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Make LEED-CI retrofits work for you.

Move-in is the time for owners and tenants to build in energy efficiency improvements. Trimming this expense can translate into the profit equivalent often times the amount in sales. Another benefit is the US Green Building Council's LEED-CI certification.

This public relations bonus shows that the firm cares about the environment and is improving its energy security. Following are some energy saving tips for consideration:

Automatic lighting controls can turn down the juice when sunlight is doing the job. Such systems are being installed every day in tall buildings across America. Point benefits for lighting energy reduction have skyrocketed for the new LEED-CI 2009, going from a maximum of 3 to 7 points. Notify the MEP design engineers during fee negotiations and work with them at an early stage to produce a complete design, describing which areas, or "zones," will be controlled by which sunlight sensors and how large those zones will be. A zone filled with computer screens requires low light levels while an adjacent workshop requires high light levels. It is a mistake to "value engineer" an unobtrusive modulating light system to a more noticeable on-off system.

The best savings come from lights that are off. Ensure the lighting design includes motion sensors to turn lights off in storage and service areas when no one is home. Schedule all lights off (except code-required exit lighting) during "unoccupied hours" and provide a master switch to turn off all over-rides when the last person leaves.

Space is expensive and more and more water heaters and cooling and heating coils are above the ceiling. Equipping each water-containing device with a drip pan and liquid sensing alarm can save thousands of dollars of lost time and repair expense.

These alarms should be connected to the central building automation system (BAS) so the 7x24 building engineer is there to shut off the water before the leak causes serious damage. Alternatively, the leak detectors can be wired to simple electric shut-off valves in the water pipes for the fastest response.

New roof-top cooling equipment means outside chilled water piping exposed to freeze damage. The best safety is to add glycol antifreeze to the chilled water loop. Glycol reduces efficiency but is priceless protection against the downtime and water damage caused by a break. If glycol cannot be used, outside pipe has to be wound with electric "heat trace". The trick is to heat the pipe when outside temperatures threaten to freeze (35-40 dF) but not to heat the pipe when it is flowing chilled water at 40-45 dF.

The solution is to control the heat trace by an outside air sensor and not by the usual method of sensing pipe temperature. Use the central BAS to sound an alarm when the chiller is running and the heat trace is energized at the same time.

This will keep the energy bills down by stopping the heating of the chilled water by the heat trace while cooling the water by the chiller.

If your building provides outside ventilation air for each floor at the air handling unit (AHU) serving that floor, consider adding dampers to control that air based on carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors in the space. Both heating and cooling energy bills are reduced when OSA is reduced and LEED points are earned at the same time. Discuss this with the design engineer at the earliest possible stage.

Last but not not least, always follow up energy conserving and "green" strategies with LEED mandatory commissioning and the finished office space will save money while displaying the LEED-CI mark of success.

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Author:Wilkinson, Ron
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 6, 2009
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