Save your time, your money, and your sanity with these bright ideas from BUILDINGS 2011

Aug. 26, 2011
Learn how to save time, save money, and save your sanity

When it comes to doing your job, what is your greatest resource for learning about new ideas and strategies? BUILDINGS believes that you, our readers, can be your own greatest asset when it comes to implementing new ideas or changing strategies.

Learn how facility managers in buildings across the street and across the country are saving time, saving money, and making their jobs just a little bit easier.

We know bright ideas are not limited to the following small sample. Do you have a great method for cutting your utility bills, reducing maintenance costs, or doing more with less that you would like to share? If so, contact Chris Olson ([email protected]) or another member of the BUILDINGS editorial team.

1. Let the Sun Shine in

“Why pay for expensive electricity to illuminate your factory floor when you can have Mother Nature do it for free?” asks Keith Hussinger, plant manager for Kelly-Moore Paints. The company recently renovated part of its production facility in San Carlos, CA, and opted to increase the number of skylights from 4 to more than 20. “What a difference this made in lighting! Not only did we reduce our electricity consumption by more than 40%, but the overall illumination of the factory floor is far better than before.”


2. Introduce Induction

When the University of North Dakota (UND) decided to upgrade the campus’s outside lighting, it opted to convert from high-pressure sodium to induction lighting due to cost savings and increased life. “The cost savings is anticipated to be $7,800 per year in utility costs,” says Larry Zitzow, director of facilities management for UND. “In addition, savings in maintenance should be realized as induction light bulbs last for 100,000 hours compared to 25-30,000 hours for sodium.”


3. Manually Prepare

“Someone once said ‘If you want to hide something, put it in the manual,’” says Mark Galbraith, manager of design and construction for Northwest Missouri State University. He advocates reading, rereading, and referring to the manual. And age of equipment isn’t an excuse. “No matter how old a piece of equipment is (with a few exceptions), information can be found on the Internet. ‘I don’t know’ isn’t really a valid answer anymore because Google knows.”


4. See the Light of LEDs

Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) is embracing emerging technologies as part of its plan to reduce energy consumption, and LED lighting is one of these technologies. WEG recently completed a relamping project at its Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, replacing the fluorescent fixtures in the main service corridor with LEDs. “This resulted in a 15% combined reduction in electrical consumption fixture for fixture while using 10% fewer lamps,” says Wendy Loiselle, senior manager of corporate social responsibility with WEG.

In addition, the main neon entrance sign was replaced with a brighter and more energy-efficient LED lighting system, saving 16,100 kWh per hour, or 70,518 kWh per year. “Based on a 12-hour operating schedule, this represents an annual energy savings of $7,052 plus a further $40,000 reduction in yearly maintenance and repair costs.”


5. Step Down Light Levels

Your city code may require bright lights in your emergency stairwells, but how often are these stairwells – and the lights – actually used? To cut the costs associated with paying to light an area that is rarely used, a Jones Lang LaSalle property manager at a northern California building worked with municipal officials to allow bi-level lighting in the building’s emergency stairwells. “Most of the time, lighting levels are kept low to save energy,” explains Hal Brownstone, group manager of property management services for Jones Lang LaSalle. “When anyone enters the stairwells, motion detectors immediately shift to high-level lighting. Putting in the lighting costs $60,000 and returns about $16,500 annually in lower energy costs and utility rebates, for a payback period of 3.6 years.”


6. “Auto”-matically Restore Faucets

Cleaning automatic proximity-sensing faucets with abrasive media scratches the window that protects the retro-reflective eye, which causes the IR beam to scatter. This leads the faucets to fail and requires you to replace them. Or does it? Crockett Facilities Services found a simple fix to restore the faucet’s functionality instead of opting for a replacement. “A car headlight restoration kit can quickly and inexpensively polish the lens,” explains Diane McClelland, marketing director for the company. “The time and cost savings are substantial – $40 for the headlight kit compared to $300 for a new faucet.”


7. Actions Speak Louder

To get around staff diversity and potential language barriers, Donald White, director of safety and security for Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, uses the “look-see-do” method when it comes to training. This method works especially well for training staff members to properly use fire extinguishers and material safety data sheets (MSDS). White demonstrates the correct technique, splits training attendees into small teams, and has each team role-play the challenge. Each team is applauded and rewarded with small, useful prizes like pocket-sized LED flashlights. “Didactic training engages everybody to their abilities, regardless of any existing disabilities, or even language proficiency,” he says. “Animated training is skill-based, memorable, and fun!”


8. Re-Commission to Reduce Replacements

When Bible Broadcasting Network moved into a building that was more than 25 years old, it began testing every building system because “you cannot assume anything in a more than 25-year-old facility,” says Jeff Blodgett, the network’s facility manager. Blodgett found that the pressure-reducing valve on the domestic waterline was not just slightly off, but completely broken. “We were passing 125 psi to our entire building plumbing system and having trouble keeping up with flushometer valve replacements. After replacing the pressure-reducing valve, our plumbing issues fell to nearly zero and I am confident that our water usage dropped dramatically.”


9. Infrared Is a Hot Technology

Using infrared technology to identify concealed moisture in your roofing system can provide you with significant cost savings and extend the service life of your roof. With this technology, you can avoid complete replacement and prepare your roofing system for recover installation by surgically removing and replacing wet components with new dry components, says Ben Ansley, president and principal with Hixson Consultants, Inc. “Considerable savings may also be achieved by utilizing infrared thermography to identify and correct moisture intrusion issues prior to the end of contractor and manufacturer warranty coverage.”


10. Package Projects for Innovative Investing

“An innovative way to make HVAC projects financially viable is to include the cost, savings, and rebates of lighting retrofits into HVAC projects,” says Vincent Priolo, energy solution engineer for Southern California Trane. “The extremely short payback period of the lighting retrofit can significantly reduce the traditionally longer payback period of HVAC projects.” This will increase the capital costs, but the blended payback periods can bring HVAC projects into the strict financial criterion of this economy.


11. Use Solar to Save Investing

The sun can be a substitute for natural gas, as Maricopa County, AZ, decided to harness the sun’s energy with solar thermal systems for domestic hot water to reduce natural gas consumption at two of the county’s jail facilities. “Both of the projects were funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 at a cost of just under $2 million, and will save $73,000 annually on the county’s utility bills,” explains Lynda Cull, Article 5 procurement officer and program manager for the Maricopa County Facilities Management Department. “Thanks to utility incentives, the systems will pay for themselves in 13 years. The systems will also reduce the county’s carbon footprint by over 2 million pounds of CO2 annually.”


12. The Time Is Right for Staggered Scheduling

Building automation and staggered scheduling of building systems is one creative way to maximize efficiency and minimize cost. Ron Marinelli, director of facilities and energy manager for Lopatcong Township School District in New Jersey, uses this technique for the district’s elementary and middle school buildings.

“I put both facilities on a schedule through the automation system, instead of everything coming on at the same time, helping to reduce our facilities’ demand and seeking more ways to squeeze more juice from the orange. I now have control of our economizer and VFD; I use the economizer to precool our buildings, helping to reduce the demand and call for the chiller to run. By precooling my buildings in the morning, I was able to reduce the run time on our chiller by as much as 4 to 5 hours.”

In the shoulder months of April and May, 2011, Marinelli was able to reduce the hours the chiller ran at each facility by triple digits – adding up to a savings of $11,737.32 in April and $5,979.15 in May.


13. Control Condensation

Air conditioning condensate drains often overflow when the humidity is high or after heavy rains. To prevent damage from overflowing drain pans, Daniel Snyder, property manager for Cricklewood Realty Investments, LP, recommends that field technicians inspect and clean the drain lines and pans each time the filters are changed. The drains are checked again whenever there are extended periods of rain forecast during the cooling season. “Local and wireless water sensors are used in critical areas as backup,” he adds.


14. Pay As You Go

When it comes to lighting, the city of Pinellas Park, FL, uses a “pay as you go” concept. The city is currently replacing all T12 and metal halide lighting by doing a phase out/phase in process. Instead of replacing all T12 fixtures with T8 fixtures at once, the city waits until a T12 light fixture or bulb goes bad before retrofitting the fixture to accommodate a more energy-efficient T8. “I have 78 T12 light fixtures on one floor of my police department. I can’t cost-effectively replace every single T12 because I haven’t gotten all of the life out of it,” says Philip Schultz, facilities manager for the buildings maintenance division in the city’s Public Works Department. This practice allows Schultz to purchase 50 retrofit kits at one time, spacing out the payment of the upgrade and allowing the city to capture the entire life (and money spent) of the T12 fixtures.


15. Art of Air Distribution

Underfloor air distribution has made a great impact on energy usage for the State of Michigan. The state has a single-story, 25,000 square feet LEED Gold office structure with an 18-inch raised floor with underfloor air distribution. This building has the lowest combined BTU energy usage per month of the state’s 6 office buildings, all built after 1995, explains Kevin King, manager for field operations and facilities, Administration Division of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. In 2010, the energy usage for the building was 53,747 BTU per square foot per year, but the next closest building (located a mere 96 miles away) had an energy usage of 95,077 BTUs per square foot. “We are sold on the underfloor air distribution concept.”


16. New to You

Save money by utilizing items that are new to your organization, but not necessarily right off the showroom or factory floor. In 2010, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium needed to furnish a 20,000-square-foot space. Before purchasing materials and furnishings, Nancy Nicoll, property management specialist for Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, opted to contact the Veterans Administration, which had just completed a new facility and was in the process of relocating, because both organizations are non-profits.

“We contacted them and discovered there were many items that were going to go unused in their new facility,” she explains. “This was the perfect opportunity for our organization to step in to obtain what we needed. There were enough materials and furnishings to completely refurbish our space, and it also allowed us to be able to give some items to our native hospital that are desperately needed. It was a win-win solution for both entities.” Nicoll’s plan saved the consortium $500,000. If she hadn’t made the call, that savings would have become an expense.


17. H2O Optimization

Optimize condenser water usage by using your BMS to meter both the incoming water to your cooling towers and the blowdown flows. “This allows you to get credit on your water bill for the evaporation component from the towers,” explains Dennis Kniery, manager of energy programs for DFW Consulting Group, Inc. “An improved method includes adding a centrifugal separator to remove silt. You should be able to reduce your blowdown quantity by having the blowdown be the metered discharge of your centrifugal separators. Water will be the next electricity, so preparing for the future now puts you ahead of the curve.” In addition, metering allows you to notice when the flow exceeds the expected values, which will improve your ability to detect failure.


18. Reclaim and Reuse Runoff

Rainwater lands directly on your property, so why not make use of it if your location allows it? DP Partners, LLC, reuses stormwater from retention basins for landscape irritation at LogistiCenter at Logan, its 1,000-acre industrial park in southern New Jersey. “With a high water table, this enables us to minimize potable water use and reduce costs,” explains James Mascaro, eastern region development director for the company. “It has the added benefit of fitting into the USGBC format for water reduction, gaining us credit points for our LEED-New Construction Silver certified building.”


19. Less Is More with Lawns

Bayer takes a minimalist approach to lawn care, according to Gary Hunt, the head of facilities for Bayer’s Pittsburgh Site Management. Hunt advocates not using baggers for grass clippings and lawn debris like leaves: “It costs time, trouble, and money to collect grass clippings and tree leaves.” His solution is mulching these materials into the ground: “It helps put nutrients back into the soil and reduces weeds.” In addition, he advocates mowing only when you need to instead of on a set schedule, regardless of whether the grass needs to be mowed or not. You can further reduce the amount of mowing required by reducing the amount of turfgrass. “In back areas around your building, prepare the soil, plant wildflowers, and let them grow. That way you won’t need to mow.”


20. Switch Your Switches

Reduce electricity usage by preventing lights being left on – intentionally or unintentionally – in unoccupied rooms by installing switches with occupancy sensors. “I can’t say enough good things about changing out light switches to occupancy sensors in offices, conference rooms, bathrooms, and stair towers,” says Paul Dimeo, president of Dimeo Properties. “The sensors fit into existing switch boxes so there’s no drywall, paint, or wallpaper issues, and it’s entirely local, so there’s no fancy central system to manage. Sensors are the only productive way to deal with behavioral issues with people who like to leave lights on to prove they are in the office.”


21. Create a Super Saving Position

To keep a watchful eye on utility expenses and usage, Kempler Development Company created a resource conservation manager position for The Bellevue Collection, which consists of a superregional shopping center and a large mixed-use center. “This person is charged with watching over all utilities of our 4+ million square footage,” says Glen Bachman, the vice president of retail operations for Kempler. “This person is supported by our power and natural gas supplier with a salary rebate to us when certain annual goals are met. All in, we usually save over $100,000 annually and have held our utility costs to a 1% increase on a 5-year average.”


22. Investigate Solar

To keep a watchful eye on utility expenses and usage, Michigan’s State Police Forensic Laboratory integrated green technology into its energy supply by installing a PV system. Solar panels were installed on the roof of the building and connected to a controller to convert the energy from DC to AC. The system is wired to a device that monitors the energy generated before it’s delivered to the electrical infrastructure. The system was initalized on March 31, 2011. “As of August 19, 2011, the system has produced 14,511 kWh of electricity, which offsets 24,667 pounds of CO2,” says Ric Martin, communications and organizational specialist with the state’s Facilities and Business Services Administration – Building Operations. “This is the equivalent of removing the emissions from 2.2 passenger vehicles for one year.”


23. One Light at a Time

To keep a watchful eye on utility expenses and usage, North State Communications is replacing its lighting fixtures one step (or one light) at a time, changing to electronic ballasts as the older magnetic ballasts fail and moving from T12s to T8s. “In most locations, it is not critical that all the lighting is of the same brilliance, so eventually we will be 100% T8 lighted in both 48-inch and 96-inch fixtures without a large cash layout for fixture replacement,” explains Doug Wagoner, property maintenance supervisor for the company. “Any remodel gets T8s.”


24. Team with Tenants

After greening all of its offices with its HinesGO program, Hines continues to walk the walk of sustainable real estate by extending the popular internal program into its tenants’ spaces. The voluntary program encourages building occupants to identify and implement no-cost and low-cost alternatives to their office environments. Scored on a scale of 100, offices are evaluated in 7 categories. When a specific strategy or improvement has been implemented, participants earn Leaf Credits. If an office achieves 70 Leaf Credits, it is then designated as a green office.

According to Kim Jagger, director of corporate communications for Hines, more than 850 tenants, such as Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Deloitte & Touche, GE Healthcare, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, the San Diego Padres, Shell, Verizon, and Wells Fargo – representing more than 39.8 million square feet – have achieved the designation. “Expanding the program to our tenants has increased interaction between management and tenants through a very positive experience,” Jagger says. “It now serves as a standard amenity in our buildings and a true value-add.”


25. Making the Rounds with Clipboards

To keep facilities staff from being pulled away from scheduled high-priority tasks, Cobleskill Regional Hospital created the troubleshooter system – a quick, daily response to maintenance, repair, and service requests throughout the hospital.

Thomas Smyth, director of facilities services, explains that members of the facilities staff are assigned to serve as the troubleshooter on a weekly basis. The troubleshooter tours the hospital, checks 10 clipboards posted in convenient locations, and then either immediately addresses the requests or makes a note of repairs requiring extensive work. In addition, the tour leads to an effective surveillance of the hospital, as life safety items are checked, which assists the department with accreditation standards and compliance.

“This program has become second nature for the entire hospital community,” he says. “Timely lamp replacement is no longer an issue. Requests are completed within a 24-hour period approximately 85% of the time.”


26. Have a Game Plan

Aurora Public Schools in Colorado is looking to save $2.5 million over a 5-year period by increasing energy efficiency. According to Rebecca Herbst, bond communication specialist for Aurora Public Schools, the district will save this amount of money (and energy) by implementing a strategy with 4 key focuses:

  1. HVAC controls – district-wide use of automation controls and retro-commissioning to ensure that buildings are operating as efficiently as possible.
  2. Lighting upgrades – replacement of remaining T12 and high intensity discharge (HID) lighting with more efficient T8, LED, and induction technology.
  3. Lighting controls – district-wide use of lighting controls that automatically shut off lights during holidays, weekends, school breaks, and afterschool hours.
  4. Energy conservation – reducing energy costs by educating staff and students to turn off lights and unplug computers and electrical devices when school is not in session.


27. See into the Future

You may be concerned with problems in the now, but looking ahead may help you avoid problems in the future. “Look past this budget year,” recommends Robert Washburn, director of facilities management for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “We frequently get mired in current problems and the crisis of the moment and forget that many of our building components have predictable life expectancies. By raising the planning horizon, these issues can become part of a master plan instead of current-year emergencies.”

Alerting management to future needs can also work in your favor. “Telling management ‘Here are the projected capital renewal needs for existing facilities for the next 5, 10, and 20 years’ builds credibility, and in many cases, management buy-in.”


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