The Audit Process
For those in existing buildings and seeking the In Operation rating, one of the greatest benefits of bEQ is to have a third-party professional audit your building. Other performance programs will help you establish your benchmark, but if all you have to do is enter utility data, it may not be obvious where energy waste is occurring.
The Level 1 Energy Audit includes the following evaluations that must be completed:
- Conduct a preliminary energy-use analysis (PEA).
- Perform a walk-through survey to become familiar with building construction, equipment, operation, and maintenance.
- Meet with the owner, operator, and occupants to learn about special problems, planned improvements, and operation or maintenance issues.
- Complete a space function analysis and determine whether efficiency may be affected by functions that differ from the original functional intent of the building.
- Identify low- or no-cost changes to the facility and
- Provide a summary of specific problems or needs, including possible revisions to operations and maintenance procedures.
- Recommend potential capital improvements and provide an estimate of costs and savings.
A unique component of the bEQ audit is the inclusion of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) measurements, which address occupant health and productivity in terms of ventilation, light levels, and thermal comfort.
“In my opinion, the bEQ process requires more of a Level 1 ‘plus’ audit with the air quality, thermal comfort, and light level screenings, which are not typically included in a regular Level 1,” explains Michael Conchilla, senior project development manager with Reynolds Energy Services and ASHRAE BEAP.
Another advantage of bEQ is how it forces consistency in the audit process. All auditors must complete the same evaluation steps and present their findings using the forms in the assessment workbook.
“We’ve seen in our research that audits can have a variety of results and recommendations depending on who completes them,” notes Timothy Wagner, deputy director of the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub. “The bEQ process, however, offers a more standardized approach to the audit process.”
The registration fee for bEQ, which includes the assessment workbook, certificate, and dashboard, is $500. The cost of the audit, however, is paid separately to the auditor and will vary depending on the size and complexity of your building.
A Path to Improvement
Once you have your baseline performance established, you can then prioritize which energy conservation measures to tackle. The Level 1 audit is meant to uncover low-cost and calibration opportunities, not large capital projects. Most facilities can focus their attention on lighting, HVAC, system controls, and minor envelope improvements, says Musser. You may even discover metering errors that can be rectified.
“The auditor is going to work with the FM team to make sure that the list of recommendations translates into viable projects,” explains Jim Kelsey, a professional engineer with kW Engineering. “Having rough estimates of initial costs and payback ranges for these upgrades can also help facility managers secure the funding needed to address inefficiencies.”
As with any audit, there’s always a gap between receiving recommendations and being able to act on them. Adopting energy conservation measures can be foiled by lack of staff resources, financial barriers, market influences, and grant or incentive availability. It’s important to have an implementation plan in place so your audit results don’t get shoved on a back burner and forgotten.
“Some owners may choose to implement several upgrades at the same time because it’s more economical to have them done all at once,” explains Richard Sweetser, an energy specialist on the EEB Hub team and member of the bEQ committee. “Others may need to stretch out measures over a period of time.”
As you make improvements to your facility, remember that your rating is only a snapshot of your performance at a given moment in time. Any number of changes from retrofitting lights and adjusting control sequences to a new tenant or added renewables will impact your operations. Time will also takes its toll.
“As the building ages, the operation, tenancy, and building systems are likely to change and the rating may become inaccurate or even obsolete,” Musser notes. “ASHRAE recommends reapplying for a rating every three years.”
You can then use your first bEQ assessment as your baseline and review how performance has changed after a second Level 1 has been completed.