Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

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

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.

San Francisco Pulls Ahead in Commercial Energy Efficiency

August 17th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

The youngest SF Mayor in we can't remember how long.

San Francisco pulled into the lead for most progressive energy policy last week when Mayor Gavin Newsom (at 42, the youngest San Francisco mayor in over a century) submitted his nine-months-in-the-making proposed legislation on existing commercial buildings to the city’s Board of Supervisors.

The proposed legislation would require the owners of commercial buildings over 5,000 square feet to conduct an energy-efficiency audit every five years, and to supply annual updates – all of which would be available in a public database, according to the SF Gate.

And guess what? These required audits would come back with helpful suggestions on how to increase the property’s energy efficiency, say by sealing windows, or upgrading the HVAC system. Kind of like what BuildingAdvice does. Tenants would also have access to an estimate of resulting energy savings from taking those steps, the cost of implementing them, and their economic value.

Kind of like what BuildingAdvice does.

In a post on City Insider, an SF Gate blog on “the people, politics and places of San Francisco,” John Coté wrote that Newsom likened the commercial building audits to fuel efficiency ratings listed on car windows at an auto dealership.

Is your building a Lex? Or a hum-v?

The local branch of the Building Owners and Managers Association (part of nationwide BOMA), the commercial real estate industry’s heavy-hitting advocacy group, supports the legislation, although there are still skeptics in the business community, the mayor said. Berkeley, Sonoma County, Palm Desert and Boulder, Colo. have similar programs going.

Once approved, the legislation sets a staggered, three-year schedule for compliance, starting in April.

Images courtesy ofCar and Driver and

Greener, Greater, a Long Way Away?

April 16th, 2010 by Jim Crowder
While those outside of the hardcore energy efficiency for existing buildings set might be unaware, we in the know all know that NYC’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan is landmark legislation.
Passed just last December, it calls for most of New York’s million or so buildings – including the nations’ largest concentration of highrises – to undergo energy audits every ten years. All commercial buildings greater than 50,000 sf will need to benchmark and publicly report their energy use. City owned buildings over 10,000 sf are required to start benchmarking next month.
With this set of laws beginning to sink in, how are building owners, managers, contractors and energy professionals reacting? Are benchmarks flying off the shelves? Maybe not, considering how far away the deadlines seem.
Let’s break down the timeline:
  • May, 2010 – City owned buildings larger than 10,000 sf must begin annual benchmarking
  • May 1, 2011 – Commercial buildings over 10,000 sf must begin annual benchmarking
  • Sept. 1, 2012 – Data for commercial buildings will be available on the tax assessment roll Web site and searchable by address
  • Dec. 13, 2013 – Staggered due dates for energy efficiency reports start
That means it won’t be until four years after the Greener, Greater Legislation passed, that building owners will be required to turn in their homework. On the bright side, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is footing half of the bill as part of a statewide ongoing initiative.
In other parts of the world:
  • Seattle passed energy-use benchmarking and disclosure laws in January.
  • Washington DC was the only state to require annual public disclosure of energy use data before NYC.
  • California requires benchmarking, but only to be disclosed to the parties involved during a sale or lease of a facility, and sometimes to current tenants.
  • A full list is available here: States and Cities that Require Benchmarking
How to get out of the benchmarking? Earn an Energy Star Certified Label, which means your building is more efficient than 75 percent of comparable buildings for two of three previous years, or get a LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance 2009 rating within four years of the deadline for filing the audit.
What’s going to happen when all the buildings in New York are much more efficient, and being more efficient than 75 percent of comparable buildings is a lot harder?
(Images by and

Movin On Up: Portland Rises on EPA’s Top 25 List for Cities with Most Energy Star Buildings

March 25th, 2010 by Jim Crowder
This week, the EPA released its top 25 list ranking US cities’ green quotient by number of EnergyStar buildings. Portland jumped from the number 18 position in 2008 to a hale and hearty 12 by the 2009 tally.
With 80 EnergyStar buildings in our city limits, we saved $1.1 million in energy consumption costs. Los Angeles topped the list, but Portland came out ahead of Seattle by 11 buildings, which dropped from 10 last year to 14 this year.
For BuildingAdvice, this information dovetails compellingly with the Cleantech Group’s release of “As Energy Efficiency Booms, Buildings Get a Brain,” an analysis of energy efficiency innovations in commercial office buildings.
This staggering stat tops the press release: “Commercial office buildings consume 40% of the electricity produced in the U.S. and 18% of total U.S. energy.”
Just imagine: Implementing recommendations from the BuildingAdvice energy services platform averages a 20% reduction in energy consumption in commercial buildings. If even 5% of buildings across the U.S. decreased their consumption by 20%, we’d be talking about an enormous reduction in total energy consumption in the U.S.
For the record, Cleantech predicts that energy efficiency is poised to overtake solar as a top investment category in 2010, due to state and local government incentivizing and in some cases requiring energy efficiency and benchmarking services. Like New York’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, passed last December.  The legislation obligates most facilities to undergo energy audits every 10 years, among other efficiency requirements. A list of state and local governments leveraging EnergyStar tools for efficiency counts the states of New Mexico, New Jersey, Ohio, and many others.
Tax rebates and low interest loans from programs like the proposed “Building Star” legislation will take this phenomenon federal.

‘Building Star’ Success Demands Efficiency Diagnostics

March 16th, 2010 by Jim Crowder

Before Building Star’s proposed legislation gets commercial building owners an enticing $3 billion in saved utilities, energy efficient solutions must be identified.

With proposed legislation originally put forth by by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) on the table to create tax rebates and low-interest loans toward energy efficient improvements in commercial buildings, building owners and their service providers need to be ready to scale their efforts in evaluating energy consumption and recommending improvements.  Using technology that automates and standardizes the process, like BuildingAdvice’s BuildingAdvice program, would enable just this sort of scale.

Being able to quickly and easily generate EnergyStar benchmark reports and other assessment reports will be key in an economic environment which incentivizes efficiency upgrades. By proposing to leverage two to three dollars in private investment for every federal dollar spent, Building Star has gained supporters from the USGBC to PIMA to NEMA.  Because of this, demand for upgrades will increase, and HVAC contractors’ access to diagnostic services such as BuildingAdvice will be the first step toward those upgrades

And you can’t improve what you don’t measure.  Greater automation of evaluation and reporting means that building engineers can quickly identify energy savings opportunities (usually averaging approximately 20%) from upgrades, retrofits and improvements for which the rebates and loans could be used.

Hopefully the Building Star legislation will move forward quickly and help to overcome the financing hurdle in making energy efficient improvements.  But, even if the legislation doesn’t pass or if it takes a long time, there is no reason to wait.  Most buildings can expect to see 5-30% in savings on energy costs simply be implementing various low- and no-cost energy conservation measures.  With savings like these possible with little upfront cost, why wait?