Editor's Letter

02/25/2014 | By Chris Olson

The cost of straying from the straight and narrow

An instance of “operational stray” discovered in an office at BUILDINGS

Straying from the operational straight and narrow is wasteful and costly – and typically hidden.

Those are the conclusions of a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council entitled Real-Time Energy Management: A Case Study of Three Large Commercial Buildings in Washington, D.C. The study analyzes a 12-month energy initiative undertaken at office buildings owned by the Tower Companies. The buildings ranged in size from 110,000 to 333,000 square feet.

A key part of the initiative was detecting and correcting “operational stray” – i.e. when good buildings go bad. Energy meters and best practices in monitoring were implemented; alarms were also installed to alert operators when systems strayed beyond parameters.

Focusing only on operational improvements, the program did not involve installing new efficiency equipment. Moreover, the researchers did not choose buildings that were energy hogs in order to push an agenda – the buildings had ENERGY STAR scores of 71, 78 and 81 before the program began.

The improved operational procedures allowed FMs to detect problems rapidly and correct them earlier. For example, operators were made aware the same day when chiller short cycling occurred due to a conflict between VAV and BAS controls.

At the conclusion of the 12 months, the program had spurred electricity savings of 23%, 7% and 17% across the three buildings, leading to a total savings of $218,703.

Moreover, the buildings’ ENERGY STAR scores had increased to 91, 87 and 88.

What tempts operators to allow their buildings to stray? The researchers theorize that one reason is that FMs have so many daily responsibilities – keeping buildings comfortable, responding to service requests, managing complex buildings and system settings. With better and timelier information, it is easier for them to respond to straying conditions.

Are you monitoring your facility to ensure it is not straying from the narrow path of efficiency?

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