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'Green' buildings: saving money and the planet.

Are you feeling the heat? Is hot air and water escaping your buildings? Do your pockets seem to have holes in them? Is your conscience bugging you to preserve the environment?

Take heart because many companies and suppliers are coming up with economical solutions to keep you in the "green."

Water Worries

"What's more important than our water?" asks Alan Rothschild, president of Vantage Group, a firm that specializes in water cost management and analysis.

Vantage helps building owners determine whether or not to put in a water meter early and guides them toward the proper conservation devices.

"Everyone has heard horror stories of water meterings but there are many stories of financial windfalls," he said. "Everyone I've told to put a meter in is saving more money than I told them they would."

Rothschild said it is important to know how to reduce consumption and mitigate the cost increase if there is going to be, one. "In many cases we can take an owner's expected increase and turn it into a decrease with a careful conservation device retrofit," Rothschild said.

The water experts agree it is not adequate to randomly select low flow devices and install them since some can end up costing you more money.

John Rakos, general manager of Consumer's Advantage Water Management agrees, particularly with rental situations.

"If it's not going to work right, and if the tenant is unhappy - they are just going to be pulled out," he said.

Consumer's Advantage, which at one time was primarily a fuel oil coop, developed a Water Management division that conducts a field test to establish current usage.

"We take a pro-active position so the place in the basement to dig. Usually, he said, the owner knows I boiler is losing water or notices the automatic feeder is filling every few minutes.

The company also offers an annual service plan and monitors for new leaks with specialized digital sonar tracking devices developed together with a company that builds submarine sonar.

"It takes an incredible amount of training to operate this," Garber added.

Another high-tech Aquiline system traces the piping underground and creates a computerized blueprint of the location of all the water lines.

"This is like an x-ray of the basement," Garber said, "and comes in handy if the owner ever has to deal with the Environmental Protection Agency."

Wattage Watching

Utility Programs & Metering, Inc. ensures that people pay for what they, use, said President Jay Raphaelson. The company will help monitor steam and water payments but its primary emphasis is on electricity. "The main thing is making sure people pay for what they use," said Raphaelson.

Many older commercial buildings charge a flat rate on a square foot basis for electricity, he said, and his company can help owners obtain the correct amount or ensure the tenants pay the correct amount. Raphaelson said. occupancy patterns and use patterns change over time and recommends metering to help owners to focus on dollars. He suggests metering of common areas - which may or not include air conditioning - the tenants, and what is on overtime, he said, "so the energy people can keep a what they are doing rather than going by how much income is generated through tenant services."

While a lot of people are making energy conservation efforts very few monitor with "before" and "after" studies to ensure they obtain the projected savings, he said.

Energy Audits Available

Con Edison Spokesperson Richard Mulieri said their energy examine a property from top to bottom to see what might make the building more energy efficient. This become a cost savings for the owner when utility bills go down. On the residential side, Con Ed will provide the approximate cost of these projects as well as the pay back time.

Con Edison also offers rebates for energy efficient lights and other electrical equipment such as motors for elevators. They also rebate for the conversion to steam or gas motors. Between January of 1991 and June of 1992 Con Edison has processed some 23,000 applications for $209 million in rebates Mulieri said.

The most popular changes by far are made in lighting, he said. There are new technologies that utilize electronic ballasts that make the fixtures much more efficient and cut down wattage. In many cases the rebate covers the entire cost of a new lighting system, he said.

Since there is no financial incentive for tenants to save electricity, Con Edison will help owners sub-meter so that each tenant can be billed for the amount of electricity that is consumed.

Its residential apartment program encourages the conversion of "exit" signs, hall and basement lights to flourescents which cut down both on electricity and maintenance costs.

Conservation Administrator Martin Shapiro of Brooklyn Union Gas, said they conduct free energy audits, which include combustion efficiency tests for gas burners, a check of the-insulation and windows and much more. He said there is still some state money available through the Energy Investment Loan Program if the effort pays back in energy savings in 15 years or less. These loans have an interest rate of 2.5 percent for up to five years.

Keeping Warm

Whether you use gas or oil for heating, the experts all recommend having the boilers and chimneys cleaned. A savings of 10 percent to 15 percent on fuel can be achieved by a twice yearly cleaning, they say.

"Each building should look at how can they become more efficient than they already are," suggested Hank Heller, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Castle oil.

If an owner wants to have the most efficient heating system they should overhaul the burner now, he suggested, since the system is not being used very much and the service companies are not yet busy. Most oil burners can be tuned up and should be, he said, while most systems can be modified with modern equipment to save on fuel.

Heller said if the boiler is not operating efficiently, instead of changing the system, an engineering firm or oil company can determine the steps to make it more efficient. Equipment in place can be refurbished for much less than the cost of a new system.

"The upgraded oil systems are much more efficient than the gas systems," he added.

Under New York City's new boiler inspection law a qualified inspector must conduct an inspection each year before Dec. 31 or be subject to a $1,500 fine per day. "If one doesn't have a good operating system it could be failed," he said.

Another reason stacks should be cleaned is that a 40-degree rise in stack temperature equals a 1 percentage loss in heating efficiency, explained David Suthergreen, vice president of Optimum Applied System of Dobbs Ferry.

"It's not unusual to be running a couple of hundred degrees hot," he said.

OAS is an engineering firm that designs and builds computerized monitoring equipment. They work to reduce overheating with a system that monitors actual apartment temperatures and controls the amount of heat.

"When find savings are between 15 percent and 30 percent every year," he said over a typical time clock system.

Optimum also monitors water usage and temperatures. Typically, Sutherland said, 300 to 500 gallons a day is being lost in the return lines. "That's a lot of water," he said.

Gerald Pindus, president of U.S. Energy Savers, and an owner and manager of residential property, said their custom computerized equipment monitors water and oil usage, stack temperatures and apartment temperatures and lets owners know when to have the stack cleaned.

He said they concentrate on making their energy monitoring equipment very user friendly. "One of the reasons there is resistance to this kind of equipment is no one can understand it," he said. "We made ours very easy to understand and simple to operate." He said officials from Housing Preservation and Development are considering using the monitoring equipment in city owned buildings because it is so easy to use.

Most of the U.S. Energy systems are operated and Monitored through the telephone lines in the owner's office, he said. Printouts are available for all clients at the push of their computer button and are useful for courtroom evidence to show heat was being given to the building at a specific time.

If the computer finds the stack temperature is too high or too low, it will automatically start calling people. "It alerts owners and management that somebody should do something," Pindus said, adding that it is especially important if there is a shut down and no heat.

U.S. Energy Savers can also set up the system so it will call the owner if the water going to apartments is too hot, which can damage pipes.

"If it gets below 120 decrees that's a potential violation," Pindus noted. So on the one hand you get violations and on the other you damage your pipes. This way you can really cut your losses.

"When you are saving fuel, you are saving electricity," Pindus said, "because the burner runs less, saving wear and tear on equipment, saving water that goes out in steam; and when not burning something you are not adding to the pollution."
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:economical solutions to building energy conservation
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Aug 19, 1992
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