It’s Not Just Lower Energy Bills: Proof of Productivity Improvements By Going Green

Buildings account for about 73% of total U.S. electricity consumption, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Therefore, building owners and managers can help improve our energy efficiency and independence. However, the real estate industry has been slower than others in embracing and implementing energy efficiency, even though it stands to benefit greatly from energy efficiency gains.

The Many, Great Financial Benefits of Green Building

A recent report from CoreNet Global, “The Future of Corporate Real Estate”, discusses reasons why building owners will benefit from implementing such strategies:

• reduced utility costs,

• higher selling price for “green” buildings over non-green units,

• greater demand for such buildings, and thus, greater rental income.

Reduced Utility Costs

It goes without saying that if you use less electricity or gas or oil to heat a building, you will decrease your utility costs. Energy rates are among the fastest growing expenses of a building owner (greater than that of labor rates), and a potential drag to profitability. Using less energy gives you control to reduce this cost (you have no control over energy rates).

But utility cost benefits go beyond just this. More utilities – particularly in large cities – are charging not only for electricity usage, but also for peak demand. Whatever your electricity need for your building in (in most cases) one 15-minute period per month will lead to a huge additional charge, even if usage and demand are low for the rest of the month. Thus, ways to reduce peak usage can be very effective in reducing utility costs.

There is also a special value to investing in strategies to reduce energy usage and peak demand. Let’s assume you install technologies that reduce your utility costs by $50,000 per year. The other way to make money is to increase revenue. But it may be difficult to raise rents by $50,000 per year because in most markets rentals are quite competitive. In most cases, it is easier to save money with energy upgrades than to simply raise rents. And the nice thing about energy upgrades is that the savings due to installation of technologies (LED lights, upgraded HVAC equipment and motors, etc.) will continue year after year (one does not yank out insulation the year after it is installed!). So the $50,000 per year savings will occur year after year and in fact, will rise slightly as energy rates only rise. This year’s $50,000 will likely become $52,000 the next year and $55,000 the year after, etc. based on the one-time effort of investing in smart stratagies.

Green Buildings Reduce Operating Costs and Draw Higher Rents

As more properties are becoming certified as “green” over the last decade, comparative studies are beginning to be completed about the overall financial benefits of these upgrades, including their relative operating costs and demand for such properties, which has a large influence on rents. Of course, many factors influence what a building owner can collect in rent. Studies have recently been conducted that compare buildings with similarities in many areas except for their “greenness” to see if there is a difference, which can likely be attributed to energy and water efficiency and related factors.

A recent study indicated that in Los Angeles, owners collected rents that are 35% higher per sq. ft. for LEED-certified space compared to those in non-LEED space in buildings with similar vacancy rates. In addition, this same study compared operating costs of green-certified vs. non-green buildings, as well. Operating costs were shown to be 13.6% lower for new green construction compared to non-green buildings and 8.5% lower for existing buildings upgraded to a green standard compared to a building not upgraded of similar age.

There have been a number of studies showing that certified green buildings also increase worker productivity and satisfaction and reduced sick time, the crux of any business as profits stem from productive workers. A business that understands that a particular building has conditions that will lead to greater comfort and productivity will result in seeking to rent that property and to renew its lease.

In addition, a satisfied work force has concrete benefits for a business in terms of lower turnover, reduced business disruptions, lower risk, and less time training new workers. A relatively new certification program from the International Well Building Institute, called WELL standards, focuses on building conditions that will result in healthier, more satisfied, more productive workers. A number of studies from research institutions that specialize in productivity are showing – now that there are a growing number of upgraded and LEED-certified buildings – that significant improved worker productivity does occur, based on measurement of tests on tasks and memory. As this research is being publicized and accepted in the business world, companies are looking to relocate their business to LEED- or WELL-certified buildings to improve productivity even at the cost of greater demand and rents.

Assets’ Higher Resale Value

As more properties are becoming certified as a “green” building over the last decade, studies are beginning to be completed about the overall financial benefits of these buildings, including their value, based on sales.

A 2015 USGBC publication “The Business Case for Green Building” provides several facts concerning the resale value of and income from green buildings. In Los Angeles, in 2014, ENERGY STAR or LEED-certified buildings had an average selling price of $329/sq.ft., while that for a non-certified building was $244/sq.ft., 35% higher.

According to World Green Building Trends (http://naturalleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/McGrawHillGBStudy.pdf), building values increased by 10.9% for green new construction compared to non-green (6.8% increase for existing building upgrades) and asset valuation rose 5% for new green building projects vs. non-green (4% for green building retrofits).

CCES has the experts to help you assess how your buildings can be more “green”, whether it be certified in LEED or WELL programs or just more energy efficient. We can help you assess, strategize, design, implement, and test new systems to maximize the many financial benefits, like those listed here, with the least disruptions of your operations. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Future of Renewable Energy Investments

The young Trump Administration and the House of Representatives have published preliminary tax reform plans that will likely have an adverse effect on the future growth of renewable energy in the US. If enacted, these may be a dis-investment for new projects. While exact details are unknown, as this is published, the fear of future dis-incentives to build or finance a project itself has a chilling effect.

One matter that has not been discussed openly is the future of renewable energy tax credits. Currently, investments in solar and wind projects are eligible for an investment tax credit. However, over the next few years the credit, used for many solar projects, is scheduled to decrease to and remain at 10% beginning in 2022. The production tax credit for producing power from wind will phase out entirely in 2020. Might the Trump Administration accelerate the decrease in these incentives or eliminate them sooner? During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said that he does not intend to accelerate the phase-out of the production tax credit.

Note that the current renewable energy credit programs result in tax credits that can only be used to offset taxes (not increase a refund). With the proposed major reduction in corporate and individual income tax rates and accelerated write-offs for business expenses, the value of renewable energy credits would therefore be sharply reduced (lower taxes to offset with credits from a renewable energy project). This could take away the financial incentive to invest in large-scale renewable energy projects.
The Trump Administration’s proposed tax reform also includes a border adjustment tax, raising the cost of imported material and equipment. Since many solar and wind farms components come from China, this could add to the cost of new projects, if adopted.

In another tax-related item concerning energy, 22 US Senators recently introduced a bill containing a proposed extension of EPAct (Section 179D of the IRS Code) until 2019 and beyond. EPAct allows a building owner (or significant contributor for tax-exempt buildings) to earn tax deductions for successful energy efficiency projects. EPAct has expired and is currently not in effect. The proposed bill contains changes to the old language, including new technology-neutral tax incentives for clean energy. If this version of the bill is enacted, the maximum deduction for energy efficiency projects would increase to $4.75/sq.ft., based on achieving a minimum of $1.00/sq.ft. deduction for achieving a 25% reduction against the ASHRAE 90.1-2016 standard, and an additional $0.25/sq.ft. for every additional 5% reduction above that. The proposed bill also contains a new provision, entitling building owners to achieve a tax deduction of up to $9.25/sq.ft. for comprehensive energy upgrades that exceed energy saving targets. While the old 179D allows minor deductions for small upgrades, the proposed version would reward a building owner that exceeds robust energy goals. It is unsure whether this new version of 179D will pass Congress and, if so, when.

In summary, while details are unknown, the proposed new tax reforms of the new Administration may potentially hurt renewable energy projects. At this early stage, it is unknown whether these proposals will be enacted and in what form. Might the changes be enacted and the renewable energy industry in the US be hurt in order to raise revenue to offset the many tax rate reductions the reform plan currently proposes or as a way to discourage renewable energy and encourage growth of fossil fuel plants? The answers are unknown, but the implications should be part of any company’s planning.

This is meant as a general overview based on publicly published material. Discuss specific implications for your business with your accounting or tax professional. CCES is here to help you with technical assessments of your energy usage and systems. We can present sound technical strategies to reduce your energy use and peak demand and save you considerable cost and provide other tangible, financial advantages, as well. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Some Thoughts About the U.S. Leaving the Paris Climate Accord

June 2017

Of course, this blog and newsletter stays away from politics. But I will make a rare exception here just because the name of our firm, Climate Change & Environmental Services, is so close to the news at hand: President Trump decided that the U.S. should pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. I wish to share some thoughts about it. Please feel free to comment, in agreement or disagreement. Respectful comments are what our democracy is about.

First of all, the withdrawal was no surprise. While I am not a professional psychologist nor have ever met President Trump, it is pretty obvious that he is a narcissist. He thinks of himself and raising he ego first, second, and at all times. Part of that is he not a team player. He thinks of himself first with others to be used and tossed away, even his most loyal supporters, whether they be contractors working on his projects or his own government professionals who he has embarrassed by changing his story. Thus, he would never have accepted being part of a deal where he represented only one of 195 countries, even if it were the most powerful. He does not know how to abide by rules and compromise meant for many. And especially in a topic he knows little about and probably fed falsehoods by some advisors. Nobody should have been surprised.

That said, I have my problems with the Paris Climate Agreement, in line with many critics (and Trump supporters): that it has no punitive actions for countries that do not succeed in their GHG emission reduction goals. This is no different from the previous Kyoto Accord. For example, Canada not only did not reduce GHG emissions by its goal in that Accord, but raised theirs significantly due to its discovery in the ‘90’s of the tar sands in Alberta. With the windfall Canadian companies made from that, even punitives would not have hurt Canada. How much might they have been fined? And who would collect it? And this went on for other countries, too. Same thing with the Paris Climate Agreement. Who would have the nerve and ability to “fine” a country for not making its goals and how much? Billions? However, that said, an agreement is an agreement and even one with flaws is better – given the Climate Change crisis facing us all – than business as usual. So it was important to work through this framework, and a missed opportunity for the U.S. to lead in Climate Change response and technology.

I am heartened, however, by the response to President Trump’s withdrawal by leaders in the U.S.: mayors, governors, and many business leaders. They have said they will re-double their efforts to reduce GHG emissions and use renewable power. They see the many business advantages of doing so, and will continue to do so. Let’s hope that their efforts will help the many, many small businesses and smaller governments in the U.S. to have the motivation to move forward and to help make such technologies affordable to them. If this momentum can grow and people see the advantages of addressing Climate Change issues, then this withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement may turn out – unexpectedly – to be a positive for the U.S. after all.

CCES has the experts to help you be on the right side of things when it comes to a Climate Change program and to help your company or entity get the greatest economic benefits from doing the right thing concerning GHG emission reductions with the lease disruption in your operations. Contact us today for a free discussion at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Realistic US Energy Trends in 2017

The Trump Administration is beginning to have its imprint on energy policy. Yet, many potential moves may not be very effective given market forces, which certainly drives business. The University of Texas’s Energy Institute has issued an interactive map showing the cheapest energy sources and greatest availability throughout the US. http://calculators.energy.utexas.edu/lcoe_map/#/county/tech and http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2016/12/12/13914942/interactive-map-cheapest-power-plant

The Future of Coal is Not Favorable

Despite the President’s promise to bring back jobs to coal miners, the map’s information is pretty obvious that natural gas and renewables are likely to provide much of the U.S.’s new electric capacity in the foreseeable future. In addition, the map shows why the cost of building and operating new coal-fired plants is so high and non-competitive. This concurs with recent papers issued by the US Energy Information Administration.

Part of the problem for coal is geography. Prices to build wind farms have plummeted lately, and the Plains states, which have been high historic users of coal for power, are ideal location for wind plants (they have plenty of it). And in the South and Northeast, natural gas prices have dropped greatly, in part because of fracking and shale gas. Besides raw materials being cheaper, natural gas plants are more efficient than coal-fired plants. A modern gas-fired plant can convert 60% of the theoretical energy to electricity; for a modern coal plant, it is about 35%. Even if environmental regulations affecting coal are repealed, wind subsidies are eliminated, and gas prices spike, the cost of a new coal-fired power plant still cannot compete with wind or natural gas, and investors and builders will go with gas-fired and renewable power plants.

The Future of Nuclear Power is Murky

Despite its many detractors, nuclear power is growing in Europe and other parts of the world and, without a doubt, results in much lower greenhouse gas emissions than any fossil fuel-based plant. However, it is still expensive to build a new nuclear plant in the U.S., an estimated $8,000/kW, almost double that of other forms of electricity. There is research on advanced reactors with smaller, modular designs that in the future may be safer and less expensive than current mammoth reactors. The Trump Administration has signaled its approval of nuclear power, but has not suggested what it would be willing to do to help alleviate the cost differential.

Renewable Power

All signs indicate that the cost of renewables (solar, wind, geothermal) will continue to drop in the coming years. Renewable power has grown greatly worldwide, spurring a learning curve and a drop in costs due to greater efficiency and experience. Even if utilities and state governments reduce or end incentive programs for renewables, these will still rank in many parts of the country as the most cost effective power plants around. This will be especially true if and when large-scale battery power can be modernized both technically and financially to address the issue of inconsistent generation of power from renewables.

CCES can help you assess your future energy options to give you maximum operating flexibility and maximize your financial benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Be Careful Of What We Say In Environmental Communications

There has been a lot of talk and concern about the lack of scientific thought in many of the pronouncements of the Trump Administration. Scientific facts are discarded and simplistic non-truths are becoming the backbone of some decisions in the energy, environmental, and health areas. I don’t mean to play politics here, but this seems to be predominantly the doing of the “Tea Party” and other right-wing groups, trying to deny the validity of climate change and the importance of environmental stewardship, all in the name of “small” government or short-term economic and jobs growth.

As an engineer and citizen, I feel this is terrible. But, this has been well-covered, and I don’t wish to “pile on” here. I do want to note that this is not unique to the right wing of the US political spectrum. I have seen examples of scare tactics and lack of reasoning from the left wing environmental community, also. We need to be vigilant and hold all sides accountable. Everyone (right or left) is entitled to their opinions, but not their facts.

What brings this to mind is an environmental group local to where I live (which shall remain nameless) which puts out many misleading emails and articles, that a common situation is so untenable, that it will lead to public health or environmental disaster. The other thing they do is attack a certain facility or process, demanding it be shut down without discussing what would replace it.

I know the person who runs the organization. She’s smart and has quite a personal story. I have tremendous respect for her. But she has only superficial knowledge of environmental matters, and, again, feels that everything is a tragedy about to happen.

A few years ago, we both gave presentations at a local environmental event. I gave an overview for the general public about what climate change is and what scientists know about it. In explaining greenhouse gases, I stated the fact that GHGs are not in and of themselves toxic even at elevated concentrations, but cause the trapping of radiation to conserve energy from leaving into outer space. We have lived in balance with a certain GHG concentration in the atmosphere, but now are affecting it adversely. Afterwards, she took me aside and berated me for saying anything “positive” about GHGs. They were the bad guys, in her view, and needed to be seen as such. I challenged her to find any published article that states that GHGs have direct toxic effects and I’ll personally apologize to the event organizer and reach out to every attendee with a correction. She never did (of course). I told her the only way we can fight climate change effectively is for the public to fully understand the topic. It is not simple (“good guy” vs. “bad guy”) with a simple solution if only governments understood as she does.

Her organization is sponsoring a movie about zero waste and she put out an email about it and advocating the shutdown of our county’s waste-to-energy facility. It releases toxic compounds, she wrote, affecting all our health. We are in a dangerous area with high ozone and particulate levels. We must shut down the facility ASAP.

There are so many holes to her arguments. Zero waste is a great concept; I am for it. However, cities (San Francisco comes to mind) have had this as a formal goal and spent millions to research and implement and has failed. This is not something that will be achieved overnight. Even if the techniques and technologies are developed to do so, there is always the implementation by cities, counties, etc. and the willingness of the public to use them (many don’t like change or an added expense). As for the waste-to-energy facility, yes, it is certainly not emissions-free, but it operates under a Title V Permit which mandates compliance with several state and federal air quality rules specific for such facilities, developed with public health in mind. It has continuous emission monitors and does annual testing to ensure these emission standards are met.

The county that the facility is in (as well as where the movie is being shown) was recently moved from severe to moderate ozone non-attainment, and has not had an exceedance in nearly 3 years. Besides, it has been demonstrated that most of the ozone forerunners come from sources many miles upwind of our county. This facility is not the cause of the current ozone non-attainment, nor would shutting it down solve this. The county meets the particulate attainment standard (why did they say it does not?).

Finally, the statement from the group demands the immediate shut down of the facility. Fine. But what would one do with the garbage? The alternative is to truck it to a landfill, hundreds of miles away. Given the size of the facility, that would mean hundreds of trucks traveling this distance daily, combusting diesel fuel oil. The use of any fossil fuel is another frequent target of their attack. So they are indirectly promoting a solution they oppose. Conveniently not mentioned in the email! Not to mention this alternative would require many workers to be in contact with the waste, risking their health. And not to mention the methane gas and other pollutants potentially emitted from the landfill. Methane is 21 times more potent than the CO2 emitted from the waste-to-energy facility.

So, we in the environmental community also need to be careful what we say in our writings. That what we say and write is scientifically grounded, thorough, and accurate; is not wishful thinking nor simplistic; and that alternative scenarios are thought through.

I am curious your thoughts and experiences. Please let me know what you think of this.

CCES can help your company develop a science-based, effective environmental and energy program that can meet achievable goals and can help you communicate this with the public and with regulators. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com

HVAC Industry Prepares for New Energy Standards

The HVAC industry must prepare for major changes with new USDOE energy conservation standards for commercial air conditioners and heat pumps, (RTUs or rooftop units), scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/12/f27/CUAC-CUHP%20CWAF%20Direct%20Final%20Rule.pdf

https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/standards.aspx?productid=35

https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/standards.aspx?productid=49&action=viewlive

The rooftop air conditioner standards — which will cover new units found on smaller buildings, such as hospitals, schools, and retailers — will take effect in two phases. Minimum efficiency will increase by about 10% as of Jan. 1, 2018, and by 25-30% as of Jan. 1, 2023. New standards for new warm-air furnaces become effective in 2023.

Based on USDOE estimates, the new rooftop air conditioner energy standard will save 1.7 trillion kWh over 30 years, which is expected to outpace any other standard completed by the agency, more than any other USDOE standard ever. The USDOE estimates that the new standards would net a typical building owner $4,200-$10,100 over the life of a single rooftop air conditioner. There does not appear to be any movement toward repealing or changing the standards by the new administration.

HVAC manufacturers must incorporate significant design changes in order to comply. Most affected manufacturers have not publicly stated any opposition to the new energy standards, as a major selling point of this equipment is energy efficiency. Of course, implementing new technologies and designs costs money, which will likely raise the cost of new units, but potentially in small increments given the competitive situation.

Another industry likely to benefit from the upcoming standards are utilities. RTUs particularly use a lot of electricity on hot summer days when overall electric demand is at its peak and a concern of utilities to deliver reliable power to everyone. More efficient units gradually being purchased and installed may stem the tide of annual increases in electric demand and make managing a large grid system a little easier.

And this rule may well benefit the consumer. Given the overall financial benefit of operating a more efficient unit, it may be advantageous to wait until 2018 to purchase additional units. Or those on short budgets may want to maximize purchases in 2017, saving capital now for longer term costs in future years.

CCES has the experts to assess your HVAC equipment to determine more efficient units and controls to minimize electric usage and peak demand and maximize financial benefits. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Changes to Lights: You Won’t Recognize Them!

Lights as we know them are changing radically and probably quite fast.
In many technological upgrades, the upgrade is introduced first, but is slowly implemented as it is expensive. But as more competitors get into the business, both raw materials and the manufacturing process drop in cost, so that the upgrade becomes more affordable and with its advantages, takes over the market. This is exactly what we are seeing with LED lights. Initially, many people and companies while recognizing the steep drop in electricity usage, put off purchasing them because the upfront price was so expensive, even with government and utility rebates. But now raw material costs and global competition have forced prices downward, shortening the payback. So much so that many government and utility LED incentive programs are being slashed or even eliminated. Why provide a rebate when the technology is affordable? The payback is shortening so much and LEDs are so useful and reliable that it is a real “no-brainer”.

Similarly, occupancy sensors and other controls will be fairly standard, too. They have become more reliable since the days when sitting still in a room would lead to lights turning off. And, now due to “Alexa”, the whole concept of lighting control has changed.

Which leads me to my main point. Not only is lighting control changing, but the concept of lights is changing. For a century, lights were these bulbs that emit lumens of light after an external signal (electricity) turns on and off the mechanism of burning (in tungsten in an incandescent). A physical effect causing the ability of the bare bulb to produce light. But now, lights are no longer items that just produce light. Lights in a ceiling or outdoors are now becoming little computers that can both do many things and be controlled easily through the internet. Besides being turned on and off, they can be dimmed or made into strobes or other waves, or emit different color light over time, such as dimming or making a warmer tone close to bedtime. The miniaturization that allows a whole host of functions on an easy-to-hold cell phone can allow a simple “light bulb” in a high hat in a ceiling to perform many functions – even outside of lighting, such as being a sensor with a loud alarm or projecting onto a screen.

These functions can be controlled (turned on and off or made more or less intense and timed) using a cell phone or another computer hooked up to the Internet. You have probably already seen how Amazon’s “Alexa” can turn on and off lights (and other appliances and devices) with simple verbal instructions. There may be a day very soon where light switches on the wall are obsolete and no longer designed in buildings, as all lights will be controlled by a human voice. Apple’s “Siri” and Google’s “Home” are moving in this direction, as well.

The major LED light manufacturers (Philips, Cree, Lutron) already sell “smart” bulbs that can be wirelessly controlled though your home’s Wi-Fi. You are probably familiar with those circular timers that are plugged into an outlet and the lamp plug goes into it. When the time is a certain time, the raised portion turns on or off the electricity turning on or off the lamp. This same effect can now be done wirelessly. You can program into your PC or cell phone the times to turn on and off lights (for example, on at sunset, off at bedtime). You can program them to turn on or off groups or individual lights in a room or change their brightness to create the atmosphere you want (for doing desk work, for cooking, for eating, for watching TV) when you want.

The voice-activated systems, like “Alexa”, allow quick changes from programmed timers. Alexa does not have to be in the room with the lights whose timing needs to be changed. Certainly an advantage of any of the voice-activated system is to turn on lights in the dark when one is concerned about falling or tripping. Alexa, of course, operates through Google’s “Echo” voice system, a physically standing system in one or several rooms. Apple does not operate such a system for Siri. One would need to speak into a cell phone to give Siri directions which it could use to control lights. Cell phones are often forgotten or misplaced. A standard Echo system always in a particular room may – for some – be more reliable.

Smart lights can also be used for commercial purposes. Imagine a retail store changing the lighting patterns to emphasize certain products on shelves or mannequins based on the outdoor light and customers present and other factors. Imagine a manufacturing facility adjusting lights to the needs at a particular phase of the manufacturing process.

And – here’s a scary thought after we have spent so much time educating the public on LEDs – may they soon be obsolete? Growing research shows that lasers can be used in many lighting applications successfully and using less energy. Stay tuned.

CCES has the experts to help you evaluate, design, and install the most efficient, sturdy, and flexible lights for your building and usage, while maximizing the financial benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Simple Step To Make Your Workplace (and Home) More Safe and Sustainable

A very simple step you can do to make your workplace more sustainable, healthier, and, ultimately save money is to purchase and use less toxic cleaning supplies. Such a move does not involve great technical planning or effort nor upfront payments. It is simply changing Purchasing policy to regularly purchase only less toxic cleaning supplies.

Cleaning itself is a critical part of any warehouse or industrial facility – or, even a paper-pushing office. Removal of bacteria, fungi, spilled chemicals, etc. rarely occurred in history, as it was not until the 19th century we knew of the “germ” theory that many diseases were caused by microorganisms. Cleaning of any surface, room, carpeting, walls, etc. is important in the maintenance of a well-functioning workplace, and thus, it is important to purchase and use effective cleaning solutions, which also reduces odors, which can be annoying and distracting for workers, and, in some cases, toxic.

The problem is that cleaning detergents, antibacterial cleaning agents, and chemical fragrances used regularly for these functions leave chemicals behind on surfaces, such as walls, floors, desks, equipment, toilets, and countertops. Many of these chemicals are volatile, evaporating into the indoor air we breathe, entering our lungs and blood stream which transport them around our body. Remember, these are effective cleaning solutions because they kill microorganisms; these same compounds can easily get inside us, possibly harming cells and organs and can stay in our bodies for some time. Growing public health literature links some of these compounds to cancer and other diseases. Given the amount of time we stay home, exposure at home to such compounds lead to many calls into poison control centers or emergency rooms.

And if that is not enough of a worry, the USEPA, which is supposed to address and regulate the use of toxic compounds in our environment, has not done a good job overall. TSCA, the main applicable regulation, has only tested and regulated about 1% of the estimated 80,000 potentially toxic compounds in cleaning solutions. States and consumer groups have tried to pick up the slack, but there are still many compounds common in home and office cleaners whose potential effects are not clearly understood.

Fortunately, growing demand has resulted in new alternative products that do a fine job of cleaning surfaces, while using less or non-toxic compounds. It is worth researching what is available, how well they work, and on what surfaces or problem areas. Once acceptable cleaning solutions are found, maintain the list and implement a Purchasing policy that only those brands are procured and used in the future. No hassle, no planning or major expenditure. It all becomes a part of your company’s everyday policy.

And a good way to improve the health, productivity and attendance of your workers, which always makes economic and sustainability sense.

CCES has the experts to help your firm develop and implement policies that will improve your local environment, reduce energy use, and improve productivity. Contact us to discuss today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Improving Worker Health And Productivity Through Office Design

Sometimes building owners and managers resist an opportunity to save energy and water costs using the thinking that it’s not worth the hassle, given savings of only hundreds of dollars per month of costs. However, a growing body of research demonstrates that upgrades, such as improving lighting, temperature control, and ventilation will improve workers’ productivity, reduce sick time, and even put them in a better mood. Since most companies are what their workers produce, this can mean cost savings orders of magnitude greater than the direct utility cost savings, and increases in revenue and reputation, too.

A science has been started by engineers and architects on how to incorporate improvements to the office that will improve the health, alertness, and productivity of workers. In fact, this past January, the International Well Building Institute issued its first set of standards for a healthy building, called the Well Building Standard. See

https://www.wellcertified.com/system/files/WELL%20Building%20Standard_v1%20with%20January%202017%20addenda%20.pdf

These initial WELL standards for a “healthy” building overlaps with several LEED standards, although LEED standards cover more than healthy, productive workers.

The WELL Building Standards includes many requirements to improve the air, water, light, noise, temperature, nutrition, and other factors in a building. WELL has 100 standards for new and existing buildings with listed “optimizations” for them. Like LEED, one can be Silver, Gold, or Platinum, and must meet certain pre-requisite, as well achieve a certain percentage of the standard optimizations.

Demonstrating this is different from LEED, there standards focus on worker health and comfort only and not on reducing environmental impacts, although many will result in that. For example, there is a WELL standard of having lighting mimic the color and intensity of sunlight and change as the day progresses to imitate circadian rhythms. Not found in LEED, another WELL standard covers only healthy foods in vending machines.

According to the IWBI, there are currently over 300 ongoing projects of buildings trying to reach a WELL certification around the world. Their estimate is that the cost of a typical upgrade meeting WELL certification in office buildings costs about $100 per employee. Given projected improvements in productivity as a result of the changes, reducing sick days and stress in the office and improving alertness and comfort, this is a bargain compared to the likely financial gain these improvements would bring. This being version 1 of the WELL standards, it is likely that in the future standards will be modified and methods to achieve made more efficient to bring down this cost.

Based on research, WELL standards encourage the use of indirect lighting, reducing stress from glare, and using lights that are more blue-enriched which mimics sunlight and results in better sleep quality, improving performance in cognitive tests.

WELL standards encourage greater ventilation of outdoor air based on research that shows reduces both absenteeism and the minor complaints that affect work efficiency (headaches, fatigue, “sick building” syndrome) and improves productivity on tasks.

These are just a couple of the many WELL standards, which have these positive results, but may also upset the office culture, such as taking away the “candy jar”. In addition, some workers have remarked upon entering a new or refurbished building meeting WELL standards that it does not have that “new building smell”, which many people are used to or expect. This means that the carpeting, paint, and furniture that typically create these smells were produced VOC-free.

In addition, WELL standards call for space to be used for items, not typically found in an office, such as showers to encourage people to bike to work or exercise at lunchtime. This raises the cost of space in dollars/employee. In addition, normal procedures are modified, such as the way the office is cleaned, raising costs. However, WELL argues that these changes cause greater financial gains in productivity.

It will be interesting as the first buildings meet WELL certification, exactly how much productivity and worker health will improve.

CCES has the experts to assist you in designing an office upgrade project to meet LEED or WELL standards or just to improve your workers’ productivity and reduce your environmental footprint. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Out-of-the-Box Approaches To Saving Energy

Many articles in this blog/newsletter have been written with conventional approaches to save energy: mainly on new technologies, or applications of old technologies, or behavioral or operational changes. I hope you have taken them seriously, implemented some, and reaped the benefits. If you haven’t, it’s never too late!
But there are other, unconventional approaches – some you have thought about in other contexts – that can successfully save energy, as well. One is using advanced scheduling and resource planning applications and software. This may be relevant to you in order to better utilize resources and staff, to better distribute inventory, to better produce product. But improved scheduling and organization can also save energy. An excellent article in a recent Chemical Engineering Progress discusses this concept well: https://www.aiche.org/resources/publications/cep/2017/march/improve-production-scheduling-increase-energy-efficiency.

Advanced production scheduling (APS) software uses mathematical algorithms and logic to optimize the use of inputs (resources, equipment, and labor) to develop schedules to optimize production or inventory given constraints. By improving equipment effectiveness, reducing changeover and startup timing, and improving supply chain utilization, not only can a facility schedule more effectively and predictably, but it can also save resources. And among the resources saved by more efficient scheduling of processes is energy and, as an extension, energy costs, as well.

Therefore, look into upgrading your scheduling processes, including obtaining the best APS software available for maximum benefits.

Another newer technology that can save energy and costs, but not thought of that way, is the driverless car, something that will likely soon be implemented. Of course, a lot of publicity about driverless cars centers on safety. Can one be driven safely in one’s neighborhood or across the country without an accident (or very few)? One thing that is forgotten is that with software and algorithms, controlling a car (and not a human with limitations and performing actions based on emotions) becomes more direct. The software can determine the true route of the shortest distance travelled, not the guess of a person. The software can control the movement of the car so that it is consistent and has fewer stops and starts. All this should lead to improved gasoline mileage and with that, gasoline costs saved, not to mention air pollution impacts reduced, too. Multiply this by millions of cars driven this way, it could lead to a great savings in overall gasoline or diesel usage worldwide (and improved air quality on the ground level). This is of particular interest in the trucking industry, which would look favorably of reducing labor and fuel usage.

CCES has the experts to help your entity find ways to save energy and energy costs, whether through conventional, proven technical upgrades of existing systems, changes in behavior, or “out-of-the-box” approaches. Contact us for more information today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.