Energy Management: Your No. 1 Topic of Interest

02/01/2008 | By Linda Monroe

The availability and cost of energy resources are top of mind with Buildings readers

Linda Monroe

To provide you with content that will help you make smarter decisions in your role as building ownership and facilities management professionals, the Buildings editorial staff makes a concerted effort to take the pulse of the industry via in-person visits, phone and e-mail interviews and conversations with a variety of resources, industry-wide research and events, and reader surveys (both formal and anecdotal). In our latest formal editorial survey, you told us that your No. 1 topic - the one you want to know most about - is energy management. (See the list of your Top 10 Topics) And, let's be honest: Much of that interest boils down to lowering operational costs.

But, the consumption of energy is a hot topic. As you read this, it is being (and will continue to be) hotly debated amongst suppliers, users, and special-interest groups. Candidates in this Election Year are using scare tactics about energy availability to manipulate the media and public; yet, they support an entourage of personnel and all the trappings in their coast-to-coast campaigns. Your children march in support of their favorites, waving "Save the Planet" banners, and then come home and take 30-minute showers, keep lights ablaze all night long, and cruise indefinitely in their automobiles. Employees show company loyalty by working around the clock - losing sleep, but expending even more electricity, water, and HVAC-system usage. If energy is clearly a necessity of life, what is energy management?

Consider the following words of the National Park Service (a subset of the U.S. Department of the Interior) - particularly if you're looking for a professional and personal rationale that goes beyond mere cost savings:

"Most ‘modern' architecture, transportation, and food production was created upon, and is dependent on, the assumption that using fossil fuels for energy is economical and that their supply is inexhaustible. Few people are aware of the true costs associated with the overuse of fossil fuels: Mining that displaces habitats, forest cover, and farmland; oil spills that foul beaches, marine environments, and groundwater; and air pollution that reduces the chances for species survival are difficult to associate with flipping on a light switch, running an air-conditioner, or driving a car.

"In reality, unchecked consumption of the finite fossil-fuel reserves drives more and more exploration and extraction at a higher economic cost, and displaces more and more natural resources at a higher environmental cost. A compounding reality is that generating energy by burning coal, oil, and natural gas is a major source of atmospheric contamination responsible for global warming and climate change, acid rain, and smog. The resulting impact damages water bodies and groundwater, soils, crops, wildlife and wildlife habitat, building materials, and mankind's personal health. The combined effect is the inability to sustain life.

"Thus, the true cost of using fossil fuels for highly consumptive energy needs is not just the price humans pay ... it is also the price the environment pays." 

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