In the U.S., buildings consume 40 percent of energy.
In dense urban settings, commercial buildings can account for up to 75 percent of energy used and 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. These facts make it critical that buildings operate more efficiently to help meet the country’s growing energy needs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money and create jobs.
Many of the steps toward improving building operational efficiency are relatively easy and inexpensive to deploy. Here are 10 steps to help an owner or manager move toward peak efficiency for his or her facility.
1. Measure water usage and waste. Conduct a water audit of your facilities, campus or geography to determine where water is being used and wasted. Reduce water consumption by maintaining equipment and fixing leaks. Even a slow faucet leak can waste 300 gallons of water per month. Pay special attention to toilets, sprinkler heads and ice machines.
2. Train your facilities staff on how to improve operational efficiency. Their understanding of new technology and best practices to improve your building’s operating efficiency pays higher dividends if they have a firm foundation in the basics of mechanical equipment and energy management. Look to local colleges and technical schools that rely on experienced practitioners as instructors who can translate concepts into operational know-how.
3. Rethink water conservation opportunities. Low-flow and dual-flush fixtures are already used in most facilities, but it may be time to evaluate more widespread use as technology has expanded choice and some prices have decreased. Use native species plantings for most landscaping along with moisture-sensing irrigation controls for the remaining Class A areas.
4. Maintain equipment for maximum efficiency. Making sure equipment is properly serviced and maintained means lower energy costs and extended life. Proactive maintenance on larger mechanical equipment like chillers and boilers pays off quickly. Don’t forget steam traps where used. They are often overlooked but almost always show fast paybacks.
5. Take the stress off your equipment. Use your building management system to monitor, analyze and reset key HVAC points like chilled water temperature, hot water temperature, discharge air temperatures and fan CFM. Reprogramming set points of these values to the minimum levels required for comfort will not only save energy but also reduce stress on mechanical systems.
6. Meet LEED standards. Build, renovate and operate your facilities according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. That will benefit your bottom line by lowering operating costs and increasing asset value. It will benefit the environment by conserving energy and water; reducing waste sent to landfills; creating healthier, safer occupant environments; and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
7. Commission building systems for optimal operation. Whether accomplished manually or by implementing updated building management system applications, continuous commissioning saves energy and creates an improved environment for occupants.
8. Eliminate shake, rattle and waste. Equipment that exhibits evidence of excessive vibration in the form of audible rattles and excessive noise levels is costing you money. Listening is a good first step, but you can learn how to improve operational efficiency with advanced inspection tools like vibration analysis.
9. Purchase more efficient equipment. Replace or eliminate outdated equipment with ENERGY STAR-listed devices. Investigate the use of smart power strips to eliminate smaller loads when they aren’t required. Consider remanufactured and recycled office supplies.
10. Work with green suppliers. Green your supply chain by giving preference to suppliers and vendors who follow specific environmental practices.
There are tremendous economic and societal pressures on commercial and industrial building owners and facility managers to use their resources more cost-effectively and to make their buildings operate more efficiently.
Even if it’s something as easy as repairing leaky faucets, there are many steps a building owner or facility manager can take to immediately start the process.