Because every commercial property is unique in design, location, age, and tenant demand, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution for energy efficiency. Here are some of some of the top ways sustainability chiefs will be using less energy in 2020 while maintaining tenant comfort and satisfaction.
Energy audits/benchmarking. The most effective way to make your existing property more energy efficient is a good in-depth energy audit, according to Chad Engle, vice president of Hines’ corporate engineering group. “Because the Hines portfolio is quite diverse, and with the acquisitions we don’t really know what we’re getting, and for us it’s that in-depth analysis from the building to really understand what we can implement first.”
With an audit in place, building managers can then see whether energy-saving measures are paying off. Rather than immediately buying cutting-edge technology, Engle advises taking baby steps. Rather than immediately ordering a wholesale retrofit, take the time to thoroughly understand how a building is operated. Then use the data to fine-tune operations.
Establish a preventive maintenance plan. “Establish and stick to a preventive maintenance plan, including regular equipment maintenance, and benchmark your properties in Energy Star Portfolio Manager,” said Todd Feist, sustainability program manager for the Institute of Real Estate Management.
Energy Management Software: Hines utilizes advanced building optimization data and analytics. “They give us a portfolio-wide visibility into how our assets are performing as well as give us tools for assets to make operational adjustments in real time.” Because the data only minutes old, it gives individual building operators immediate feedback so they can make adjustments versus “always analyzing your energy in the rear-view mirror.”
Reporting tools are built into the software allow building managers to normalize weather and occupancy and put control measures in place, which can be noted in the software in the form of triggers (i.e. if the measures are not working, the software produces an alert).
Go Solar: The cost of installing solar has come down roughly 10% every year since 2001, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. While utility-scale residential solar installations are soaring and continue to hit new records, commercial real estate has been slower in including solar installations in properties as a result of policy changes in states like California, Massachusetts and Minnesota, according to SEIA. Solar can, however, be done successfully.
For example, Hines partnered with a major institutional client to update their suburban office building in New York. The installation of a 250 kW fuel cell system, combined with a six-acre solar array completed the previous year, relieves up to 1 MW of demand from the local grid. The building has become a highly sustainable work environment with risk reductions and lower operating costs, Engle reports.
Energy-Efficient Design. “The best time to make a building more efficient is when it is being designed and before it’s occupied,” observed Janet Joseph, senior vice president, for strategy and market development at the New York State Energy Research Development Authority. With that in mind, NYSERDA launched the Buildings of Excellence Competition providing $40 million in funding/prizes to new construction projects that demonstrate how to make low-carbon buildings profitable, affordable, beautiful and great places to live.
The first round of winners were awarded $18 million for 28 projects. Awarded projects will become part of a comprehensive data collection effort to determine how to cost-effectively deliver superior performing buildings. The second round of program funding is open and provides up to $1 million per project. Learn more at ny.gov/BOE