7 Ways to Create More Energy-Efficient Buildings

When was the last time you paid close attention to your building’s ‘big energy use’ picture? Could you be one of the many building owners or managers who take a deep breath and then pay the bills because you feel you don’t have any other choice?

The costs involved with heating, cooling, and powering a commercial building can be daunting.  Commercial, educational, and healthcare buildings all require significant energy, and those costs are only increasing.

Recognizing the money drain caused by big bills is the first step. Understanding how and where all that energy is being used is more challenging. Identifying what you need to do to run and maintain energy-efficient buildings can get complex quickly.

So how does your building go about becoming or improving its energy efficiency? Having a plan of action and a qualified partner like FICO can help you take the big, hard-to-define task of becoming energy efficient and break it down into quantifiable, achievable steps that fit your budget and resources.

1: Heat / Cool Only When and Where It’s Needed

Have your HVAC control settings kept up with how your building is being used? Office use patterns have changed significantly, and the pace of change is rapidly increasing. In fact, 25% of all professional jobs in North America are expected to be remote by the end of 2022, according to data scientists at Ladders. That’s huge when it comes to building usage.

Will you be able to reduce your energy use by 25% because of remote work? Probably not. But what you can do is become more energy efficient by adjusting HVAC controls to reflect actual building use patterns.

Look at your building usage with fresh eyes. How has it evolved? What are the new patterns? Usage data can help you identify changes, especially when looked at from a multi-year perspective. If your Building Management System (BMS) is automated, then it’s relatively easy to adjust.

2: Understand How Your Building Uses Energy

It can be challenging to figure out exactly where and how all that expensive energy is being used! And it doesn’t make sense to spend much money on improving energy efficiency until you do. If you’re ready to invest in solutions, then it only makes sense to work with skilled professionals like FICO to help you identify and choose the right solutions.

An energy audit will put you in control of your building’s energy use. You’ll get the critical information you need to make informed, practical decisions relating to understanding and improving your building’s energy efficiency.

An audit takes a close look at everything that affects your building’s energy use, including lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, the building envelope (roof, windows, doors, flooring, and walls), and the building’s usage.

You’ll get a well-defined and documented understanding of how and why energy is used in your building. And most useful of all, your energy audit identifies recommended changes and improvements, including projected costs and savings.

3: Grab Immediate Energy Savings from Energy Tuning

When was the last time you took a hard look at the ‘low hanging fruit’ in your building’s energy picture? It’s so easy to overlook modifications that may result in relatively small individual savings, but those savings can multiply fast.

An energy tuneup, sometimes called tuning, focuses on immediate low to no-cost changes that can help you save money while becoming more energy efficient.

These include:

  • switching to all LED lighting
  • Updating or recalibrating temperature controls
  • replacing filters on heating and cooling devices
  • occupancy-based lighting sensors
  • using white or light-colored paint to increase light reflection
  • perimeter sealing
  • occupancy sensor power strips
  • daylight responsive lighting controls
  • high-efficiency lighting

Switching to LED lighting may qualify you for rebates. Check for possible rebates. Your FICO representative may be able to help you find valuable manufacturer rebates not listed.

4: Why You Can’t Afford To Ignore Your Boiler

Chances are that your boiler is the biggest energy hog in your building. Chances are equally good that you’ve been putting off doing something about it for a long time because, well, it’s a BIG ticket item.

What if you could see BIG energy and cost savings immediately by replacing your boiler? That would ease the sticker price shock a bit, wouldn’t it?

Consider this: commercial boilers consume an average of 28% of all energy used in the commercial non-manufacturing sector. And historic boiler sales data shows that the majority of boilers are 30 years or older.

Older boilers average a 60% energy efficiency rating, while about 40% of that pricey energy you buy each month is lost. Newer boilers can achieve as high as 98% energy efficiency. The difference in lost energy is huge.

Your building might be perfect for new modular boilers with modular burners. What does that mean for you? It means a boiler system that can meet your building’s peak demands as well as operate efficiently when the demand is less.

And that’s the sort of smart energy-efficient investment that makes fiscal sense today while building in the adaptability that the future requires.

5: Get Confident That Your Building Systems Are Optimally Working

When was the last time your building got a full systems check-up? Is it time to calibrate and optimize your building’s HVAC systems?

Calibration fine-tunes the equipment you already have so that it works like it was designed to in your specific building. Supply air flow rates, air temperature, and cooling loads are calibrated and adjusted so that airflow quality and temperature meet expectations for your heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.

Optimizing your HVAC system can help reduce your energy costs through automatic controls set to energy-efficient levels. Real-time data monitors measure the energy used (electric, gas) and services delivered (heat, air flow, moisture levels, cooling) to run your HVAC system as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Combining calibration and optimization means your building benefits from fine-tuned equipment running in the best way possible. You can expect to see cost savings and increased energy efficiency almost immediately.

6: Profitably Balance The Needs Of Occupants and Your Building’s Economics

You, the building owner or manager, work hard to minimize building expenses and maximize profitability. Your valuable occupants, on the other hand, want to receive the maximum value from using or renting your property. How do you balance their expectations with your need for energy conservation and profitability?

Continuous commissioning is the answer. The goal of continuous commissioning is occupant comfort AND a building that’s energy efficient and cost-conscious. Continuous commissioning meets that goal through constant, ongoing monitoring and calibration of all of a building’s systems.

It starts with a deep look at the systems already in place, identifies tenant comfort standards, determines how to meet those standards with current equipment, and then develops an implementation plan. 

By using the equipment you already own and maximizing how that equipment works, your ongoing cost for the process is minimal while your savings and your valuable occupants’ satisfaction are maximized.

7: Check That Draft

Energy efficiency goes beyond having great HVAC and lighting! The Department of Energy estimates that 20% of the energy used to heat and cool a building is wasted through air leaks in your building’s envelope (roof, windows, doors, flooring, and walls).

20% waste from air leaks isn’t even the whole problem. Leaks can lead to poor air quality, water infiltration, mold, physical damage, and more. Reducing air leaks can result in needing smaller HVAC systems and increased energy efficiency.

While retrofitting can be a major undertaking, you can realize improved comfort and energy efficiency most easily by focusing on windows and doors. Check for obvious cracks, broken seals, and condensation. Consider applying high-performance window film to reduce solar heat transmission and heat loss.

The Lasting Impact Of Energy Efficiency

Why should achieving energy efficiency matter to you? Saving money is a no-brainer, but the true value of energy efficiency goes far beyond reduced costs. A well-run, energy-efficient building is a building that’s more likely to feel good to live or work in, to attract and keep high-quality occupants, see an increase in value, and achieve consistent profitability.

Getting to energy efficiency is going to require working with skilled, specialized professionals who share the same goals. FICO, a Montana company, specializing in innovative, turnkey building management and system integration, stands ready to help you meet your energy-efficient goals for your building. Contact FICO for a complimentary quote for a healthy building.

FICO provides turnkey building management and system integration services for technically complex buildings in Montana and beyond. From design and installation to ongoing maintenance and security, our best-in-class people and products help you achieve operational savings and minimize risk as you work to provide reliable and safe environments.

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