With energy costs on the rise, effective energy management is no longer an option - it is a strategic business necessity. Fortunately, building owners have at their disposal a number of powerful tools and technologies to help them save energy, achieve superior building performance, and reap ongoing financial returns.
Saving energy and money begins with information and knowledge - information on how a facility operates today and the knowledge to do something about it. More specifically, it's understanding where, when, and how much energy is being consumed and having the ability to act.
Conducting an energy audit on an existing system is one of the best ways to identify opportunities for savings. Conducted by an experienced energy expert, the energy audit allows building owners to evaluate the building's HVAC load, lighting and water usage, and entire baseline utility consumption.
This information-gathering process includes input from a variety of resources, including data on the building's energy-consuming equipment and activities. The audit should consider things like whether maintenance or building occupants leave lights on at night, when thermostats are adjusted, and if space heaters and fans are in working order.
New energy analysis and optimization tools allow energy experts to calculate energy usage, compare different products and systems, and evaluate potential savings. These tools can help building owners determine what equipment might be appropriate based on current conditions and usage. They also help to document the facility's energy profile. The energy profile, including energy costs and consumption data, gives managers baseline information from which to set objectives and begin measuring progress.
Accurate data collection and tracking are vital to the profile to determine daily and seasonal patterns. The energy management expert plays a vital role by using advanced modeling software to manage and analyze the information and re-create building systems in a simulated environment. The simulation displays the building's systems and their interactions to show how the building operates. It also demonstrates how the systems affect energy performance.
Once the model is complete and verified, the energy management expert will use the modeling software to help building owners and facility managers test a variety of solutions to determine which would function best in the building.
With a reliable baseline established, the next step is to define the project scope and objectives. Managers must align energy saving metrics with the building's overall performance and business goals, while keeping actions focused on those that deliver the best return on investment. In the process, managers should evaluate how the energy conservation measures will help achieve desired outcomes, such as decreased operating costs, higher operations performance, better occupant comfort and productivity, tax benefits, environmental certification, or others.
Once a facility is operating at peak condition, operational excellence techniques keep it running in top form. Continuous validation processes - including asset management, condition monitoring, and predictive and scheduled maintenance - help ensure that the mechanical systems continue to perform correctly and interact with one another according to the original design intent and the building's operational demands.
While building owners have large energy demands, they also have savings opportunities, which don't have to cost more money to make a building more efficient. With the array of available technologies, tools, and expertise, building owners and managers are in the best-ever position to take control of their energy costs and garner the financial returns high-performance buildings deliver.
Scott Beckett is the director of commercial-industrial sales, Americas, for Trane, Inc., a manufacturer and provider of HVAC systems, solutions, and services. He is responsible for Trane's commercial real estate and industrial markets, and leads Trane's national and strategic account programs. Visit the company's website at www.trane.com.