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Green Trends: The Color Of Energy

Written by Heidi Schwartz. Posted in Energy, Environment, In-Depth Articles, Magazine, Sustainability, Technology, Topics, Trends

Tagged: , ,

Published on October 26, 2007 with No Comments

By Jillian Ruffino
Published in the October 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Over the course of American history, the term “green” has had several different meanings. Before the late 19th century, the color green was closely associated with farming, this country’s then primary economic function. Until the 1930s, the U.S. was comprised of vast stretches of farmland. The needs of the physical environment were carefully considered because the land, so close at hand for most people, was necessary for survival.

In the late 19th century, Americans started to work for a different kind of green: money. Expanded transportation, electricity, and improved industrial processes resulted in the industrial revolution, an explosion in production that changed the face of American economics.

It also changed the public’s perception of the planet. In the pursuit of economic gain, the environment was damaged and neglected.

Today, green has taken on a whole new meaning as American businesses attempt to reconcile economic goals with environmental concern. Impressive office buildings, sports venues, and public facilities stand as shining examples of American progress, but many facility managers know that excessive energy consumption still plagues many structures.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that, in commercial facilities, energy consumption per capita increased by 8% from 1980 to 2005. It also found that 37% of energy and 68% of electricity produced in the U.S. is used by buildings.

As the U.S. moves toward a service based economy, disposable income growth is creating more demand for hotels, restaurants, retail facilities, and other commercial facilities. More energy will be needed.

The problem is projected to become worse. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2007 (AEO) estimates that natural gas use will have an annual increase of 1.3% between 2007 and 2030. The EIA reports electricity will lead this march in the coming years, with an increase between 1.6% to 2.3%.

These projections assume the use of energy efficient technologies. The existence of such technologies, continued research, and increased awareness and interest in green issues offers some hope for the future of facilities.

Who Cares?

Facility managers are concerned about how much energy their buildings require. There are two factors that move these professionals to attempt to cut back on energy consumption in facilities. The first of these is cost.

Ben Parker, director of commercial and industrial sales for Tradition Energy, based in Stamford, CT, states, “Energy is becoming a bigger component in everybody’s budget. Energy costs have gone up significantly over the last five years.”

There is a very specific reason energy has become so much more expensive in the past five years. As Donald T. Millstein, president and CEO of E-Mon, LLC in Langhorne, PA, explains, “Electricity for years was basically a stagnant cost. With today’s technology and the deregulation of electricity, there are two things happening: one, the cost of power has started to fluctuate. The other is constrained markets, where there might not be enough available power in certain markets.”

This condition, as Millstein explains, drives up demand and causes costs to rise. He continues, “At one point, facility managers knew their electricity bills would be the same all the time. It is no longer a static cost that is never going to change. It is changing; it’s going up.”

As Jeff Crane, TFM FM Frequency columnist and mechanical engineer and senior property manager for Childress Klein Properties in the southeastern U.S. sums up, “The cost is going to keep going up, so it will become more and more important for people to manage energy consumption more aggressively.”

The other issue driving facility managers to reduce energy consumption is concern for the environment. According to the EIA, 82% of greenhouse gas emitted by human activity is carbon dioxide related to energy production. Since 1990, carbon emissions have increased in the U.S. and 48% of this can be attributed to the building sector.

Parker believes this increase is due to electric usage. “The U.S. has an expanding economy. Americans build more buildings and they use more electricity. This is especially true in the south, southeast, and southwest, where cooling demand is higher.”

According to Parker, this surge in building, especially in hotter parts of the country, requires more electricity. “Power is being generated in that part of the country primarily by coal, and this increases carbon emissions. These emissions have deleterious effects.”

Fortunately, solving these two problems can be mutually beneficial. That is, facility managers working to decrease long-term energy costs in facilities will naturally cut back on damage to the environment.

Taking Action

In order for facility managers to reduce energy usage, they must first have an accurate picture of consumption. According to Millstein, “It is important for facility managers to see where the energy is being used, when it is being used, and how much is being used. The only way to save is to know where money is being spent.”

The EIA paints a general picture of energy consumption in buildings. The organization claims 32% is used for space heating, 7% for cooling, and 23% on lighting. Most facility managers are aware that HVAC and lighting use enormous and costly amounts of energy. It is important, however, to dig deeper and find out exactly how each specific facility operates.

“The first thing facility managers need to do,” says Parker, “is have an understanding of the facility itself. They need to find out whether or not the equipment in the facility complies with current energy efficiency standards.”

Millstein’s company manufactures submeters, which individually monitor energy consumption in different spaces of a structure. He asserts, “With submeters, it is possible to view the whole facility’s usage, or to view something as specific as an individual circuit breaker. Facility managers can identify how much energy, for example, is being used by each production line, elevator, or lighting circuit.”

With this type of monitoring, it is also possible to see where energy is being wasted and identify possible corrective measures. For example, E-Mon’s Green Class submeters can display an estimate of the past hour’s Co2 emissions. With this feature, users can gauge the damage done to the environment. The meter can then take the same calculations, and based on present electricity usage, predict Co2 emissions for the next hour.

“So,” says Millstein, “if the air conditioner is turned off, users will not only see how many kilowatt (kW) hours have been saved, but also how much Co2 has not been emitted into the atmosphere.”

The age of the facility is another important factor. Parker warns, “If you have a building that is 20 or 30 years old, it might not be equipped with (what is now considered) the minimum requirement for energy efficiency in a building.” He mentions the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 as well as the 1992 Energy Policy Act (which outlined minimum standards for commercial building heating and air conditioning equipment and lighting) as legislation facility managers of older structures should keep in mind.

Making energy efficient changes in older buildings can have a large environmental and financial payback. Parker continues, “The largest and easiest opportunity for savings in older buildings is HVAC. There is some indication that as much as 40% of the energy used for HVAC is lost due to inefficiencies.”

He also recommends getting the utility involved in the process of cutting energy bills. Often the utility includes the cost of energy audits in the bill. It may be wise to take advantage of this type of appraisal. The utility can recommend specific improvements and give the facility paybacks for taking action.

It may also be wise for facility managers to consider buying green power as an alternative to energy generated from fossil fuel sources. Crane states, “Energy is a commodity we all buy. Some people have more choices than others with regard to where they get it.” These choices, including wind, solar, and geothermal power, are possibilities facility managers should consider.

Parker explains, “Right now, about 7% of the electricity used across the country is green. This is something everybody is talking about.”

Parker also concedes that green power can be more expensive than traditional fossil fuel power. “It typically ranges between 2¢ to 3¢ cents a kW hour more in cost,” he estimates. “Typically, when facilities buy green power, they may buy credits or they may buy power directly from the solar panel or electricity produced from wind farms.”

He also recommends facility managers search for alternative energy sources that have been verified by a third party. Parker says, “Facility managers should look for that type of verification to be sure power bought is indeed green, since facilities will be paying a premium for it.”

Buying renewable energy credits for green power (rather than actually using this source) is another option. Described by Parker as an “income transfer,” it is essentially the process of one organization buying the rights to the benefits of generating electricity from green energy sources. Despite buying energy credits, facilities must still work to reduce energy consumption.

This process benefits both the facility and the environment. Companies will experience all the perks of using green power, such as positive publicity, tax breaks, and the ability to develop in more areas.

Greener Pastures

It is important to remember that the predicted increase in energy usage took into consideration current and future energy efficient technology. This means facility managers could use energy efficient technology and still contribute to the escalating problem. For this reason, it is important to be creative and implement custom strategies.

Getting occupants involved in the process may produce results. Submeters, for example, are usually installed in a facility’s basement or electric closet, where occupants cannot access ongoing information about energy usage. Millstein’s company decided to create a green enclosure for submeters to encourage facility managers to display them in prominent places. “This way, building occupants can see what is going on in their spaces,” says Millstein. “Facility managers can only control so much. By encouraging and educating people, others will want to help.”

Facility managers’ natural inclination will always be to investigate and find innovative solutions. When purchasing energy, they have a chance to protect the environment and the facility’s budget.

This article was based on interviews with Crane, Millstein, and Parker.

Green Initiatives

As Editor Heidi Schwartz first reported in the August issue of this magazine, FM Frequency columnist Jeff Crane was a member of the winning team from Childress Klein Properties that picked up BOMA International’s TOBY Award for a program initiated at the LakePointe Office Park in Charlotte, NC. The park was nominated in the suburban office park (mid-rise) category and had won local and regional awards prior to advancing to the international competition.

Childress Klein is offering readers a sneak peek into its award winning management team. The following memo from the company (which was circulated to those who work at the LakePointe Office Park) may give readers some pointers regarding communication and acceptance of sustainable initiatives being implemented throughout their facilities.

Dear Tenants,

With increased media coverage of environmental issues, you may have heard the terms “green building” and “sustainable operations.” Although folks in our industry don’t always agree on the precise definitions of these terms, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Web site states: “Green or sustainable building is the practice of creating healthier and more resource efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition.”

This concept has always been central to Childress Klein Properties’ development and property management strategies. This memo will share a few of the green initiatives currently in progress or recently completed by the LakePointe management team.

Landscaping

One of the most distinctive aspects of the LakePointe community is the beauty of its natural surroundings. With rolling hills, dramatic water features, peaceful walking trails, seasonal colors, and majestic tree canopies, landscaping continues to be one of LakePointe’s most recognizable and appreciated amenities.

Since master planning the parks to preserve as much of LakePointe’s natural beauty as possible, we’ve worked with landscape contractors to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of irrigation and turf management. This scrutiny has allowed us to eliminate or dramatically reduce watering in areas where mature shrubs and trees have established roots.

We are currently evaluating a new generation of smart irrigation controllers that use weather data to adjust watering times automatically. Feasibility studies are also being revisited to determine if the park’s retention ponds can be used for irrigation (the ponds collect 100% of the parks’ storm water).

Energy Conservation

In 2004, the LakePointe management team began monthly energy consumption audits and benchmarking on each suburban office building. We also enrolled in the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

In that same year, we were invited by Duke Energy to participate in an energy management pilot project that provided access to detailed, real time energy consumption data with specialized hardware and software. Based on the success of the pilot project, we have expanded this technology to buildings throughout the park.

In 2006, we were awarded ENERGY STAR labels for two of the LakePointe buildings and will be applying for additional certifications in 2007.

As one of the largest operating expenses for all buildings in the United States, aggressive energy management is an extremely valuable property management practice.

Lighting

We recently completed negotiations with a lighting supplier to re-lamp LakePointe office buildings with higher efficiency (low mercury) fluorescent bulbs. The new bulbs feature improved color rendering compared to our current high efficiency bulbs and will require 12% less electricity.

Although we intentionally purchase low mercury bulbs, we’ve also implemented a lamp recycling program to prevent bulbs from entering the landfill.

Cleaning, Recycling, And Shredding

Our janitorial providers are recommending green cleaning options and are experimenting with new products in select buildings. Based on the results of these pilot projects, we are considering expanded use of specific products and practices in additional buildings.

Water Conservation

In 2005, we began experimenting with touchless faucets and soap dispensers to further optimize water use and reduce waste. Based on positive tenant feedback and excellent maintenance experience, these fixtures have become a standard for new suburban office buildings and are being installed in existing buildings as older fixtures are replaced.

We are also evaluating the feasibility of waterless urinals that we’ve encountered at industry trade shows. We may start a pilot program with a tenant who has experience with them in another facility.

At two buildings, we’re experimenting with a new cooling tower treatment program that features advanced automation and slow dissolving, concentrated solid products instead of diluted liquid products. The concentrated product reduces transportation related pollution associated with shipping a diluted product. Increased automation will allow us to consume less water in the cooling tower.

Vehicle Fleet

With 14 maintenance and security vehicles operating in the park each day, fuel efficiency is an increasingly important concern. Last year we began researching high efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles as replacement candidates for our standard, light duty pickup trucks.

We recently purchased a subcompact car and replaced our oldest maintenance truck that was about one third as efficient. For maintenance work within the parks, we have ordered our first neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) this summer. It is fully electric, has seatbelts and headlights, and is legal on public streets with a maximum speed limit of 35 mph. Tenants may have noticed this vehicle during our test period (it looks like a space age golf cart). If this vehicle satisfies our needs, we plan to replace the older pickups with electric vehicles over the next few years.

Alternative Transportation

LakePointe Office Park is served by several CATS bus stops in the park and along Tyvola and Yorkmont Roads. We have asked CATS to consider adding bus service to LakePointe Corporate Center and they have been receptive to this request.

We are also following up on an inquiry received from a tenant regarding carpooling. We’ve identified a number of carpooling Web sites and will be adding those links to the LakePointe Web site. These free sites are available to the public and allow tenants to identify other commuters working in the community with whom they may be able to share a ride.

Affiliations & Training

Childress Klein Properties is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization representing over 10,000 organizations in the building industry. The USGBC is the founder of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programs for new construction, existing buildings and commercial interiors. The (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

This summer, LakePointe’s property managers will attend a LEED-EB workshop (LEED for existing buildings) with the intention of earning the LEED-AP (LEED accredited professional) designation. We are also partnering with one of our tenants to conduct a feasibility study regarding the cost / value associated with pursuing LEED-EB certification.

As portfolio manager participants for the past three years, we have also become an EPA ENERGY STAR Partner organization.

As you can see, many initiatives began with diligent research and pilot projects before full scale implementation was considered. We combine this sort of methodical and creative innovation with longstanding commitments to our natural surroundings, our tenants, and our property owners.

About Heidi Schwartz

Heidi Schwartz

Schwartz joined Group C Media in April 1989 as managing editor of Today's Facility Manager (TFM) magazine (formerly Business Interiors) where she was subsequently promoted to editor/co-publisher of the monthly trade magazine for facility management professionals. In September 2012, she took over the newly created position of internet director for TFM's parent company, Group C Media, where she is charged with developing content and creating online strategies for TFM and its sister publication, Business Facilities. Schwartz can be reached at schwartz@groupc.com.

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