July 1, 2010
Proactive boiler maintenance pays off. EARTH Awards honor those excelling in sustainability. Is green really good for you? And more.

Proactive Boiler Maintenance Pays Off

With property managers shifting their focus to cooling in the summertime, boilers get left off of the to-do list. U.S. Energy Group CEO Jerry Pindus shares how to use these summer months to stay ahead of the next heating season.

As heating season ends and summer begins, property managers should prepare their boilers.

BUILDINGS: What are five actions property managers should apply to their boilers?
1. Put the burner on low fire – it won't have to work as hard during the summer.
2. Reduce the aquastat temperature by 10 degrees. If there is an EMS, use the staging feature of the aquastat.
3. "Top off the boiler" (bring the water level to the top).
4. Have your service technician completely service the boiler and burner – oil the circulating pumps and motors, clean the air passages, remove any soot, repair leaks, clean the tubes (if necessary), and check for signs of wear.
5. Conduct a "stick test" to make sure there's no water in the oil tank.

BUILDINGS: How much should be budgeted per boiler in terms of time and money?
Pindus: The question isn't how much should be budgeted, but who should analyze the system and determine what work should be done. Find a certified energy engineer from the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). Often, buildings rely on a burner repair company, but you really need a certified energy engineer. Once you know what should be repaired, make a detailed list and estimate the cost of each item. The amount needed for each boiler will differ. Use this information to prioritize the work. Budgeting in advance can save money, and you can use the savings to invest in further repairs. .

BUILDINGS: What are the potential cost savings for maintenance in the summer as opposed to the fall? What if you neglect it completely, or only do maintenance reactively?
There are three advantages to doing boiler maintenance in the summer: it allows for waste prevention, preventive maintenance, and the extension of equipment life. It's easy to prevent waste by putting the burner on low fire to avoid running the boiler on winter mode when it's unnecessary, and then adjust the building's aquastat to avoid making hot water that isn't needed during the summer months. It's also easier to schedule service for the boiler during this time of year. Some companies even offer off-peak incentives and special rates. This chance for preventive maintenance is not only a necessity, it's essential. The useful life of the equipment is extended by keeping the boiler in the proper condition at all times. It's important to remove the soot that accumulated during heating season. I know someone who doesn't believe in water treatment and ignores boiler leaks – he winds up replacing his boiler every 10 years, which is wasteful and expensive.

BUILDINGS: When should maintenance start for those who don't have a traditional summer?
Maintenance should be a year-round, continual process. For climates that don't have a traditional summer, it's good to set an annual "overhaul date" and use that time to completely service the system. However, monitoring of HVAC system functions should be done daily, and property managers should identify issues before they become problems.

BUILDINGS: How often should proactive maintenance plans be implemented?
Every day. Running your buildings proactively means monitoring your system daily and identifying issues before they are problems. The proactive plan should include long-range tasks and goals, as well as daily system monitoring. This proactive approach is the only way to run buildings efficiently.

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EARTH Awards: A Comprehensive Look at Sustainability

BOMA San Francisco announced the winners of its annual EARTH Awards, which identify sustainable policies and procedures for properties that are going green. Containing a series of 78 questions, the application asks contenders about their best practices in the industry and challenges owners and managers to excel in even the smallest areas of sustainability. The winners can be found here: www.bomasf.org/earth_awards.vp.html.

With feedback from BOMA members, applicants, and vendors, the application is "a dynamic, ever-evolving document," say Zachary Brown and Blake Peterson, chair and vice chair of the awards committee. "The goal is to make each year more comprehensive and more competitive than the last."

The categories examine a wide range of initiatives, many simple and inexpensive (yet often overlooked). Use these tips in your own facilities:

  1. Recycling/Waste Reduction. Contract with green caterers (organic/local foods), provide reusable kitchenware, set up automatic double-sided printing, coordinate extensive recycling and compost programs.
  2. Energy Conservation. Establish an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager rating, complete an energy audit, implement preventive and regular HVAC maintenance, use energy-efficient lighting, have a maintenance plan for fixtures.
  3. Water Conservation. Create weekly water logs, use drip irrigation, plant native and perennial or drought-resistant plants.
  4. Toxics/Air Management. Execute protocol for hazardous waste disposal, use low-toxic/microfiber/chlorine-free cleaning products, eliminate air fresheners.
  5. Transportation. Establish a commuter benefits program, promote car-share programs, have vanpool/rideshare parking or transit passes available, provide secure parking for bicycles.
  6. Tenant Education. Use your website to promote green practices, supply feedback to tenants on recycling efforts, hold educational meetings, develop a recognition program, send e-newsletters instead of print.

This year, the energy efficiency category received the strongest number of innovations. "With a higher participation level of LEED buildings, energy efficiency was on the forefront of most applicants' operational and sustainable strategies," say Brown and Peterson. Other standout practices included janitorial daycleaning, alternative transportation incentive packages for tenants, energy retrofits and retro-commissioning, proactive outreach to tenants, and leveraging rebates and incentive programs to lower energy consumption.

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Is Green Good for You?

Just because a building is green doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy or good for its occupants. In actuality, the building may be wreaking havoc due to the products and materials used in its construction. "As the demand for more energy-efficient, tightly sealed buildings grows, so does the risk for trapping indoor air pollutants inside," says Marilyn Black, world-renowned scientist, indoor air quality expert, and founder of the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute. "We end up inhaling countless chemicals that off-gas from the interior products and materials – chemicals that are known to make us sick."

Exposure to polluted indoor air in these sick buildings can cause nosebleeds, headaches, nausea, asthma, and even cancer. These sick buildings often come with financial and legal ramifications, too.

"It's important to remember that, while green products, materials, and practices can be good for the outdoor environment, they may not always be the best for indoor environments," Black says. "Indoor environments are where we spend 90 percent of our time. We have to make sure the products we surround ourselves with are low-emitting."

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Facilities Need Flexibility in Security

"One-size-fits-all" doesn't actually fit all when it comes to building security. Security in public buildings can be enhanced when architects are able to provide appropriate design strategies to achieve desired levels of protection rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.

"There is no single design solution to providing physical security to facilities in the built environment," says Barbara Nadel, principal of Barbara Nadel Architect in New York City. "Each building and site is different and presents different security challenges."

A comprehensive security plan integrates design, technology, and operational measures, which are put into place by building owners, Nadel says.

Building owners need the flexibility to raise or lower security levels as needed, based on actionable intelligence and other factors. Customizing security strategies for each building and site allows a wiser use of limited resources and taxpayer dollars.

"In urban settings, the goal is to mitigate risk," says Nadel. "Building security should prevent mass casualties, minimize injuries, protect assets, and enhance resilience. Owners, architects, and security experts can assess the risks and options most suitable and affordable for each facility, and develop design strategies to ensure an appropriate level of protection."

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Cattle Produce Milk … and Electricity

A medium-sized dairy farm with 10,000 cows produces about 200,000 metric tons of manure per year; about 70 percent of the energy in the methane generated via anaerobic digestion could be used for data center powering and cooling.

New research from Hewlett-Packard Laboratories indicates that you can get more than milk and steak from cattle. The unlikely combination of cattle manure and the heat output of data centers can create an economic, environmentally sustainable operation. Manure from a 10,000-head dairy farm could fulfill the power requirements of a 1 MW data center, with power left over to support other needs on the farm. Heat generated by the data center could increase the efficiency of the anaerobic digestion of animal waste, resulting in the production of methane. Methane can be used to generate power for the data center. "The idea of using animal waste to generate energy has been around for centuries, with manure being used every day in remote villages to generate heat for cooking," says Tom Christian, principal research scientist in HP's Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab. "The new idea that we're presenting in this research is to create a symbiotic relationship between farms and the IT ecosystem that can benefit the farm, the data center, and the environment." A medium-sized dairy farm with 10,000 cows produces about 200,000 metric tons of manure per year; about 70 percent of the energy in the methane generated via anaerobic digestion could be used for data center powering and cooling. Read the full research paper at www.hpl.hp.com/news/2010/ apr-jun/HP_ASME_PAPER.pdf.

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Schools Cut Costs, Gain Health Benefits

The Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools' Operations and Maintenance Guide contains strategies to help schools reduce operating costs, increase indoor air quality, boost energy efficiency, and improve the learning environment.

Save significant money with little to no capital investments by implementing techniques that keep your building operating at peak performance.

The Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NE-CHPS) has an Operations and Maintenance Guide that contains strategies to help schools reduce their operating costs in addition to leading to healthier indoor air, greater energy efficiency and environmental benefits, and overall improvements in the learning environment for students and staff.

The guide provides advice on a broad range of topics – from energy and water efficiency in a school to incorporating renewable energy systems, along with technologies for improved IAQ. In addition, there are detailed guidelines for implementing environmentally friendly policies and practices for existing buildings, such as anti-idling policies, recycling programs, using green cleaning agents, and developing training for building operators.

"Above all, a high-performance school provides an environment that enhances the primary mission of public schools: the education of future citizens. Together, the NE-CHPS Protocol and the Operations and Maintenance Guide provide strategies for the construction or renovation of a school to high-performance standards and the tools for schools to continue reaping the environmental and cost benefits of a high-performance school for many years to come," says Carolyn Sarno, NEEP's senior program manager of high-performance buildings. "Saving money while improving the environmental and physical health of students, and accelerating energy efficiency, is our ultimate goal." The NE-CHPS Operations and Maintenance Guide is available at www.neep.org/public-policy/ buildings/high-performance-schools/omguide.

To download the full report, click here.

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