Energy Management, from Then ‘Til Now

March 6, 2006

In the editorial staff’s continuing recap of the last 100 years in Buildings’ history, it’s no surprise that a consistent theme is present throughout: energy efficiency and performance. In fact, we recently completed an extensive survey among our 72,000-plus subscribers in which the importance of these themes was once again brought front and center. The top three items listed among the eight topics of most concern to facility decision-makers were:

lowering operating costs, maximizing building performance, and energy management.

How does this compare to our past?

  • In Buildings’ first year of operation - 1906 - as The Building Manager and Owner, articles covered “Interior Humidity of Buildings,” “Smoking Chimneys Mean Waste,” and “Why Stokers Fail to Work.” With existing and proven technology, the building owner and manager was interested in efficiency and lower costs. In contrast, a brief entitled “Effect of Cheap Electricity on Apartment Building Life” touted the future of an at-the-time inexpensive commodity (electricity) being used in a more cutting-edge technology (exterior electric lighting) to benefit the urban skyscape: “The reduced cost of electricity will also have a marked effect on the exterior appearance of large cities. Myriads of lights blazing along the most prominent thoroughfares will turn night into day, and the standard of street lighting, which is already several times in advance of what it was 20 years ago, will be correspondingly advanced.” While the dream did come true, our ancestors would be surprised to realize that present-day energy consumption for all lighting in the United States is estimated to be about 22 percent of the total electricity generated in this great nation.
  • Fast-forward to 1974, after the oil crisis began and U.S. dependence on oil produced by Middle Eastern countries became painfully clear. William J. Abraham, then vice president of Chicago-based Scribner Management Co., explained his company’s “foolproof energy conservation formula” as the building manager for One IBM Plaza Building, an all-electric building: efficient people and efficient systems. He said, ”Professional building management has the same obligation as management in other segments of the economy to operate efficiently and, in doing so, to conserve all resources - manpower as well as material and energy. ... Management should utilize all available resources to maximum efficiency and, in addition, should keep informed of new materials, methods, and techniques. ... Management must train, guide, and motivate employees, not only to perform economically and efficiently, but also to help in devising more efficient methods of operation.”

In addressing your current energy-efficiency and performance initiatives, this month’s issue offers a variety of articles and departments that offer inspiration and direction in achieving operational excellence from your building systems. However, don’t forget Mr. Abraham’s wise advice 30-plus years ago: Simply, that it’s up to you.

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