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Energy conservation adds to an owner's bottom line.

Concerns about operating costs, competition for tenants and new environmental regulations have forced owners to become more involved in the retrofitting of their buildings to save energy. Energy conservation adds to the owner's bottom line and can be achieved in numerous ways, ranging from simple measures to more complex strategies.

The main areas on which to focus are lighting and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) - i.e., air handling units, chillers, pumps and cooling tower operations. Saving energy can be accomplished through proper maintenance and rehabilitation of existing facilities, including periodic replacement and upgrading of inefficient hardware and equipment, which can result in both energy savings and utility company paybacks.

Here are five steps to take to develop a strategic energy conservation program for your building:

Look for Areas of Energy Waste

Air-conditioning accounts for a major portion of a building's peak electricity requirements. Updating of air-conditioning systems is an energy-saving opportunity that is covered by many utility rebate programs. For optimal efficiency, air-conditioning systems with a high Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) should be installed. The higher the ratio number, the more efficient the machine and the greater the rebate.

A significant portion of the annual heating and cooling loads of a building is affected by the exterior envelope. If you are planning to retrofit, arrange for an energy audit to check the existing insulation and the type or quality of window glass, including its "U' value and shading coefficient.

Wall and roof insulation generally should be maximized if the climate imposes substantial loads on the heating and cooling system. However, it is important to remember that an optimum point can be reached at which a specific amount of insulation produces a minimum total cost.

Glass can be a detriment to the efficient use of energy, particularly in high-rise buildings. Heat gain through glass is caused by solar radiation and conduction; heat loss is due to conduction. Quality of glass is defined by the amount of both solar radiation that penetrates the glass and the amount of heat transmission through the glass. The glass shading coefficient indicates the amount of solar heat gain through the glass.

The heat transmission of a particular glass is indicated by its U-value. U-value is the overall coefficient of heat transmission and is measured in Btu/hr/sq.ft/degree F. By using an insulated reflective glass combined with good wall and roof U-values, the total energy use can be reduced considerably.

Install an Automated Building Management System

Competition for tenants and desired reductions in operating costs may justify an investment in digital electronic energy management systems (EMS) technology. Such systems can provide as much as 10 to 20 percent reductions in energy costs and provide better control. The total management control approach, using automated systems that operate on direct digital control, provides better cost efficiency in managing the entire building.

Manufacturers today are providing control functions well beyond simple on/off and alarm and shutdown functions. A microprocessor-based control package can be integrated with an overall utility plant control system to take advantage of the synergies between chillers, cooling towers and pumps in order to increase energy savings.

An owner considering an EMS should retain the assistance of a consultant or engineering firm to implement this type of control integration. The costs for both ongoing system maintenance and upgrading of an existing system should be carefully evaluated. Control systems have become more affordable than they were years ago, primarily because the cost of computers has decreased. In addition, maintenance people have become more adept at operating the equipment.

Take Advantage of Rebates

Lighting redesign is probably the easiest and best single investment a building owner can make in reducing energy use. Lighting costs can often account for 40 percent of a building's annual utility costs. Many utility programs offer generous rebates for replacing inefficient lighting elements, including fixtures, ballasts and bulbs.

Rebates are also offered by utility companies for high-efficiency motors, electric air-conditioning, gas air-conditioning and steam air-conditioning. The rebate amounts are so substantial that in some cases the amount of the rebate can reduce the payback period to less than one year. Some utility companies will even pay up to a maximum of $15,000 for a feasibility study to determine if steam or gas air-conditioning is economically practical for the building.

To be sure of the benefit, an analysis must be made to demonstrate potential savings. Some custom rebates require that an engineering study be prepared and measurements taken to confirm performances. This would be most appropriate for high-use customers undertaking major retrofits.

Energy conservation is becoming a way of life. Like it or not, it is the owner's responsibility to make sure that building systems are efficiently operated and that well-trained personnel know how to use the equipment to full potential. The steps outlined herein are just a start towards building a long-range energy conservation program that will maximize the life span of a building and keep it attractive in a competitive real estate marketplace.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Focus On: Building Management & Maintenance; real property owner
Author:Parikh, Jay
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 21, 1998
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