Posts Tagged ‘Energy savings’

MSCA Musings: Following Up After the Conference

October 27th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Guest post by Jim Crowder, BuildingAdvice CEO, as excerpted from last week’s Building Monitor e-newsletter. If you would like to receive the Building Monitor in the future, you can sign up here.

We just returned from the Annual MSCA Educational Conference in beautiful Colorado Springs. It was a well organized event chock full of useful sessions that will help members improve their performance.

It also marked the passing of the Association leadership torch from Thom Brazel, Hill York, to Woody Woodall, W.L. Gary Company.

Thom helped drive association awareness of the opportunity energy services provides the HVAC industry. Under his leadership, and with the support of Barb Dolim’s MSCA staff, Thom helped create a new vision for the MSCA GreenSTAR program that will help members incorporate energy solutions into their core service offerings. Not only is the association planning to provide tools, but they are developing an impressive training program to educate members.

We at BuildingAdvice applaud Thom and the rest of the association for providing the leadership the industry needs to make commercial building owners and operators aware of how valuable HVACs can be in helping to eliminate energy waste in commercial buildings.

No industry is better positioned to provide these types of services to commercial buildings. Energy expenses represent 30% of the controllable operating cost of a building. HVAC and lighting combined typically constitute about 75% of the total energy spend.

BuildingAdvice CEO Jim Crowder

So, who can deliver real, measurable value to building owners? It’s not the janitors or the elevator guys! We look forward to working with Woody, Barb and the rest of the MSCA team as they move into this lucrative field.

Building Advisor’s Note: Have you seen the MSCA’s new YouTube channel? Check out their first video below.

Energy Efficiency: Not As Tough As You Think

April 5th, 2011 by Jim Crowder

Energy efficiency market tough to crack?

A panel at the SolarTech conference last week was a bit downcast on energy efficiency markets’ profitability. Quoth Gigaom’s blog, earth2tech, “Building Energy Efficiency Is a Hard Market to Crack.” Do you agree?

“…commercial energy retrofits currently can take a few years to plan and finance. New business models that can deliver the projects more quickly and efficiently are needed to lure more business customers.”

To that The Building Advisor says, what about BuildingAdvice’s low- and no-cost recommendations with less than a year paybacks, in some cases months? What about MacDonald Miller in Bellevue, Wash., who brought down utility costs and the EnergyStar score of the Medical Center of Issaquah up in a matter of months? (You can read about it in the MCAA’s Smart Solutions here.) We’ve got some great case studies to back up our ability to start saving building owners money immediately.

Interesting – and kind of great – that energy efficiency was a breakout of SolarWorld at all, because most people but solar in a whole different category from energy efficiency.

A square foot garden helps us think about efficiency in small spaces.

Fun fact: BuildingAdvice VP of Market Development, Tim Kensok, today reminded us that 99% of all commercial buildings in the U.S. are under 200k square feet. Generally speaking, that means that before automated, broadly-applicable products like BuildingAdvice, only 1% of buildings in America could afford to closely examine their energy usage, based on the cost of labor-intensive energy engineers in comparison to a building’s net operating income by size.

BuildingAdvice serves the small- to midsize market by offering an automated product offering that offers 80% of the value of an energy engineer at 20% of the cost, Kensok told a reporter today.

But getting back to the point. earth2tech also reports that “During the panel discussion at SolarTech, Matt Cheney, CEO of Cleanpath Ventures… said he saw a good fit between real estate companies and energy efficiency services.”

Now there we agree. That’s why we’re revving our engines for a new product offering to soothe the pain points of our biggest customers, who may just now be realizing how their six or 60 buildings under 200k square feet adds up to a whole lot of potential energy savings.

Most lights were switched off on the Tokyo Rainbow Bridge and on the Tokyo tower in the background

Last thought: did you know that Tokyo has doused much of the its outlandish, energy sucking displays in an effort to conserve power post-earthquake? Wrote the AFP march 25, “The huge television screens and illuminated billboards that usually light up one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections” in Shibuya, a teen fashion district, have gone dark.

Images courtesy Smith Family Garden, AFP and Mayang’s Textures.

Have You Seen Our Cool New Web Site?

December 3rd, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Ok, so, its not new anymore. We launched in November to quiet applause from the interwebs. But if you haven’t been to recently, there are some great new features we’d like to point out.

For one thing, our sleek new design, courtesy Synotac. Less text, more space…ahhh…efficiency visualized.

We’re also better organized at moving you through our web site in the most – er – efficient way possible. Are you a commercial building owner or manager? Commercial contractor? Or are you on the residential side as a contractor or homeowner? You’ll find yourself ushered in the right direction with only the sound of crepe soles on plush carpet swooshing you through to your intended destination.

And if you are used to our old website, you know that the products and services we’ve been rolling out in 2010 have mushroomed. At the new, you’ll find a concise menu of our major offerings.

From there, we break it down further: what KIND of BuildingAdvice fits your needs?

And if you, like so many people, are thinking about ongoing energy management (check out Tim Kensok, BuildingAdvice Vice President of Market Development, speaking on it in his October, 2010 article for, “Energy Information Management: Beyond Savings Projections to Proof”), look no further:

I mean, how sleek can you get?

Even better, there are free resources available right on the web site, from our download library to a signup for our Building Monitor newsletters and hey, even a link to this blog.

We’ve got a special tab to watch for upcoming tradeshows and webinars, so you can keep up as we dish it out. For example, you can check out yesterday’s webinar, “How to Sell the VALUE of Energy Services” here.

What do you think?

Energy Services Energize Commercial Contractors

October 22nd, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Joanna TurpinThe Building Advisor’s new best friend, Joanna Turpin, wrote a great piece in Contractor Excellence this week on the prime opportunities for commercial contractors who offer cost-decreasing energy efficiency services, “Energy Services Energize Profits.”

Turpin zones in on some key points, like the current level of competition in the market and the need for many contractors to differentiate themselves and secure a greater marketshare. Two flying buttresses for this strategy (medieval architecture reference, anyone?): as energy costs continue to rise, energy management services are quickly trending to become some contractor’s highest profit margin installation products.

Much as we love Joanna, it’s Randy F. Seaman, president of Seaman’s Air Conditioning-Refrigeration Inc., in Grand Rapids, Mich., who divulges The Secret.

No, we’re not talking about a New Age mental technique to attract love and money – we’re talking about The Secret to making energy services compelling to building owners and managers. A hint? It’s in the difference between traditional service agreements and stepping up as your client’s energy efficiency management partner:

“‘With service agreements, the focus is generally on minimizing repair expense, extending the useful life of the equipment, and maintaining the quality and comfort of the indoor air. With energy projects, the secret is financial payback and optimum control of the HVAC systems. Cost justification is more critical since the capital investment for energy solutions is often higher.’”

Randy just said a mouthful. One thing is cost justification – how do you get it? BuildingAdvice provides scientific data collection and analysis to produce the most effective recommendations and reports that show your client how to save more money in the long run, and when that will happen.

Clients are looking for projects that are cost justified, meet their financial criteria for payback and return on investment, and follow a financial model that’s familiar. BuildingAdvice reports fit the bill.

But we digress.

In thinking of yourself as an energy management partner with your client, you’ll not only earn trust, you’ll earn a bigger share of your clients’ load. Turpin nails it on the head:

“Mechanical contractors who offer these comprehensive energy solutions are not only demonstrating their concern for the financial health of their clients, they are demonstrating their willingness to invest in the current and future needs of their clients, which will ultimately benefit their own profit margins.”

And The Building Advisor will leave you with these fun facts on a Friday afternoon:

  • Energy Star estimates that, on average, about 30 percent of the energy in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.
  • The 5 million commercial and industrial buildings in the United States account for nearly 50 percent of all energy consumption nationwide.

Bottom line: energy retrofit projects come from thorough cost-justified proposals based on energy audits of specific client operations.

Watch for an upcoming article on energy audits from Turpin in ACHR News, highlighting Tim Kensok, Vice President of Market Development, BuildingAdvice.

Thoughts from Time Spent in Market

September 29th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

At BuildingAdvice we try to spend time in the market whenever possible so we can see firsthand the effects that energy efficiency has on everyday building owners and operators, as well as the HVAC contractors and other service providers who are helping them to achieve this efficiency. Last week I had the benefit of making such a trip, going out on sales calls with HVAC contractors, and here are a few of the lessons that I learned:

Saving money on energy is attainable. In every appointment that I went on the savings opportunities were all over the board. In most cases it was noticeably cold in several of the facilities (they were over-cooling on a warm California day), causing energy and comfort complaints. The great thing was that there were a ton of “low to no cost” fixes that were apparent even before doing an Energy Assessment. In most of these appointments, that was not known to the building operator or owner, and yet savings of 5-30% are available with no to low cost fine tuning of the building.

Energy savings is meaningful. In each appointment the topic of saving money on energy was extremely important to the building owner or manager. Although I know that we at BuildingAdvice have a hand in saving the end customer money, it was nice to experience it in person. In today’s economy every dollar counts and with energy taking up approx. 30% of buildings’  operating costs, that is a lot of money saved.

Energy savings is powerful. Pardon the pun, but energy savings is powerful. It has the power to improve profitability, to save jobs, to allow projects to go forward, to fund new research, the list is endless. Remember that with every dollar saved your company not only has more cash available but you are improving the asset value of the building in the process! This is powerful.

I also began to think a little more about why more building owners and managers are not jumping onto the energy efficiency bandwagon? You can make the changes for little to no cost; the savings go right to the bottom line. You increase the asset value of your building and you help the environment all at once. It seems like a no-brainer to me… How about you?

New BOMA Report Highlights Operating Cost Cuts

September 24th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

A new report from the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International and Kingsley Associates shows that commercial building owners and their property managers are focused on reducing operating expenses to stay competitive in today’s challenging marketplace.

The full report, which can be found here, shows some interesting trends. First, it shows an overall decrease in operating costs over the last year of 1.1% or $.09/square foot. And among the specific costs that are is the cost of energy – the utility bills. But, is this utility bill decrease due to rate changes, reduction in energy usage due to the recession, OR, have there actually been improvements in energy efficiency?  If you have a thought on this, we’d love to hear it – please comment on this blog.

Some of the other findings the report highlights:

  • Fixed expenses are increasing
  • Occupancy continues to decrease

Where I take one issue with the report is in the 4th recommendation in the sidebar on benchmarking. While it definitely makes sense to rebid service contracts, the wording seems to guide property owners and managers to bid on price alone. If what you’re trying to achieve is overall cost savings, instead what you should be bidding on is who delivers the best value.  Let’s take HVAC. One HVAC contractor is willing to cut their service agreement price by 10%, saving a building, let’s say $2,000.  Another HVAC contractor’s service agreement price is $2,000 more BUT because this contractor focuses their service on making energy-saving improvements and they can cut the electric bill by 20% (VERY doable) they might save that building $10,000.  Wouldn’t you rather save $10k than $2k?  Don’t look at price alone.  That’s a lose-lose for the building and the contractor.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the BOMA-Kingsley report is the sidebar saying that the focus on energy savings is here to stay. Brenna Walraven, managing director of national property management, USAA Real Estate Company, says, “With respect to energy, and to a lesser extent water and trash/recycling, the increased focus on compressing utilities expenses is definitely a continuing trend and is part of a permanent shift in our industry to achieve more sustainable and high-performance operations.”  Now that’s what we’re talking about!

MBA Students Find $350 Million in Energy Savings

September 15th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Even MBAs are finding energy savings opportunities? How about $350 million worth! GreenBiz reports that the cumulative savings proposed by 51 EDF Climate Corps fellows this summer represent an astonishing figure. The EDF Climate Corps matches trained students from leading business schools with companies that need to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans.

Spread across a number of Fortune 1000 companies for this past summer, the EDF Climate Corps fellows found energy savings opportunities like:

  • Lighting changes across a hospital system
  • Installation of a thermal ice storage system
  • Installing power management software

What is most interesting about this is not the energy savings opportunities they found – many are ones that have been known as energy cost-savers for a while.  What IS interesting is that a group of relatively untrained (i.e. not energy engineers) were able to go into large companies who you would think would have energy managers and find tons of possibilities for saving money on energy.

Part of the effort by the fellows includes contemplating some of the reasons why energy efficiency projects do not move forward and working to address some of them, including lack of awareness and lack of financing. It will be interesting to see how many of the identified projects move forward, but this is another great example of the fact that there are enormous possibilities for cost savings in buildings everywhere.

This of course also begs the question that we’ll go ahead and ask again: Why isn’t more being done?  We’d love to hear your comments on this. Even better – don’t just tell us the reason why more isn’t being done, tell us what could be done to overcome that barrier.

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.

How are the Contracting Giants Coping?

August 4th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Contractor Magazine recently published an article titled, “What Bad Looks Like” in which it described the state of the mechanical contracting industry.  It lists the largest contracting firms and provides breakdowns by markets served, type of work, and geography.  Not surprisingly, the bottom line is that the bottom line isn’t so good these days.

A “tough year.”  Yes, it’s been a bit tough.  And the only markets predicted to improve in the near term are healthcare, educational, public safety and transportation.

Fine, yes, the contracting business is a difficult one these days.  I think we all knew that.  But, what did we at BuildingAdvice take from this article?  I zeroed-in on two quotes from industry leaders:

  • “As I’ve talked to our MCAA affiliates, I’ve said [energy savings retrofits] is the industry that we should own.  While we are going through this slow period, now is the time to renew ourselves and focus on green and sustainable initiatives. MCAA President Bob Armistead is taking the same charge and pushing it forward.” - Lonnie Coleman, president of Coleman-Spohn Corp., Cleveland, and past president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America.
  • “We’ll focus our energy on where the work is.  We’ll get in front of customers with good energy-saving ideas on how to take cost out of their businesses.” – Tony Guzzi, President and COO of EMCOR Group.

Could be just me, but I think they’re saying that energy savings is where it’s at for contractors right now.  So, there’s the bright spot and it is bright indeed.  The vast majority of buildings that are going to be here in 20-25 years are here now.  Retrofitting those buildings to new standards of energy efficiency, and driving down their operating costs, is THE opportunity for contractors.  Lonnie Coleman is right – contractors should own this business.

Image courtesy of Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl blog

New York, New York: Commercial Energy Efficiency Poster Child

July 30th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

king kong hugs the empire state buildingNew York is definitely where its at these days, what with those mandatory benchmarking laws swinging into effect and the Empire State Building’s and sustainable upgrades showing folks how it’s done.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) posted a byline in the Huffington Post on the iconic spire (did you know it is officially a Wonder of the World?), outlining the genius of the Empire State Building’s overhaul:

“…the retrofit will deliver improved windows, high-efficiency light bulbs, and among many other things, renovated heating and cooling systems at a cost of $13 million after netting out other savings. By 2013, this plan will have reduced the Empire State Building’s energy usage by 40%. The $4.4 million in annual energy savings will have completely paid for the costs of the retrofit project 3 years after completion.”

is it energy efficient? The story behind the retrofits is told at the Empire State Building sustainability exhibit, where a glowing cube and other interactive elements beckon visitors to look underneath the landmark at the energy saving innovations beneath.

Right now, the Empire State Building consumes the energy equivalent of 40,000 single-family homes.

Rep. Maloney writes about how she convened a hearing to learn more about the Empire State Building’s energy efficiency progress. She emerged learning a few things, one of them being,

“…government has a role to play in shining a spotlight on the economic, environmental and consumer benefits of retrofits, but it is the private and non-profit sectors that will roll up their sleeves, nail down the economics and make these retrofits happen.”

Across the Empire State, buildings are smartening up, with no little thanks to OptimumEnergy. The picked up this press release from OptimumEnergy, maker of software to increase energy efficiency through HVAC, which trumpets the company’s latest New York state deals (including the 1271 Avenue of the Americas building in New York City; a GE Healthcare manufacturing facility in Troy; and Westfield Group’s Sunrise shopping center in Massapequa). OptimumEnergy estimates its reduction software to save 9.9M kWh annually across the building portfolio.

In honor of that The Building Advisor offers you this break from our regularly scheduled programming.

Empire State of Mind

In other news this week, EarthTechling decided to accentuate the negative in its coverage of the recent report from Pike Research, “Commercial Green Retrofit Interest Low.” Yes, they do point out the $41.1 billion potential savings from retrofits for new construction over the next 10 years. On the downside, nobody cares, apparently.

New York will fix that!

Images courtesy Doobybrain.comInhabitat and YouTube.