Posts Tagged ‘contractor’

Urban Cowboys, Going Deeper with EEI

September 22nd, 2011 by Jim Crowder

UrbanLand Magazine recently turned out a thoughtful analysis, Energy Efficiency Markets Evolve Globally, of The 2011 Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) , the fifth time a global survey of real estate decision makers has been conducted by Johnson Controls. For the first time, ULI got into the research fracas with Johnson Controls, to analyze and release the results. The Building Advisor touched on the EEI a couple weeks back in Summer HVAC Wrap + BetterBricks Video, but nobody does serious data like ULI.

If you’re not familiar, the EEI is the last word, the “state of the union,” if you will, gauging the hearts and minds of of global executives and building owners responsible for energy management and investment decisions in commercial and public sector buildings. This year, the EEI surveyed 4,000 respondents in 13 countries on six continents and was conducted in eight languages. That’s a lot of bubbles to fill in completely with a #2 pencil!

‘Extremely’ or ‘Very’: Energy Efficiency Makes the Big Time

What you probably already know: as many as seven in ten executives globally say energy management is extremely important or very important to their organizations. Execs have pursued an average of nine different energy efficiency measures in the past year.

And what’s motivating them? Simply put, the rising cost of energy. We all know energy costs will keep on rising. It’s sort of like gravity – you can pretty much count on it. Up significantly in importance from 2010, however, is government incentives. With over half the states offering some kind of financial incentive for efficiency measures, execs are now listening. It’s sort of like getting cash back at the grocery store on a big ticket item: why not? Third biggest motivator was to enhance the branding of a building.

In fact, interest in certified green buildings doubled from 2010 and for the first time, certification efforts are more prevalent for existing buildings than new ones. Lower on the motivational list: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, domestic energy security, and other government policies.

Now, the challenges: while the graphic to the left shows that 67% of executives surveyed report that they have allocated capital from their operating budget to energy efficiency in the last year, (yay!) significant market barriers to pursuing further investment (boo).

These barriers come in all colors and flavors, depending on market sector. From the report:

The five key barriers to energy efficiency investments reported in the survey are:

  • lack of awareness of opportunities for energy savings;
  • lack of technical expertise to design and complete projects;
  • lack of certainty that promised savings will be achieved;
  • inability of projects to meet the organization’s financial payback criteria; and
  • lack of available capital for investment in projects.

For the contractor serving small to midsize buildings, it is interesting to note that respondents with control over more square footage in larger facilities report having implemented more energy projects than those with smaller facilities. But trickledown is sure to follow.

Four is the Magic Number 

According to the EEI Survey, real estate organizations sharing the following four key strategic practices are most likely to get on the energy efficiency bandwagon, and implemented four times as many energy efficiency improvement measures as those that did not:

  • goals established for reduced energy use or carbon emissions;
  • energy use data measured and analyzed at least monthly;
  • added resources dedicated to improving energy efficiency through the hiring or retraining of staff, or the hiring of external service providers; and
  • external financing sources used for projects.

The Building Advisor can’t help making a couple of points here. For energy use data measured and analyzed at lease monthly, our Verify product for ongoing, continuous monitoring is the solutions. I mean, have you read what it did for J.E. Shekell in Smart Solutions (J.E. Shekell Uses Building Advice to Slash Energy Bills in Half ) or the NEWS (Facility Energy Audit Leads to Huge Savings)?

And in the second place, BuildingAdvice is like adding a team of expert management, sales, and engineering personnel acting as an extension of an HVAC Contractor’s current team to drive the development and ongoing execution of an energy services business. ‘Nuff said.

And Speaking of Incentives Changing the World

Sacramento development image by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News

The Gray Lady’s Energy & Environment section reported  on a $650 million private sector investment in energy efficiency for existing buildings in this week’s article, Tax Plan to Turn Old Buildings ‘Green’ Finds Favor.

It’s getting around that a retrofit can typically cut a building’s energy use so much that the project pays for itself in as little as five years. A new tax arrangement in Miami and Sacramento allows property owners to upgrade their buildings at no upfront cost, typically cutting their energy use and their utility bills by a third.

Lockheed Martin, Barclays Bank and some other big boys, headed up by Ygrene Energy Fund of Santa Rosa, Calif., have formed a consortium that will invest $650 million in such upgrades over the next few years.

The article called waste in older buildings “one of the nation’s biggest energy problems” and cited energy as a sector that could eventually be worth billions.

The meat of the plan is pretty genius: the constortium is kind of like a strip mall serving all of your energy efficiency needs in one stop. Ygrene and its partners gain exclusive rights for five years to offer this type of energy upgrade to businesses in a particular community. Lockheed Martin does the engineering work. Short-term loans come from Barclays Capital to pay for the upgrades. Then, “Contractors will offer a warranty that the utility savings they have promised will actually materialize,” the article states. Insurance underwriter, Energi, of Peabody, Mass., backs up that warranty. It goes on from there.

Best of all, owners pay no upfront cost for energy efficient upgrades. Instead, a surcharge is attached to subsequent property tax bills for five to 20 years. However, as the surcharges are less than the savings, the upgrades pay for themselves. Really. The new approach could garner substantial private capital for many midsize and smaller businesses to get on the energy efficiency bus.

In the past three years, half the states have passed legislation permitting energy retrofits financed by property-tax surcharges, and hundreds of cities and counties are considering such programs. The new financing approach is called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE financing. PACE saw some serious backlash last year when an arm of the federal government that oversees the mortgage market took a hostile stance toward such projects on residential property, on the grounds that they add risk to mortgages. But, the article notes, “So far, it appears that PACE programs for commercial properties pose fewer legal complications.”

Richard Branson by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News

The consortium was put together by the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit environmental group based in Washington set up by Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur and billionaire, to tackle the world’s climate and energy problems in cost-saving ways.

Git Along, Little Doggie

“Perhaps the most serious risk,” the article notes, “is that fly-by-night contractors will be drawn to the new pot of money, pushing energy retrofits that are too costly or work poorly.

‘Contractors are cowboys,’ said Dennis Hunter, chairman of Ygrene. He promised close scrutiny of the ones selected for the Miami and Sacramento programs.”

What say ye to that, boys?

Ride ‘em, cowboy!

Cowboy image courtesy

Energy Papers for HVAC Contractors Cover Rebates, Myths

June 3rd, 2011 by Jim Crowder

exploiting rebates quarterly whitepaperThis week we posted some fresh, informative papers to the BuildingAdvice website. Both papers represent the first installments of a couple of series of papers covering topics we find HVAC contractors want the most information about.

The first series is Exploiting Rebates Quarterly, which explains how utility rebate programs work, what rebates are available in various states, and how to use energy service platforms to take advantage of them. The first paper, “Rebate Basics,” discusses leveraging rebates for a shorter payback with a competitive edge.

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, Hosts of The Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters." Ok, we kind of want to be like them.

Another series of papers takes on common misconceptions about energy services. We’re calling it – with all due respect to our peeps at the Discovery Channel – our Mythbuster Bulletin Series, starting with Myth #1: “Energy Costs Can’t Be Controlled.” In it, we break down why costs can be controlled and discuss the most common causes of energy waste within a building.

It’s a prevalent belief that utilities represent either fixed or insignificant costs in building operation budgets, but that doesn’t make it true. In fact, energy costs can be controlled by optimizing building operations and controls. While there are opportunities to improve performance through retrofit projects, in the majority of buildings, the way that building equipment is being operated or programmed is often what wastes the greatest amount of money. The key to dispelling the myth is providing owners with measurement and hard data to quantify the waste and, ultimately, the savings that can be generated.

- Mythbuster Bulletin Series, “Energy Costs Can’t Be Controlled”

At our downloads page you’ll also find recaps of our latest, highly popular webinar series for your viewing (or re-viewing) pleasure: Part 1, Building A Winning Energy Services Team and Part 2, Targeting Your Existing Customer Base. Part 3 was webcast earlier this week and will be posted to the website soon.

dexter horton building in Seattle, mandatory benchmarking

The Dexter Horton Building, Seattle, Wash.

In other news this week, greentech enterprise ran a great article on mandatory energy benchmarking legislation, touched off by Seattle’s Dexter Horton building and the citywide enforcement of mandatory energy benchmarking and reporting for all commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet.

The article also links to a great energy efficiency information resource,, which hosts an online library of resources such as a document library with U.S. and global policy summaries, impact analyses, and rating systems and tools. As well as a neat blog.

And speaking of great energy-focused blogs like ourselves, be sure to check out the panoply of blog offerings through Energy Central. Did you know that you can even customize the Energy Central Professional Daily newsletter you get from Energy Central by logging on to the “personalization” tab at Just check and uncheck preferences to customize your newsletter to get the information most pertinent to you.

Images courtesy and

As Seen In Contractor Magazine…

November 30th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Below is a  Building Advisor post adapted from the recent article on J.C. Cannistraro in

“Reports do not lie. Energy savings are truly available for most buildings.”

So says Bill Fleming, an HVAC Service Manager at the family-owned mechanical services company J.C. Cannistraro in Watertown, Mass, and so he’s proved it to be true.

The industry expert was quoted on the evolving opportunities for energy services in the HVAC industry by ACHR News last August in the article, “Energy Audits in HVAC.” [update: another energy services success story can be found in, here.]

As part of the 47-year old J.C. Cannistraro’s facilities services division, Cannistraro’s Building Energy Analysis service offering utilizes BuildingAdvice as a fundamental tool for assessing properties 5,000 to 20,000 square feet.

Cannistraro utilizes all three BuildingAdvice reports: Energy Benchmark, Energy Assessment, and Energy Audit.

When Cannistraro went looking for energy services tools to differentiate itself from the competition, BuildingAdvice was identified as the clear market leader by a corporate committee. Not only did it serve the small- to midsize niche well, it “was going where we wanted to go. I have the highest praise for the product,” Fleming says.

[BuildingAdvice] was going where we wanted to go. I have the highest praise for the product,” Fleming says.

Additionally, the sales and marketing training that are an integral part of the BuildingAdvice platform (highlighted here in ACHR News) were a draw. BuildingAdvice armed Fleming and his staff to show owners the energy savings they could access by utilizing BuildingAdvice’s diagnostic suite of services.

But while offering free energy benchmark reports attracted interest in Fleming’s service area, he has encountered resistance. “It isn’t always easy to obtain copies of necessary utility bills,” Fleming comments of building owners, managers and tenants.

Energy services by HVAC and mechanical contractors: it's all about differentiation.

Fleming points to the value of getting through to the right person.

“A savvy owner is looking at the longterm savings, not just someone who wants to wait until something breaks.”

One project in particular brought BuildingAdvice’s value home in September of 2009.

Longtime client Metro Realty Trust was “fairly receptive to the energy conversation,” says Fleming. A medical laboratory tenant occupying 20,000 square feet of a 55,000 square foot building was considering a move, partially due to its unavoidably high power usage and the costs associated. Metro Realty Trust knew that if it could lower the building’s energy costs, it would have a leg up on keeping the tenant.

Metro Realty Trust and Cannistraro saw eye to eye: improving the building’s performance would be good for the building’s profitability. Cannistraro did a free Energy Benchmark and formulated multiple-tenant utility information into a spreadsheet. Fleming showed Metro Realty Trust the damage: an EnergyStar score in the 30s (on a scale of 0 to 100, 100 is the most efficient).

The next step would prove to be a test of BuildingAdvice’s sales training. “Transitioning the client from a benchmark to an audit is the hardest part of the process,” said Fleming. “It all depends on the effectiveness of our presentation. How we present what we do is a key part of the process.”

By transferring the information into a separate template, Fleming presented a customized report in a format that worked for the client.

Based on the BuildingAdvice Energy Audit, Cannistraro proposed nearly $100,000 in retrofit and maintenance work for Metro Realty Trust.

In a few months, Metro Realty Trust had come up with the funds to complete the project.

“BuildingAdvice generated critical information to get the work done,” Fleming said. “It would have been difficult to justify without the information contained in the BuildingAdvice report.”

Right now, Fleming has two more audits pending – one for a hotel, the other for an office complex – and recently completed work that qualified for $8,700 in state rebates. Fleming estimates the client will save $15,000 per year in energy usage.

Images courtesy, J.C. Cannistraro, BuildingAdvice.

PECI Projected to Deliver $13.9 million in Energy Savings, 400 Jobs to California

August 10th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Portland-based PECI has won an $18.8 million contract from the California Energy Commission to manage an “EnergySmart Jobs” program that will create more than 200 California jobs.

The “EnergySmart Jobs” program will provide energy efficiency training throughout California to implement efficiency upgrades on commercial buildings. The company will also hire and retain over 200 contractor and energy surveyor positions. The program will focus on regions within California with lots of opportunity for efficiency savings and high unemployment.

The 18-month program is paid for with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and is slated to deliver $13.9 million in initial energy savings for electricity rate payers during the first year and a half.

The program will also create three jobs in Portland, Sustainable Business Oregon reports.

Additional program partners include private contractors, utilities, manufacturers, and the California Conservation Corps. “The Conservation Corps ‘Corpsmembers’ are comprised of unemployed or otherwise economically disadvantaged people between the ages of 18 and 25, with the intention of helping those in greatest need get a ‘head start’ in the employment market,” according to PECI’s press release.

PECI has a longstanding relationship with the State of California, having delivered energy efficiency programs throughout the state for 20 years and employing 28 in the state.

Valuable Webinar for Commercial HVAC Contractors

July 8th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

BuildingAdvice is all about energyEnergy. It’s what BuildingAdvice is all about: how buildings can most efficiently use this natural resource to operate, and how a focus on energy services can improve the bottom line of the businesses of our contractor channel partners while helping the building owners and managers they serve.

Starting July 22, we’ll be walking our talk in our next free webinar series, “Energize Your Service and Retrofit Sales.” This three-part series offers HVAC contractors concise sales strategy on using BuildingAdvice to build business. Topics include:

Part 1: Use Energy Services to Ensure Maintenance Agreement Renewals

Thursday, July 22, 2010 1:00pm Eastern (10:00am Pacific)

Understanding your service business metrics. What are energy services and how do they fit into a planned maintenance program? What to do in advance of your service renewal date. Meeting with your client prior to next service date anniversary. Qualifying your customers’ interest with automated ENERGY STAR™ benchmarking. Adding energy services to existing service agreements.

Part 2: Winning New Service Business With Energy as the Differentiator

Thursday, July 29, 2010 1:00pm Eastern (10:00am Pacific)

Sales management: getting your team ready. Targeting prospects who you can help with your energy services. Getting a meeting with the right person. Successful prospect meetings. Qualifying prospects up-front with energy benchmarking. Selling an energy assessment. Writing winning proposals.

Part 3: Use Energy Services to Drive Project Revenue

Thursday, August 5, 2010 1:00pm Eastern (10:00am Pacific)

Targeting the right accounts and the discovery meeting. How to ensure retrofits continue to drive savings. Monitoring and verification. Selling an energy audit, closing retrofits using the audit report and partnering with your local utility.

If you’re considering adding energy management to your company’s service offerings or are looking to improve an existing energy service offering, start with this educational series on starting an energy management conversation and building valuable client relationships through a focus on energy cost savings. Register for free here.

How has BuildingAdvice helped other contractors? Read MacDonald-Miller Finds BuildingAdvice Perfect Fit for Energy Efficiency in Small to Midsize Buildings.

Image by Whitney for Congress.

Wolin Mechanical Meets Energy Efficiency Provider AirAdvice: “Frankly, I’m having a hard time keeping up with customer demand…”

June 3rd, 2010 by Jim Crowder

We’ve been around for 90 years,” says Dave Stroh, co-owner of Wolin Mechanical Electrical in West Des Moines, Ia. “We know what affects operations.”

Dave’s a straight shooter. And what he’s talking about is the difference between a free energy assessment from a utility company, which might measure power usage and draw, versus BuildingAdvice’s ability to reduce energy costs in the commercial buildings he services by making specific recommendations for adjustments and improvements.

Dave, who added electrical services to Wolin Mechanical after purchasing the business in 1996, acquired the BuildingAdvice program seven months ago. By April, his BuildingAdvice sensors were booked out three months in advance. He told The Building Advisor, “Frankly, I’m having a hard time keeping up with customer demand for energy services as a result of running BuildingAdvice’s Energy Assessment Reports. It just sets the table for everything.”

As Dave says, the Energy Savings Assessment report says to his customers, “here’s how we can help you.” How does he know it’s working? “They can see it in energy bills. I see it in smiles, in dollars, and in repeat business.”

Preventive Maintenance services aren’t like a yard, Dave explains. You can’t see that it’s mowed when you’re done. “But, with BuildingAdvice, I’m able to quantify and show how beneficial these services are,” he explains. “It’s the ability to put a tangible into an intangible market.”

“None of my peers offer anything like this,” he adds. “Our building managers have been thrilled with the results.”

Another thing Dave’s happy about is the customer service he gets through the BuildingAdvice support team. Dave reports to always being able to reach a customer service representative on the phone, and most often gets the answer he needs while he has that person on the phone – not 24 hours or more later. “From the top down, the BuildingAdvice culture is really customer service oriented,” says Dave. “I’m really impressed with where the rubber meets the road.”

Dave Stroh is co-owner of Wolin Mechanical Electrical in West Des Moines, IA. Image courtesy Wolin Mechanical Electrical.