FM Frequency: Did He Say Pedal Power?!

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By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP

Published in the May 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

If facility managers (fms) around the country were asked to describe the single greatest contribution they could offer their organization over the next 12 months, what would they say?

  1. Offer beer and wine in break room vending machines.
  2. Provide continuous Starbucks drip tubes at each workstation.
  3. Replace cubicles with solar pods for optimal work/tan balance.
  4. Publish names and photos of folks needing “restroom etiquette” training.
  5. Install amusement park rides and an adrenaline bar in the atrium.
  6. Erect a temperature controlled convertible dome over the parking lot.
  7. Replace chairs with recumbent bikes, mandating pedal power for occupant computers and lighting.

While daydreaming about the personal accolades that would accompany the first six ideas, the last one—the notion of pedal power—might offer the greatest opportunity for enhancing an fm’s reputation with senior management. In fact, according to the 2006 Experience Exchange Report (EER) released by BOMA International (Building Owners and Managers Association), utilities expenses for private sector buildings rose 9.3% from $1.83 per square foot in 2004 to $2.00 per square foot in 2005.

Since utilities typically represent one of our largest operating expenses, a 9.3% increase in one year can obviously bust the budget and erode the bottom line. Consider a 250,000 square foot (SF) building with a 17¢ per SF increase; that translates into $42,500 per year. With increasing regulatory costs associated with new power plant construction, and with ongoing uncertainty of distribution reliability (remember the infamous Northeast Blackout of August 2003?), these costs could continue climbing.

To find hidden savings in your facilities, try these suggestions:

  • Pull the last 12 months (or more) of utility bills and create a simple spreadsheet to track monthly consumption and costs associated with electricity, water, and gas. Gain an understanding of weather, occupancy, and other influences on utilities consumption.
  • Request meetings with account reps from each utility. Ask them to explain rate plan options and to confirm that the most appropriate rate plans are in place. Ask what sort of consumption reduction opportunities might be viable based on their experience with similar customers. Ask if advanced/continuous consumption monitoring tools or professional services are available (free or with a fee) to customers.
  • Consider engaging independent consultants to assist with the two previous suggestions. Check references and determine if they work on a contingency (percentage of savings) or fixed fee basis. Consider partnering with accounting for financial evaluations (or budget flexibility).
  • Research EPA and DOE Web sites for ideas related to your facilities.
  • Check the USGBC Web site for guidance on certifications and specific operational strategies related to utility consumption.
  • And last, but certainly not least, research the TFM archive for articles on energy efficiency or green operations.

Energy consumption (electricity and gas):

  • Consider feasibility of interruptible/curtailment type rate plans.
  • Adjust HVAC set points (up in summer, and down in winter).
  • Evaluate effectiveness of current re-lamping strategies and feasibility of adding light timers, lighting level controls, motion sensors, etc.
  • Confirm whether or not preventive and reactive maintenance procedures are being performed properly on HVAC equipment, which should be clean and running as designed.
  • Check water heater temperature settings and industry guidance for specific uses.
  • Compare outside air introduction rates to IAQ requirements and make sure spaces are not over ventilated.
  • Hire a test and balance firm to recommission buildings and confirm that operational settings are appropriate relative to original mechanical and electrical designs. If original designs are obsolete, hire licensed engineers to assess current needs and optimize existing equipment and/or recommend capital improvements with prioritizations.
  • Consider operational hours and make sure thermostats have set back capabilities allowing unoccupied spaces to be conditioned efficiently.
  • Inspect data centers or other equipment rooms. Confirm that equipment is being properly maintained and operated. Verify that redundant HVAC systems aren’t unintentionally running at the same time.

Water consumption:

  • Evaluate existing restroom fixtures and feasibility of waterless urinals.
  • Investigate climate appropriate landscaping to minimize irrigation.
  • Explore cooling tower operations and the chemical water treatment program. Make sure it’s appropriate for specific location and equipment.
  • Consider non-potable water strategies (storm water collection, retention, and re-use). Confirm that retention ponds and earth dams are properly inspected and maintained.

Capital project opportunities:

  • Energy consumption monitoring and reporting hardware/software;
  • Building envelope improvements;
  • HVAC upgrades, replacements, or energy recovery equipment;
  • Lighting fixtures and automation;
  • Variable frequency drives for AC motors;
  • CO2 based ventilation control;
  • Electrical demand limiting hardware/software;
  • On-site power generation;
  • Building occupant awareness campaign (get people to turn off unused lights, office equipment, coffee makers, etc.); and finally
  • Document the effectiveness of changes. Celebrate achievements and translate consumption reductions to dollars.

With utilities expenses rising, there is no shortage of motivation for aggressively managing these expenses. If anyone chooses to implement the pedal power workstation, please don’t credit me with the idea until folks are physically fit and appreciate the fact they occupy a sustainable workplace!

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.

Please note: The views stated in this month’s FM Frequency do not necessarily reflect the opinions ofTFM or the other entities represented in the magazine.

 

 

 

 

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