As a Building Owner or Manager you have set energy conservation and financial improvement targets, you have done your research and determined that an energy audit is the best place to start for your facility and your organization. You may have also reviewed the ASHRAE Article 10 Things to ask for in an Energy Audit and done your due diligence in selecting a firm that specializes in energy audits. The question is now what? How does this energy audit report help you to achieve your energy conservation targets?
An energy audit report is not something that can simply be handed over to a contractor and voilà your return on investment begins. There is a critical step in the energy master planning process that is often overlooked or not well understood by building managers and owners. Your energy audit report no doubt has a long list of potential Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs); some may have great savings potential while others provide a smaller benefit, some will require a significant capital investment while others can be implemented through operating budgets. In all cases an Energy Conservation Implementation Plan must be prepared and not all measures presented in the audit will necessarily be included in the implementation plan.
At this stage the plan should be developed to include a mix of so called “low-hanging fruit” and more capital intensive building upgrades to provide a blended return that meets your organization’s investment requirements and will help to maximize the value of the property. The plan can span several years to meet budgeting requirements and will ideally work with your existing capital plan to make for a smooth implementation at all levels within the organization. As a caution, while it may be in your best interest to implement all “low-hanging fruit” in year one; upon re-evaluating in later years the return on investment for only the measures requiring significant investment may erode to the point where it no longer meets your organization’s requirements. In this case stay focused on the overall goal of the plan to achieve energy conservation over a period of time with a return that is acceptable over the entire period of the plan rather than measure by measure. This will help get more ECMs funded and avoid leaving good conservation opportunities incomplete.
Once you have established your Energy Conservation Implementation Plan there will be some measures that you can move to implement immediately through operations or by soliciting quotes from qualified contractors. Other more complicated measures will require Detailed Engineering Design and a competitive Tendering process, or even further evaluation. This design work and further study must be accounted for in your implementation plan and this is certainly not the time to cut corners. If you plan to hire an Engineering Firm for detailed design services it is critical that they understand the nature of the ECMs for which they are designing the retrofit in order to achieve the savings potential at the costs allocated to deliver the expected return. This author has personal experience with such a situation where the detailed design did not follow the recommendation and a significantly greater investment was made such that the payback period was nearly doubled. You have done your homework and due diligence to get the energy conservation work off the ground with your energy audit so don’t stop there; ensure the Engineering Firm you hire to design and help implement your energy conservation plan has proven experience with energy retrofits and in the retrofit market in general as this niche is significantly different from new construction.
Mike Zongor, P.Eng.