Archive for the ‘Energy management’ Category

Summer HVAC Wrap + BetterBricks Video

September 1st, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Before the summer winds to a close, The Building Advisor feels it deserves a look back. In addition to soaring heat waves, the summer’s energy efficiency news was telling.

First, go to our latest webinar on Getting to the Decision Makers – a summer triumph from BuildingAdvice in providing HVACs with the tools they need to educate building owners and managers on energy efficiency cost savings.

Best video series ever! Building Night Walks from NEEA’s BetterBricks’ YouTube Channel. Sorta like “The X Files” meets your life.

Here is one:

Johnson Controls (JCI) issued its annual Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey last June, ['s article here] asking executives responsible for energy use and real estate decisions how they feel about energy and how it’s affecting their business decisions. The top line bullet from over of over 4,000 property managers surveyed?

“Energy cost savings, government incentives and enhanced public image [are] the biggest motivators for energy-efficiency investments.”

Read the executive summary here, direct from the horse’s mouth.

CNBC (finally!) evaluated the report’s findings with a good, long look in this week’s article “Energy Price Volatility Now A Major Factor In Corporate Efficiency Drive.” As Trevor Curwin pointed out,

“‘Bottom-line energy costs savings’ is the biggest single reason for property managers to consider spending on energy efficiency projects, but ‘energy security’ jumped into the top-five list of concerns from out of nowhere.”

JCI’s research shows the average payback time for an energy efficiency project is 3.1 years. While “government and utility incentives” are huge drivers for the energy efficiency marketplace, the “Achilles heel” of most efficiency improvement projects is still financing.

Tom Konrad

Tom Konrad

Forbes blogger Tom Konrad did a great series on energy services stocks in June. His post The Sector Information Technology Forgot looks at how demand response – programs that offer incentives for business owners who curtail their facility’s energy use during times of peak demand - plays into energy efficiency programs, particularly EnerNOC’s.

Along that line, EnerNOC went public in June, and shortly thereafter the company announced Memphis City Schools Selects EnerNOC’s EfficiencySMART(TM) Insight to Improve System-Wide Energy Use.

Summer daze got you bored of reading? The recent proliferation of HVAC multimedia from your favorite trades should be enough to keep you entertained during lunches as the weather cools. Check out Contracting Business’ video portal, or the NEWS’ new podcast directory.

 Images courtesy

Near and Far, Awareness of Energy Efficiency Grows

August 25th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Mass Energy LabFirst, the good news. In Massachusetts yesterday, a Cambridge-based commercial and industrial energy solutions firm, Mass Energy Lab, announced a contest inciting undergraduate and graduate level students to identify, research and present evidence on a promising new-to-market energy efficiency product. Entrants will present evidence on the product’s ability to impact energy waste reduction and its marketability, and are eligible to win $3,000 as the top prize.

Anybody want to research BuildingAdvice? We make a great science project.

According to a press release, the contest is “intended to encourage students to research and identify cutting-edge, new to market energy efficiency solutions and to think deeply about how the technology can be applied to facilitate the reduction of energy waste in commercial and industrial buildings. “

Check out Mass Energy Lab’s foxy R&D section debuting any day now, featuring whitepapers, casestudies, product reviews, industry experts and test results.

Now, the not-so-great news.

li keqiang david cameron

Li Keqiang and David Cameron make a deal.

China’s buildings need to go ‘green’ – before it’s too late”:

“In the next 20 years, China plans to urbanise as many as 300m of its rural people, driving an insatiable demand for energy and materials as almost the equivalent of America’s population fires up their new fridges and air-conditioners.”


Chinese Vice Premiere Li Keqiang’s visit to England’s Building Research Establishment (BRE) – a group of architects, engineers and scientists at the cutting edge of new building techniques – last winter made Britain’s Telegraph UK this week with the announcement that the BRE was signed up by the Chinese to create a £100m, 4.8m sq ft innovation park in Beijing, together with Vanke, China’s largest property developer.

Apparently, China’s “green building” industry could eventually be worth £144bn per the vice minister of the Housing and Urban-Rural Development ministry. Now that’s actually pretty good news.

On the other hand, Chinese government is “painfully aware” that a quarter of China’s energy use is currently eaten up by buildings. In turn, they are pressuring developers to spend time thinking about water, energy and carbon savings, but many who design real estate in China think sustainable construction means simply tacking on green components with add-on costs. As writer Eric Fish puts it,

“When integrated intelligently from the start, utilities savings quickly cancel out the extra costs. Total upfront costs sometimes even dip below the price of traditional buildings.”

The Times of India reported that The Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bureau for Energy Efficiency (BEE) for the creation of energy efficient technologies (‘We need to adopt energy efficient technologies’).The MoU also outlines the creation of awareness and capacity building of local Business Development Services (BDS) providers for implementing energy efficient technologies. The clusters will be scaled to meet the needs of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) clusters.

Lastly, right here at home in Oregon our Department of Consumer and Business Services Building Codes Division received a national award for its work in energy efficiency.

Jeff Johnson was an advocate of Building Energy Codes

Jeff Johnson was an advocate of Building Energy Codes

The sixth annual Jeffrey A. Johnson Award for “Excellence in the Advancement of Building Energy Codes and Performance,” an award designed to recognize the pursuit of energy efficiency, according to Sustainable Business Oregon.

Greener, Greater Buildings Are Here.

August 17th, 2011 by Jim Crowder
IBM's Jane Snowdon

IBM's Jane Snowdon

IBM Senior Manager Jane Snowdon guest blogged for CNBC this week, taking the opportunity to mull on New York City’s “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan.” Of course The Building Advisor called out the importance of this little alliterative city initiative back in April of 2010 (Greener, Greater, a Long Way Away?), but who’s counting?

Yep, it’s that old mandatory benchmarking and public disclosure idea again, but this time, it’s a lot closer to reality. It’s happening, people! August 1st deadline!

Not only does the DOE’s Energy Star program dictate the most readily-usable set of standards for evaluating a building’s energy usage, it makes buildings profitable, too. Snowdon shares:

A 2009 study by the University of San Diego found that Energy Star buildings — which rank among the most efficient in a pool of similar buildings — attracted 13 percent higher rental rates than the market average, with vacancy rates running about 3.5 percent lower.” – Jane Snowdon, CNBC

[More great research on how Energy Ratings Can Make Properties More Profitable.]

In states and cities where energy benchmark scores are required, they will be available on sites like (which also has a handy matrix of energy efficiency incentive programs nationwide. Bet there’s one in your city). breaks down efficiency incentives state by state breaks down efficiency incentives state by state

In a New York minute, 16,000 buildings are slated to begin collecting performance data. What’s more, The Greener Greater Buildings Plan has the potential to reduce citywide energy costs by $700 million annually by 2030 and help to create roughly 17,800 construction-related jobs over ten years.

Pointing out the falling cost of the kind of monitor-based, networked technology banks and airlines began employing a decade ago, Snowdon says it’s a great time for commercial real estate to embrace tech for energy savings. I mean, today its benchmarking and disclosure, tomorrow, automated analysis of efficiency investment potentials.

Oh wait. You can do that with BuildingAdvice right now. Right.

Oregon Facilities from Jengo Media

Oregon Facilities from Jengo Media

Say, have you seen the handsome set of facilities-minded, yet glossy and pretty print mags from Jengo Media? We’ve got our own Oregon Facilities here in the Northwest, but they have cognates for Arizona and Utah too. Western facilities managers have all the luck!

Interestingly, energy efficiency isn’t going over as big as some folks had hoped this week:

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported Seattle green jobs program falls short of goals. It seems the program funds low-interest loans and incentives for buildings to do energy-efficient upgrades just doesn’t have enough takers.

Similarly, a small business loan program implemented in Arlington Heights, Ill. earlier this year could expire if interest doesn’t pick up, the Journal Online reported in Energy Program May Burn Out.

The moral of this story? Money from the government for energy efficient upgrades is sitting on the table, unused.

Lastly, Forbes reported Cisco Exits Energy-Management Software Market. What? Their energy-management products were designed to leverage Cisco’s prowess in the “dark arts of networking” for better controlling HVAC systems. But now they don’t wanna.

Are you missing summer camp? Revisit the magic of BOMA 2011 here:

That should cure it.

Energy Savings Grabs Attention

June 30th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

evansville courier press logoFile under “bursting with pride”: last weekend’s Sunday edition of the Evansville Courier Press featured our latest BuildingAdvice poster boy/channel partner Aaron Derr of J.E. Shekell in a story by Carol Wersich, Evansville ARC finds energy savings with state grant. We were particularly pleased to see local coverage on this terrific energy savings win for a nonprofit serving adults and children with disabilities in Evansville, Indiana.

The Building Advisor was also excited to see that same channel partner featured in Contracting Business’ June print issue under Editor’s Notebook: Business Bits. If someone has stolen your copy again, you can see the online article here: BuildingAdvice™ Energy ServicesProgram Leads to 50% Savings.

But enough about us…ok, that line never gets old. Sorry.

new construction contraction

May's ABI score was 47.2, a slight decrease from a reading of 47.6 the previous month.

Last week, Heidi Schwartz of Today’s Facility Manager reported on the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a leading economic indicator of construction activity. The number has contracted rather sharply for two months in a row, reflecting the decrease in spending for new construction.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. was quoted as saying:

…there is no denying that the prolonged credit freeze from lenders for financing commercial projects is the number one challenge to a recovery for the design and construction industry.

What does that mean for HVACs? With no early indicators of growth in new construction, it means the focus is on keeping existing buildings running and functioning smoothly – maybe even more efficiently than their owner/managers had considered before. As with many aspects of our lives, the recession is forcing everybody to extract the most value from the assets they already possess.

dog at work

Apparently prolonged exposure to computer screens can indeed cause eye strain.

(On a lighter note, did you know TFM has a Friday Funny category on their blog? Last week’s was on Take Your Dog To Work Day, or TYDTWD for those official memos. Couldn’t resist stealing this pic).

An BuildingAdvice favorite, BEPinfo – that’s Building Energy Performance Assessment News, if you’ve been installing too many AC units of late – included the great news this week: Hartz Mountain Industries Receives Two Awards For Energy Efficiency Practices.

BOMA New Jersey recognized Hartz Mountain, one of the biggest privately held real estate owners/developers in the U.S., with two awards for its energy efficiency practices as part of the chapter’s First Annual Building Energy Reduction Awards program. One of the awards was for energy reduction achievements at five commercial buildings which resulted in an annual savings of $262,243 and an overall consumption reduction of 13% or 1.9 million kWh saved. With industry leaders like Hartz and CB Richard Ellis stepping up all over the place, it’s only a matter of time until energy reduction strategy is standard practice.

Images courtesy Evansville Courier Press, Take Your Dog to Work Day, webpagefx.

HVAC Technology and the Online Water Cooler

June 16th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Our friends at Software Advice have a great post up, Cut Apartment Energy Costs with Energy Monitoring Systems, which takes a look at how energy monitoring scales to the multifamily (apartment) building type. multifamily building

Though it smells like residential, multifamily is, of course, actually a commercial property type. When a multifamily owner wants to look at energy monitoring products, would s/he go for a whole building assessment through BuildingAdvice, or look into residential monitoring products like Google’s Powermeter or free Microsoft web application Hohm for each user? You tell us; that’s what blogs are for.

While Contracting Business columnist Vicki LaPlant touts the importance of social media, and commercial contractors are taking their rooftop service unit and replacement businesses to Facebook, The Building Advisor asks you to remember one thing: in the beginning, there were online bulletin boards.

hvac talk, a forum for online discussion hosted by Contracting Business that is by its own account, “a vibrant, active online community that connects HVAC professionals with a focus on the contracting marketplace.” If you, like me, dear reader, have your doubts about how many HVAC service contractors engage with social media and blogs, look no further. The new member introduction page has over 3,000 posts, the “Job Discussion” page is hopping of course, and just about all of the discussion pages have been commented on TODAY. Is this where all of our potential blog commenters are? Are online forums more suitable to the type of communication HVAC contractors are looking for? And why?

And while we’re on the topic of technology in the HVAC industry, you’ll notice the web video revolution sweeping our favorite publications. HPAC Engineering has a series on it’s front page, including this segment on Electro Static Technology on Shaft VFDs. Enjoy.

Images courtesy, HVAC-TalkHPAC Engineering.

In Energy Efficient HVAC News This Week… BuildingAdvice!

May 25th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Did you catch the article on energy measurement and verification by Janelle Penny in Buildings Magazine’s May issue, The Best Tool in an FM’s Arsenal?

We’re also in this month’s issue of Sustainable Facility (have you seen their fancy website redesign?) under New & Notable, highlighting our last BuildingAdvice upgrade allowing bidirectional, database sync allowing cross-platform communication between Portfolio Manager and BuildingAdvice program. Meaning, you get BuildingAdvice’s user-friendly interface while maintaining your contractor building credentials through Portfolio Manager. Pretty sweet.

But enough about us. (For now.)

Downtown Louisville, Kentucky

In Kentucky, over 300 manufacturing and industry professionals gathered in Louisville in late April to discuss the shifting energy industry, and steps they can take to control rising energy costs, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. (BEPinfo, one of The BuildingAdvisor’s favorite enewsletters, also covered it here.)

Hitherto, Kentucky has enjoyed electricity prices among the lowest in the nation. The Herald-Leger’s Danny Taylor noted:

As a result, Kentucky’s energy use per industrial customer is the third-highest in the nation, 427 percent above the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.”

However, industrial electricity rates in Kentucky are predicted to double over the next decade, having already risen 43 percent over the past five years.

What does the handy, energy efficiency checklist in the Herald-Leader’s article outline?

  1. Get an energy audit. More info on BuildingAdvice, our industry proven energy services delivery platform and providing Energy Audit Reports.
  2. Engage top leadership. Get BuildingAdvice management, sales, and engineering personnel acting as an extension of your current team to drive the development and ongoing execution of your energy services business.
  3. Install highly visible measurement systems. BuildingAdvice’s Energy Expert technology tops off our web-based software and portable diagnostic equipment which provides energy waste analysis, monitoring, and reporting with the oh-so-talked-about measurement & verification services mentioned above.

Followup to the 5/17 post, CBECS Data On Hold for Funding; EnergyStar Suffers:

ASHRAE commends Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Portman (R-Ohio)

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air -Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) applauded Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for introducing the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011, a bill that would help pave the way to make buildings more energy efficient by reducing barriers in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors to make use of new technologies.

We are particularly pleased that the legislation would encourage the U.S. Department of Energy to work with code and standard development organizations to develop definitions of energy use intensity (EUI) for use in model codes or in evaluating the efficiency impacts of the codes,” Lynn G. Bellenger, ASHRAE’s 2010-2011 president, said in a press release.

ASHRAE worked with Senators Shaheen and Portman to develop this legislation, and will continue to be an active partner in developing this, and similar legislation.

Images courtesy Buildings, and ASHRAE.

Race To The Facilities: Who Will Be the Software Solutions Provider of Choice?

April 13th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

It’s a little bit out of The Building Advisor’s ken, but Property Management Software Guide has a blog that recently caught our eye thanks to the nice guys at Software Advice.

IBM Acquires Tririga; Facilities Management Enters the Limelight ran on on Property Management Software Blog last week and as author Houston Neal points out, the move could be a telling one by Big Blue to acquire not only facility and real estate management software provider Tririga (full press release here), but how their allowance of $20 billion to spend in acquisitions of software companies under IBM’s Smarter Buildings initiatives will play out.

Smarter Buildings, launched in February 2010, is a portfolio of applications that help property owners and managers track operations, maintenance, and energy expenses.

The Triringa acquisition helps round out IBM’s current offerings with new real estate portfolio management, capital project management, and energy management capabilities. Triringa, a Vegas-based outfit, has won accolades from Gartner Inc, worked with the Department of Homeland Security, and runs an annual user conference.

IBM predicts their Smarter Planets projects will generate $10 billion in revenue by 2015. This is consistent with the predicted trend toward increased awareness (and spending) on the massive potential to reduce energy waste in buildings. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, energy efficiency upgrades could represent a $250 billion market over the next 10 years.

The larger question, of course, being who will be THE provider for property management, real estate and facilities software? Do all of those user groups want to be lumped into one category? Does a holistic approach mean one software channel into which all data flows through?

As Neal writes:

“All these ‘illions are grabbing the attention of major IT players and bringing facilities management vendors into the limelight. Microsoft, HP, Cisco, and many others are making strategic moves to fill their rosters and fortify their offerings. Who will get there first?”

Thanks to Tim Kensok for helping out with this post!

Images courtesy caston_corporateCrimCollective.

Cascadia’s Green Building Group Gets Real on MoU with GE

December 9th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Last Wednesday, Cascadia GBC’s Green Building Interest Group (GBIG) focused its monthly panel discussion on the Memo of Understanding (MoU) signed between the City of Portland and GE last summer (The Building Advisor blogged on it here). The announcement, while cool, was a bit cloak and dagger, flying under the radar of most media outlets possibly due to its vagarity: the public/private partnership and use of the phrase “sustainable economy efforts” were dead giveaways.

So John Lerch, Government Relations with GE, Clean Energy Works Oregon’s Director of Marketing Will Villota, and John Tydlaska from the Portland Development Commission tried to help the wily brokers, builders, and other green nerds maneuver what was behind last June’s “big formal handshake,” as one panelist put it.

GE and Portland Partner for Sustainable Growth from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

Turns out, nobody’s all that sure what’s going to happen, but whatever it is, the Oregon Sustainability Center (OSC) is going to be a part of it. Clean Energy Works Oregon needs to be a part of it, due to their status as a nonprofit organization in a pilot program stage that needs to expand.

For another thing, Portland still wants to be best in class on sustainability. Sure, the projects aimed at falling under the header of the MoU will be 1) close to fruition and 2) demonstrative of exportable skills. But its clear we want to use the net zero buildings and university system/City partnerships that come out of the MoU as proof of Portland’s brand as the nation’s hotbed of sustainable innovation.

The City of Vancouver's Olympic Village Project

One hope is that in the delivery of ecodistricts – neighborhoods that are self-contained organisms, both creating and consuming the resources they need – around Portland with the help of GE, we’ll be “retrofitting communities.” This is a deep thought, one to which whole initiatives have been devoted to here at the local level.

Even deeper? Enlisting the public utilities to help us. When you’re starting with a self contained community, like a military base, all the way up to a fast growing, diverse neighborhood like Lents Commons, creating ecodistricts out of existing communities will be a trick. Looking at this “retrofitting communities” idea, we’d have to disassemble a neighborhood that is, according to older models, working just fine.

It’s kind of like increasing the energy efficiency of existing building stock. Its a whole lot easier to build something energy efficient from the ground up (just ask Will about his solar envy). When forced to make something that already exists better, we tend to face a roadblock where many people give up.

It’s a mammoth dream, this ecodistricts stuff, and the GBIG folks on both sides of the table know it. As far as how we get there, Villota alluded to companies like Opower (in the residential space) and Bundle (a financial software dashboard), which show users how their resource usage – be it energy or money – measures up to other Americans. The overall goal being to make energy efficient upgrades a more emotional decision than it ever has been before, even a social imperative.

What do you think? Are competitive dashboards the way to incite motivation for achieving energy savings in the commercial sector? Tell us what you think below.

Images courtesy Portland Online and Sightline Daily

BuildingAdvice Energy Savings Grabs Spotlight

November 23rd, 2010 by Jim Crowder

You might have noticed we’ve been getting a lot of attention lately.

First there was the November 1 article in the ACHR (Air Conditioning Heating Refrigeration) NEWS, Contractor Scores With Free Benchmarking, highlighting the energy savings our BuildingAdvice channel partner Ed Brady of Sauer, Inc. uncovered at Fayette County Memorial Hospital in Columbus, Ohio this year (covered by The Building Advisor here).

After Sauer, Inc.‘s upper management decided to offer free energy benchmarks as part of its overall company strategy early in 2010, Brady, Service Account Representative for the Columbus location of the four-branch mechanical contractor, offered the service to Fayette County Memorial Hospital, Columbus’ two-building, critical access hospital. By summer’s end the benchmarking had amounted to over $750,000 worth of energy retrofitting service work.

“Contract customers weren’t biting at the energy services,” said Brady of his existing client base. “We found that by offering free benchmarking, we would definitely get potential new clients and some nice first meetings.” Moreover, “It doesn’t really take that much of my time to do the benchmarking.” By the following month, Brady was putting the energy services platform to work. – ACHR News

Another BuildingAdvice channel partner, J.C. Cannistraro in Watertown, Mass., got some love from early this month with a spotlight,  Cannistraro finds energy auditing promising, profitable. Bill Fleming, HVAC Service Manager for the New England mechanical contractor, was the poster boy for finding energy savings for Metro Realty Trust, a Northeastern ownership in danger of losing a large medical laboratory tenant to high power usage and the costs associated.

JC Cannistraro's Vincent Ciampa verifying proper operation of a VFD (Variable Frequency Drive).

As tells it, Fleming’s free benchmark resulted in a score the ownership couldn’t ignore. A powerful presentation, aided by BuildingAdvice, proposing $100,000 in retrofit and maintenance work, was fielded and funded in a matter of months.

“After Cannistraro entered the auditing market, a company committee selected a software tool called BuildingAdvice that was created by a company named BuildingAdvice. Fleming said the adaptability of the tool allows his people to generate statistics that show a client how much energy and money he can save.” –

To top it all off, the ACHR (Air Conditioning Heating Refrigeration) NEWS hit us again with the Nov. 8 article “Home Health + Comfort: Commercial Energy Audits Are in Demand”

Our sexy sidebar tapped BuildingAdvice as “a company that offers contractors the marketing and technical tools needed in order to start improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings.”

“The sales and marketing training piece teaches contractors how to build an energy services offering that fits into their existing approach to service. In addition, BuildingAdvice teaches their contractors’ salespeople to have the confidence to engage customers in conversations about energy.” – ACHR News

We confess, we like the attention. But we like people like Ed Brady and Bill Fleming in the spotlight even more.

Images courtesy ACHR News,, and JC Cannistraro.

Federal Government Launches Home Energy Scoring Program

November 15th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Vice President Biden and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the launch of the Home Energy Score pilot program. The Home Energy Score will offer homeowners actionable information about their homes’ energy efficiency.  A report provides consumers with a home energy score between 1 and 10, and shows them how their home compares to others in their region. The report also includes customized, cost-effective recommendations that will help to reduce their energy costs and improve the comfort of their homes.

More info can be found at

Under this voluntary program, trained and certified contractors will use a standardized assessment tool developed by DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to quickly evaluate a home and generate useful, actionable information for homeowners or prospective homebuyers.  With only about 40 inputs required, the Home Energy Scoring Tool lets a contractor evaluate a home’s energy assets, like its heating and cooling systems, insulation levels and more, in generally less than an hour.  That means a homeowner can see how their home’s systems score, regardless of whether a particular homeowner takes long or short showers or keeps their thermostat set high or low.

The Home Energy Score initially will be tested with local government, utility, and non-profit partners in ten pilot communities across the country.

In addition to launching the Home Energy Score, the Department of Energy announced the release of the new Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades.  Energy improvement programs can adopt these guidelines to increase the consistency and effectiveness of energy upgrades, and training providers can use them to improve course curricula and training materials.  These guidelines were developed through a collaboration between energy efficiency contractors, building scientists, health and safety experts, technicians and trainers in the weatherization program, and other professionals in the building and home energy upgrade industry.