already has attracted Decipher Inc., a marketing research services provider that significantly expanded its Fresno offices.

Metering & monitoring is key

Energy efficiencies pay off in other ways, Rhames says.

"You can get a lot more light with a lot less energy," he says. But Rhames says the key is in the metering and monitoring, even after the upgrades have been done.

"It's critical," he says.

Verallia produces more than a million wine and champagne bottles every day in its Madera plant, using manufacturing processes that require a huge amount of glass feedstock and compressed air, which is used to blow the near molten bottles into shape, writes John Kalkowski of Packaging Digest. All that air, measured in cubic feet per minute, "does not come cheap," Kalkowski says.

The plant recently became the first Verallia North America facility to achieve the International Standards Organization's 14001:2004 environmental certification, a rating that means it minimizes its impact on the environment, complies with applicable laws and regulations and works toward continuous improvement.

Minimize the footprint

Verallia officials say the certification "is an essential part of Verallia’s strategy to minimize its environmental footprint through targeted efforts in the manufacturing process."

Rhames explains that much of his job requires him to investigate the various pathways of that air and search for unexplained consumption. He says in one case, his electronic monitors showed a major decline in airflow after a retrofit. But then the monitors showed a steady increase. It turns out a faulty piece of equipment had sprung a leak, something that wouldn't have been noticed without strict monitoring, he says.

He's also to the first to admit he's not performing some sort of miraculous transformation on the 42-year-old glass plant. "For the most part, I'm not recreating the wheel," he says. "I don't do anything until PG&E says I'll save money on it."

Trend to slash high-rise electric bills sweeps industry

King Kong immortalized the Empire State Building -- more than once.

And while its status as the biggest and tallest has been eclipsed a number of times since Pres. Herbert Hoover turned on the lights May 1, 1931, the iconic skyscraper continues to lead the nation. However, now it's gaining fame as perhaps the best known energy efficient high-rise.

Others have followed, drawn by the prospect of saving money in a turbulent economy through relatively simple and cost-effective upgrades that can pay off in a matter of years. The U.S. Green Building Council says green commercial building retrofits actually exceeded new construction some months in 2011.

"Deep energy savings (30 percent to 40 percent) can be mined from existing buildings," says a July 2011 study by Vancouver, Wash.-based New Buildings Institute.

Energy Star fast tracks

A barometer of the trend has been the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of cities with the most buildings qualifying for Energy Star status. Energy Star certified buildings use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than typical buildings. Buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, while commercial buildings make up half that.

Sitting atop the list for 2011 and the fourth year in a row is Los Angeles. It's followed by Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. New York is No. 6. The rankings are less interesting than the number of additional buildings making it on the list each year.

For instance, LA shows 659 buildings qualifying, a whopping 152 percent increase from 2008, the first year the list appeared. Yet, New York, which didn't even make the top 10 on that inaugural list, increased its Energy Star rated buildings by about 226 percent with 261 buildings in 2011.

The EPA estimates the nearly 16,500 Energy Star certified buildings across the country save about $2.3 billion in energy costs.

"More and more organizations are discovering the value of Energy Star as they work to cut costs and reduce their energy use," says EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a statement.

Empire leading by example

Back in 2008, the owners of the 102-story Empire State Building decided to add $13 million to a planned $93 million capital budget for remodeling. The move included 6,514 new super-efficient R7 windows, a rebuilt high-performing chiller, building automation and controls to maximize efficiencies, tenant energy management programs and other measures to be implemented.

Consulting, design and construction involved some heavy hitters, including Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls Inc., Jones Lang LaSalle, NYSERDA and the Rocky Mountain Institute. The project is expected to save 38 percent of the building's energy and $4.4 million annually, according to building officials.

Owners of the building say they did it for three reasons: to prove the economic viability of whole-building energy efficiency retrofits, to create a model for the industry and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"My wife and I have a very deep commitment to sustainability. It’s our belief that sustainable practices in everything are critical to our future," Tony Malkin, who owns the Empire State Building, tells Molly Miller of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Top 10 green buildings

Blogger Prakash T compiled a list of what he considers the top 10 green skyscrapers in the world. They range from the angular Hearst Tower in New York and the Swiss cheese inspired COR Tower in Miami to Fusionopolis in Singapore, which boasts its own ecosystem, and the strangest looking shopping mall ever, the Vulcano Buono in Italy.

Of the COR Tower, which he lists No. 1, he says: "The green features that make it one of the world’s greatest eco-towers are the wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, recycled glass tile flooring, solar hot water generation, bamboo lined hallways, and energy star appliances."

The Urban Cactus in Rotterdam, Netherlands, which comes in at No. 2 on Prakash T's list, looks like a stack of irregular levels, each boasting a garden terrace.

Cost competitive

The difference between green renovation and standard upgrade is a matter of cost. But the differential isn't as big as it would appear. Prakash says it can be just 5 percent more. USGBC's LEED program, which certifies levels of efficiency in buildings, requires upgrades that can tack 7 percent to 10 percent more onto the cost, depending on the level. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

In the United States, buildings account for about 36 percent of total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 30 percent of raw materials use, 30 percent of waste output (136 million tons annually) and 12 percent of potable water consumption.

There is a benefit to all this activity. In a story by Cam Burns of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Chris Allen, sales and production manager at Glenwood-based Climate Control Co., a heating, ventilation and air conditioning services company, says the energy efficiency thing works for him. "If we hadn't gotten into energy efficiency, I don't know that we'd be 34 employees at this point,” he says. “It's been kind of a savior for us. Now it is everywhere.”

Blogger John Brian Shannon sums up the situation faced by many of us: "Our choices are laid out before us just like at the shoe store -- all we have to do is choose!"

UC Merced sets the sustainable bar way, way up

The newest campus in the University of California system is quietly becoming a sustainable model and developing a reputation as a center for world-class research.

The University of California, Merced just had its seventh building certified gold by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.

Its long-range plan, which embraces economic, social and environmental sustainability in campus facilities, was named to the American Institute of Architects' Committee on the Environment Top 10 Green Projects program.

And physics professor Sayantani Ghosh, along with Richard Inman, Georgiy Shcherbatyuk, Dmitri Medvedko and Ajay Gopinathan recently won recogntion of their research in renewable energy in the clean energy press.

Renewable research leader

Zachary Shahan of explains the research breakthrough as an effort "to redesign luminescent solar concentrators in order to make them more efficient at sending sunlight to solar cells."

Efficiency is the key to commercial viability in the renewable energy game. Keeping up with lower priced fossil fuels is the ultimate goal. Ghosh explains in Shahan's article that his team tweaked the traditional flat design for concentrators and made them hollow cylinders. Should the technology prove itself in cost and efficiency boosting, many, many more will hear about UC Merced.

The concentrator project is just one of a number of top-notch research programs that involve renewable energy at the San Joaquin Valley institution. Open just since Sept. 5, 2005, UC Merced is the 10th campus in the University of California system and calls itself "the first American research university of the 21st century."

"We’re attempting to set new standards for energy efficiency and environmental stewardship,” says Thomas Lollini, campus architect and an associate vice chancellor, in a statement, referring to the buildings on campus. However, the campus has embraced sustainability on multiple fronts.

Green building movement

The U.S. Green Building Council reports that LEED certified projects are pushing 1.9 billion square feet nationally. The designation was set up in 2000 to provide independent, third-party verification of cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.

In the United States, buildings account for about 36 percent of total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption, 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 30 percent of raw materials use, 30 percent of waste output (136 million tons annually) and 12 percent of potable water consumption.

Any dent in that is a big deal.

Effort already a decade old

Richard Cummings, principal planner at UC Merced, says the green building movement on his campus began in 2002, when founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey established the goal of the campus meeting LEED silver for all buildings. What ended up happening is that all buildings but one ended up LEED gold, he says.

"As a result, our new 2009 master plan requires that all new buildings meet LEED Gold at a minimum and that the campus be zero net energy, zero waste and zero net emissions by 2020," Cummings says, adding that the campus also uses an internal, more-rigorous-than-LEED, benchmarking approach to energy efficient buildings.

The buildings certified LEED gold on the campus include the Leo and Dottie Kolligian Library, Classroom Office Building, Science and Engineering 1, Sierra Terraces Dormitory, Joseph Gallo Recreation Center and the Central Plant. The Valley Terraces Dormitory is certified LEED silver.

Going for gold

Buildings expected to achieve gold certification include the Dining Expansion, the Early Childhood Education Center, Housing 3 and Social Science and Management Building. Building pursuing certification are Housing 4, Student Activity and Athletic Center, Science and Engineering Building 2 and the Student Services Building.

"UC Merced's commitment to LEED Gold combined with its aggressive energy saving design standards enables the campus to reduce energy costs by approximately $1 million per year when compared to typical university buildings in California," Cummings says.

"In addition, UC Merced's state of the art buildings are supplemented by a campus solar array that routinely produces half of campus electricity when the sun is shining and 1/6th of annual electricity needs."

Newest green building

Construction of the Logistical Support/Safety Facility, the seventh building certified gold, featured a number of sustainability-related achievements. About 77 percent of construction waste did not go to landfills but was ground up for reuse by farmers and nurseries.

Water use in the facility was reduced by 48 percent via the installation of waterless or low-flow urinals, lavatories and sinks. And 24 percent of the materials used in construction were made from recycled content.

All of those factors contributed to the high LEED ranking, officials say.

“This is a profound example of taking the long view of the built environment, setting out an early plan, identifying benchmarks, designing and building a campus, seeing if you are meeting your benchmarks, and continuous improvement until hopefully you reach the goals of zero energy and zero waste for 10,000 students in 2020,” wrote one juror who contributed to the American Institute of Architects' Committee on the Environment ruling that put the campus on its Top 10 list.

“It’s an astonishing ambition, and they are on track.”