Monthly Archives: March 2014

Is An Energy Management System Right For You?

Some building managers think that buying, installing, and operating an ultramodern energy management system (EMS) will solve all their occupants lighting and comfort problems and at the same time lead to great energy cost savings. It’s not so simple. An EMS needs professional management and maintenance for it to perform seamlessly as intended and to save you aggravation, time and money. Before buying an EMS, you should understand some of the maintenance issues that may come up and occupy your time, despite the responsive, ultramodern system. If these are difficult, you may want to consider alternative ways to reduce energy usage and costs without EMS. Here are some EMS issues that your building may face and that you and your staff must address:

• Proper sensor location: A modern EMS system can work less effectively than you expected if the sensors are located improperly. Sensors should be located near where people are present to truly indicate the level of comfort and lighting desired. A sensor located in an out-of-the-way location may relay incorrect information and not truly serve those intended, costing the building money. A sensor should also not be receiving supply air directly. This may turn off an HVAC prematurely and cause occupants to be uncomfortable, which in turn may cause other components to overcompensate.
Bottom line: Ensure that your sensors are located in optimal areas, reflecting the use of various rooms or sections. Periodically, note if there are changes in occupancy or needs or if complaints can be rectified by moving the sensor. It is often worth the extra cost of electricians and all to move sensors to more logical locations.

• Assure proper maintenance: Sometimes building managers are so amazed by all the wizardry (as told by a sales person) of a modern EMS that they think that maintenance is unnecessary. “The system can take care of itself.” Well, that’s wishful thinking that will ultimately cost a building money, time, and the effectiveness of the EMS. Regular maintenance and checking of an EMS’s effectiveness and value must be performed to assure that settings are appropriate and that the proper controls are working. Even if the EMS is performing well, it is also important to check its settings as the needs of occupants can change over time. For example, if a new tenant moves into one portion of a building and has different or unique heating/cooling needs or occupancy schedules, then the EMS algorithms may become outdated. Even less drastic changes may have the same effect.
Bottom line: So it is important to review building operations, occupancy, and needs on a regular basis and ensure that the EMS is properly responding to any changes. Otherwise, change the settings and programs. Not doing so will take away a lot of the energy efficiency cost gains you expected and paid for in procuring the EMS.

• Manual program overrides: An EMS is pre-programmed to provide building occupants with the perceived needed lighting and comfort needed, while saving energy use, too. However, because building managers must address lighting and comfort complaints by occupants at any time, an EMS must allow manual overrides of system settings to quickly respond to any complaint. Because a complaint can happen at any and at odd hours, the building manager or those trained in operating the EMS may not be present and a less- or untrained worker may need to manually override the system, potentially affecting controls over other areas of the buildings and other times and affecting long-term savings. There are certainly many cases where occupants themselves frustrated with too much or too little heat or cooling will try to alter settings themselves. But they cause major errors or problems and only care about their own comfort and not that of others or of energy efficiency. Therefore, make sure that an EMS thermostat or occupancy sensor is locked or otherwise out of the reach of an untrained occupant, although this will add to the cost and are more keys to carry around.
Bottom line: make sure more workers receive recurring training on EMS operation to intelligently respond to complaints without affecting others comfort or lighting and without sacrificing much in energy cost reductions. If there are frequent complaints, catalog them, determine trends and reasons, and perhaps “permanently” change settings.

• Alarms: Some EMS systems are so complex and measure so many parameters that they sound alarms for nearly anything that is abnormal. Some of these are critical and need to be addressed rapidly, such as an electrical or a pump failure. But, many EMS alarms are for less critical items, such as a dirty filter, an imbalance in air flow rate, or a change in occupancy rates. While important to be informed about, such issues need not be addressed right away. Over time, when alarms sound too frequently, workers become insensitive to them. They may even shut some alarm systems off or do not react to them, including some critical ones.
Bottom line: Determine which parameters are most critical and reprogram your EMS to sound alarms only for the most critical malfunctions that must be addressed quickly. Inform maintenance staff in less intrusive ways (reports) for the more routine or less critical problems that an EMS detects.

With this said, you may ask the question of whether it makes sense to even purchase an EMS system for your building. Certainly, advanced technology that automatically adjusts parameters to what is best for building occupants or a specific situation in an efficient manner is a good thing for comfort and to save money. But planning to install thermostats, sensors, and a control system means understanding that an EMS system will not be productive without major input from you and staff. All the “headaches” will not go away and some of the expected savings may not occur, as well. You have to invest labor and time to maintain and use properly an EMS system. Or you should consider implementing other energy upgrades without an EMS system, of which there are plenty.

CCES has the technical experts to help you assess EMS systems, whether they are right for you, what alternatives will serve you well without an automated system, and what parameters, alarms, notices, and controls should be included should you decide to procure an EMS. We can perform meaningful energy upgrades for your building with or without an EMS. Contact us today at or at 914-584-6720.

Countering Excuses To Ignore Sustainability–Part 1

Despite the strong business benefits – shown in real life – to become more sustainable, most businesses either do not develop or do not address seriously sustainability goals or treat them as if checking off a box. In some literature, many excuses are given. In this first of many parts, I will examine such a business claim and provide evidence to show that each is not valid for a successful sustainability program developed smartly.

There are no accepted metrics to measure sustainability, so there is no end goal. Also, those that exist are too complex to understand.

Metrics are important in any business program. One cannot manage what does not get measured. Goals without measureable and respected metrics become difficult to achieve or demonstrate that you are achieving. Sustainability initiatives can be difficult to measure because some affect outside society, and may have only minor benefits for the company and employees.

But in response to this, there are a number of metrics and measuring systems that exist to help companies measure their sustainability. Among the more popular ones are the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and life-cycle assessments, for which there is an approved ISO procedure (14025) to determine impacts at different levels of a product’s life cycle (from infrastructure and raw materials to consumer use and end-of-life).

In fact, there are so many options that it is important to devote time to determining which ones best suits your business. Which sustainability metric system will provide the most definitive information to your stakeholders and can be integrated with your current business metrics? One must think through which metrics are best suited for a particular industry or size and diversity of entity. Some focus on energy, some on carbon, some on water, and some a combination. Which are most important to your organization?

You need time and thought to invest time to decide which metrics and reporting tools will help you the most benchmark, provide unassailable data and conclusions concerning your operations, allow you to compare reasonably with other similar companies, and identify the areas that need specific improvement.

The bottom line is that there is no simple answer to the right sustainability metrics for you, but that options exist and time and resources should be invested upfront to select the approach best suited for your characteristics and to provide meaningful information.

CCES has the experts to help you research and establish the best sustainability program for your needs that is meaningful and will provide you both useful information and definitive business benefits. Contact Marc Karell today at 914-584-6720 or at

Overcoming The Fear of Energy Investments

According to the USDOE, over 4.2 million commercial buildings waste an average 30% of their energy, causing a cumulative estimated excess cost of $60.7 billion in 2007. Given an 8% capitalization rate, the cumulative loss of real estate value is $750 billion.

A simple example applied to an individual building (from Energy Star): A 200,000 sf office building pays $2/sf in energy. Energy reductions resulting in a 10% decrease in energy costs translates into $40,000 in additional net operating income annually. Energy Star believes that common energy recovery opportunities range from 20%-40%.

Given this opportunity to turn wasted energy into newfound income and asset value, why aren’t all property owners and managers investing in energy efficiency upgrades? A Deloitte survey, reSources 2012, found that 90% of companies surveyed had energy management goals; and over two-thirds identified reducing energy costs as their main rationale. Yet, the survey also found that few companies had actually developed and implemented significant energy efficiency improvements. Many property owners and managers have one or more of the following impressions about energy upgrades:

• Improving energy efficiency is a complex, mysterious and unreliable process.

• Investing in energy efficiency is almost always expensive.

• Pursuing energy efficiency is risky business (due to overpromise and under delivery).

Each assumption has been shown to be incorrect based on real life examples. So, how can these fears be overcome? Be organized and address the following:

1. Perform a site-specific energy assessment led by an experienced professional. Make sure that data (energy usage data, bills, information about operations and equipment) is thorough and properly collected. Data quality is of prime importance. I once prepared an energy survey for the managers of facilities to submit to obtain such data. For groups of similar facilities, I expected a bell-shaped curve; instead I got some facilities that were listed as extremely efficient and others very inefficient. I was suspicious that errors or misunderstandings occurred during data entry. When I spoke to the client manager of the need to invest time to verify the data collected from the outliers, he started yelling at me that we must accept all data as submitted. He did not understand data collection. They invested money into energy reducing strategies at facilities that did not need it! The bottom line is that good, quality information reduces the fear that some may have.

2. Focus on your highest energy activities; identify multiple solutions. To reduce the fear of risk in energy upgrade strategies, it is critical to focus on big energy consumers and determine costs, reductions, and paybacks of multiple potential solutions. Obtain multiple bids and identify the best combination of solutions based on financial analysis.

3. Put all matters in writing. It is important to be transparent in the evaluation and calculations. Prepare professional memos or reports along the way, and don’t hide any data or reasoning for decisions.

Proposing this approach will reduce the fear that many C-level executives have about performing energy assessments and investing in energy waste reduction strategies.

CCES has the technical experts to help you prepare energy evaluations and audits to maximize your energy and cost reductions and gain the greatest business benefits in a reliable, programmatic, transparent way. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

A Look Into Why People Buy “Green” Products

Here’s an article to share with your sales group. Understanding why people choose to “go green” and buy environmentally-friendly products can help companies decide how to maximize the benefits of their own “green” program and improve the bottom line. Why do people go out of their way to find and purchase recycled paper towels rather than non-descript ones, energy-saving appliances, and hybrid cars? According to the authors of a published paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 98, No. 3, March 2010), green purchases are made primarily for status. Customers will more likely buy such products – even at inflated prices – when they know other people will notice.

The researchers conducted 3 experiments, using more than 400 participants, to determine the roles that price, quality, and social reputation play in determining whether and why customers opt for environmentally-friendly products. The authors found that people’s purchasing attitudes and choices differed if they shopped online alone at home vs. in a store. People indicated a preference to purchase more expensive green products in public in stores because others would witness them making the purchase. In fact, a higher price would make a statement that the buyers who wanted to show they were willing to sacrifice for the environment. When deciding between two equally priced vehicles, one a luxury car loaded with features and the other an environmentally-friendly one with fewer high-end features, 55% of participants who were asked to consider their public status chose the green car vs. only 37% of participants in the control group, who were told to disregard reputation.

In the marketplace, the hybrid Toyota Prius is an example of this phenomenon. The Prius is openly advertised as better for the environment. Despite the fact it costs more than other conventional but highly fuel efficient non-hybrid cars, a newspaper story reported that Prius owners ranked environmental concerns last on a list of five reasons they bought the car. Their top reason for purchasing the hybrid was that it “made a statement about me.”

The bottom line is that the key to successful sales of green products is status, including ensuring that their products are sold in public spaces. Customers are looking to enhance their reputation.

CCES has the technical experts to help your company develop a “green” program to maximize financial benefits, both internally (energy cost savings) and externally (advancing sales). Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at