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Developing an Energy Management Plan at Your Facility

Facilities managers have a wealth of resources to help decrease operational costs and make a positive impact on the environment.

As a facilities manager in Austin, Texas, Tammy Counts developed comprehensive energy management plans that ultimately saved her facility a lot of money on power usage.

As president of the Austin chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), Counts also has helped influence other facilities managers in her region to do the same. Overseeing 35 million square feet in property space, the Austin members have committed to reducing their facilities’ energy consumption by 30 percent in two years by incorporating management plans that allow natural light, take advantage of contemporary and efficient HVAC or appliance systems and make other adjustments to reduce their carbon footprints.

What Goes Into an Energy-Management Plan?

A comprehensive energy-management plan maps out the goals and objectives for a facility within a defined time range, according to BOMA.

“Attention needs to be focused on a ‘big picture’ energy management plan,” Counts says. “You have goals and objectives to achieve. It’s more effective than doing these things in piecemeal fashion, which will always have a more limited impact.”

The budget is key to the equation — if replacing every single standard light with a CFL or LED immediately is out of the question, the facilities manager can come up with a more gradual, phased-in plan. The facility itself also needs to be evaluated for structural suitability for various energy-saving renovations as some buildings simply aren’t geographically or structurally positioned to take advantage of certain natural-lighting improvements, for example.

Fortunately, there are more resources now to help lend guidance: The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Green Building Council, and other industry associations have published the “Energy Efficiency Guide for Existing Commercial Buildings: The Business Case for Building Owners and Managers.” The book can help facilities managers save thousands in energy costs.

Coming up with a plan to replace traditional lighting with CFLs or LED products can save up to 25 percent in energy costs, according to the Guide. Calibrated control devices for heat, air and lighting can make nearly the same impact, while implementing energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment can save nearly 16 percent in operational costs.

“Our goal is to enable business owners to break down the mystery of energy conservation opportunities into business-based scenarios that are both practical and cost-justifiable,” said George Jackins, who chaired the committee overseeing the book. “Owners and managers shouldn’t view buildings in terms of short-term economics.”

A Step-by-Step Plan

Jackins urges facilities managers to consider these steps in coming up with an energy-savings plan:

  • Calculate the building’s energy utilization index (EUI). EUI is calculated by converting all energy used in a building to a common unit, BTUs, and then dividing it by the square footage of the heated/cooled space in the building, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Establish a target for EUI improvement. Demonstrate how equipment/material purchases can meet these objectives in a quantified way. Establish a realistic budget for these investments. Outline the time schedule needed to complete the project and the impact on ongoing operations.
  • Conduct an energy audit. (ASHRAE has come up with a resource to use as guidance called Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits.)
  • Upon completion, commission the energy-conservation measures by a certified commissioning firm. This process should include training facility personnel on properly operating and maintaining equipment and systems.

Ultimately, these are the kinds of steps that can help a facilities manager develop a successful plan, Counts says.

“A comprehensive energy plan is a win-win,” she says. “It’s good for the environment, and it’s good for business.”

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