Category Archives: Sustainability

Interest In New Gensets Is Growing

The number of facilities choosing to generate their own electricity using generators or “gensets” is growing. Companies are recognizing that the physical and business impacts of even one severe storm can undo all the planning a business does and even wipe out or severely hurt the business. In addition, with the acceptance of climate change as real the chances of a severe storm impacting a facility will rise in the future. A facility having its own secure source of electricity independent of the grid and its wires and vulnerable infrastructure can better ensure that basic functions can be maintained in a storm, saving personnel and processes and having electricity to maintain operations during such events. As a result, the genset market has been growing.

Part of this growth is due to another phenomenon, some utilities provide financial incentives for facilities to procure and operate gensets to relieve them as they are unsure of reliable power and don’t want to hurt key users in their area. In addition, several such programs require the genset operator to go off the utility’s grid and operate the genset for distinct periods during peak demand periods (hot weather) to relieve pressure on the grid. These programs, often called “Demand Response” or DR, can be lucrative for facilities. The utility pays most of the capital cost of the genset, the facility fully owns it, and they get paid a fee each time a DR event occurs and a genset is used.

One complication of such programs, however, is environmental. The federal Clean Air Act, followed by nearly all states, specifically exempts from permitting and meeting emission standards gensets that are used only in emergencies (this includes the necessary regular exercising of a unit). However, once a facility uses a genset in a DR program, this exemption goes away. Therefore, facilities entertaining joining a DR program must set aside budget and effort to obtain the proper air permit (or modify its existing one) and comply with any applicable emission standard. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is the most common pollutant that is regulated. If the NOx emissions of your genset exceeds the regulatory standard, it may be necessary to retrofit the unit with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) or equivalent technology. The cost of such a retrofit can approach 6 figures. The USEPA designates models as meeting certain “tiered” standards. Tier 4 gensets are the most advanced and will likely currently meet all applicable emission regulations. Tier 3 gensets probably meet most of them. Tier 2 units probably do not meet many of them, again, if applicable. So if you are procuring a new genset, look to invest in a Tier 4 which should meet all applicable NOx emission standards. Particulate matter (PM) is sometimes regulated, too. A sure way to meet any PM standard is to combust natural gas, not to mention it is currently cheaper than oil. Natural gas-fired gensets are particularly selling well these days.

Finally, another variation of the genset that many facilities are considering is combined heat and power or CHP, where both steam and electricity are produced by the unit. The improvement in efficiency can save significant fuel costs. It is important for an experienced engineer to evaluate whether your demand for both steam and electricity and when the demand occurs will make CHP a good investment.

CCES can help your firm determine whether a genset or a CHP can be beneficial for you, as well as manage its procurement, installation, testing, and use to maximize the financial benefits. We can determine likely financial costs and savings. We can perform the needed environmental permitting and determine whether it meets existing applicable emission limits. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Underevaluated Source of Energy Usage: Plug Load

When a building owner or manager calls for an energy audit, they are usually looking for ways to upgrade lighting, HVAC, insulation or windows to save energy. The big items. Technology has improved markedly in recent years in these areas to justify upgrades resulting in significant energy use savings.

However, one area that is sometimes overlooked in an energy audit is plug load. According to the US Energy Information Administration, plug load can comprise up to 30% of total energy consumption of a commercial building. It should not be neglected.

Plug load is energy demand (almost always electricity) from devices plugged into electrical outlets (one notable exception is a stove/oven, plugged into a supply of natural gas. These devices include computers, speakers, printers, monitors, scanner, copiers, chargers, TVs, space heaters, fans, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee machines, vending machines, task (desk) lighting, and others. These are mainly small items and taken for granted because they are so commonplace. However, while each item may draw less electricity compared to a large AC, cumulatively they can use significant energy and if not properly planned and controlled, can impact your energy costs.

3 Things You Can Do To Lower Plug Load Energy Costs

Use Efficient Equipment

While these may be “small” items one just “runs in” and purchases quickly, there are differences in energy use among similar equipment. The USEPA and USDOE have a joint program called “Energy Star” which compares many plug load items. Brands that are Energy Star-certified generally use at least 20% less energy (usually, electricity) than the average for the item, yet performs the same. Such items have an Energy Star logo displayed prominently on the equipment and box. A McKinsey study lists different strategies to reduce GHG emissions (usually matched with energy reduction), and puts plug load programs like Energy Star at or near the top in terms of economic effectiveness. See page 5 of the report from: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/impact-of-the-financial-crisis-on-carbon-economics-version-21. Many Energy Star products may be a few more dollars (or for larger equipment, $50) more expensive than the average one, but the energy savings will pay back that extra upfront cost very quickly, normally in just a few months. And then the savings for the rest of the time you own the equipment is “gravy”.

Another advantage of Energy Star is that it is an energy cost saving approach that does not rely on engineering or any kind of “work.” It is simple: a change in policy by Purchasing to purchase only Energy Star products allow you to lock in cost savings.

Controls

Smart controls allow you to program equipment for, say, “sleep” mode during certain hours or off altogether. For example, software can turn a vending machine’s lights and refrigeration off or reduce them slightly during non-office hours to save energy, yet keep food fresh. Sensors can turn off computers or lights when not in use. Make sure controls can be overridden, when necessary. This allows you to keep energy from being used when not needed, yet does not involve daily manual efforts to do so, which rarely work.

Raise Awareness

Make sure your employees/residents understand the importance of plug load as contributing to energy costs, which affect their costs as employees and renters. In time, they will be motivated to turn off equipment when not in use, saving energy. And they’ll do so at home, saving them costs, as well.

CCES can help your building or company review and analyze your energy use, including equipment, software controls, and operations with the intent of finding common sense and technological solutions to enable you to save significant energy costs while enhancing productivity. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Growing Proof That Improved Indoor Quality Results in Healthier Occupants

Harvard University scientists recently published an article in the journal Building and Environment summarizing 30 years of public health research demonstrating that improved indoor environmental quality directly results in better health outcomes. “The Impact of Working in a Green-Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health” by MacNaughton, Satish, Laurent, Flanigan, Vallarino, Coull, Spengler, and Allen, Building and Environment 114 (2017) 178-186

One recent research project utilized 109 participants from 10 buildings in 5 different US cities that met ASHRAE Standard 62.1 (2010) ventilation requirements and had low indoor total volatile organic compound concentrations. In each city, buildings were matched over time by tenant, type of worker, and work functions. Buildings were distinguished concerning whether they had achieved green certification. Workers were administered a cognitive function test of higher order decision-making performance twice during the same week while indoor environmental quality parameters were monitored. Workers in green-certified buildings scored 26% higher on cognitive function tests, controlling for annual earnings, job category and level of schooling, and had 30% fewer sick building symptoms than those workers in non-certified buildings.

These outcomes may be explained by a number of indoor environmental quality factors which certified green buildings must meet, such as temperature control and lighting. However, the findings suggest that the benefits of green certification standards go beyond measurable environmental quality factors. The researchers have given the name “buildingomics” to describe the holistic approach for examining the complexity of factors in a building that influence human health. They believe further research will identify how these different factors lead to positive cognitive and health results.

In response to this growing trend, the USGBC has recently developed and issued new building standards to maximize indoor environmental quality known as WELL. The first buildings are being evaluated for whether they meet WELL standards and the first practitioners are studying for and becoming accredited as WELL professionals. See: https://www.wellcertified.com/

CCES is growing our expertise about WELL, as well, and can provide for you information about the standards and be able to provide insight and perform a study to demonstrate whether your existing or planned building meets WELL standards and, if not, what can be done to meet the WELL certification standards, including estimated costs to achieve WELL, and to maximize the health and financial benefits of WELL certification. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

U.S. Climate Change News October 2017

Trump Administration Takes Steps To Repeal the Clean Power Plan. On October 10, 2017, USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt submitted to the Federal Register proposed legislation to repeal the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s signature legislation to significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gases (GHG) by developing stringent GHG emission standards for power production. As coal-fired power plants cannot reasonably meet these emission standards. The USEPA believes it is unfair to have legislation to target a particular fuel type, and began the repeal process to encourage growth in coal usage from U.S. mines. This is quite controversial as coal, a high emitter of GHGs, as well as other and toxic compounds, is still a major source of energy in the U.S. electric industry. By encouraging coal production and use, the U.S. would be hard-pressed to meet the Paris Climate Accord goals, although President Trump has already announced that the U.S. will leave the Accord anyway. In addition, much has been written that this move may make little difference, as other economic factors makes coal a non-ideal choice as a fuel for a utility (see below), such as the declining cost of building and operating a renewable plant. The public has 60 days from initial publication in the Federal Register to comment after which the USEPA must respond before making the repeal official.

States, Cities And Private Businesses Put U.S. Halfway To Paris Climate Accord Goal. According to a study released on September 25 by New Climate Institute and the Climate Group, efforts to address climate change by states, cities and corporations have already put the U.S. halfway toward its Paris Accord climate goal despite the current Administration’s attempt to reverse recent federal efforts. The study estimated that such efforts will cause GHG emissions to drop by 12-14% below the 2005 baseline by 2025. The study, based on certified data from the Carbon Disclosure Project, found that U.S. private sector commitments were the biggest factor in reducing GHG emissions. The decline in emissions are being caused mainly by these commitments of switching from fossil fuel combustion to renewable power.

First State-Wide, Economy-Wide Carbon Tax Is Proposed. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Massachusetts House and another in the Senate that would establish a tax on fossil fuels with the goals to reduce GHG emissions and return the proceeds to consumers and businesses. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H1726. Both bills would impose an initial tax of $10 or $20 per ton of CO2 emissions, rising to $40 per ton in the future. Several years ago, the USEPA estimated that the cost of a ton of GHG emissions was about $42 per ton, which was why they chose this endpoint. It was understood it needed to be approached gradually. Both bills require refunding of some or all of the tax proceeds to households and businesses.
It is estimated that should either bill become law the price of gasoline and heating fuel in Massachusetts would eventually rise by about 35 cents per gallon. The bills contain rebate programs to incentivize energy efficiency, rewarding businesses or households that reduce energy usage per employee (or member), not just energy usage as a whole.

Currently, Massachusetts enforces GHG reduction rules targeted to power plants. However, with electric generation comprising just 28% of GHG emissions in Massachusetts, legislators felt it was time to regulate other sectors, as well, particularly, the transportation sector, which accounts for about 30% of statewide GHG emissions.

While certain business groups are concerned about competitiveness and disproportionate impacts, the bills have many co-sponsors. Therefore, it is likely that some such bill will pass and with a sympathetic governor, a carbon tax would become law in Massachusetts, perhaps signed in 2018, going into initial effect in 2019.

CCES has the technical experts to help you assess your energy needs and help you be more energy efficient, which has many financial benefits, including preparing for future carbon taxes or monetization of GHG emission credits. Contact us today and we can help at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

New, Supplemental and Complementary Green Building Standards: WELL

The most widely used green building rating system in the world is LEED, created by the US Green Business Council (USGBC). LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement, and the standards provide guidance to help building owners and managers conserve energy and water, reduce waste, and minimize building and occupants’ environmental impacts. LEED has been well received and more and more new and renovated buildings are becoming LEED certified. Building owners are beginning to reap real, significant financial benefits of their LEED-certified buildings.

However, for some LEED is a standard with limited benefits. Some company and building owners realize that their tenants, whether residents, employees, shoppers, or students, are more concerned with their health. Can buildings contain features that will improve the health and welfare of occupants, making them happier and more productive, as well as raising the asset value or driving demand for the space?

The USGBC has addressed this by publishing such unique standards called WELL Building Standards, or “WELL” for short. WELL consists of features across seven concepts that comprehensively address the design and operations of buildings as well as how these features impact and influence human behaviors related to health and well-being. The seven concepts addressed in WELL standards include:

• Air
• Water
• Nourishment
• Light
• Fitness
• Comfort
• Mind

Like LEED, WELL standards contain mandatory pre-requisites across these areas that all WELL-certified buildings must meet at a minimum, as well as a point system that must be satisfied for WELL certification. These standards to improve the health and well-being of occupants include, but are not limited to, proper ventilation, reducing the level of indoor air pollutants, improving drinking water quality, reducing infiltration of water, promoting the use of natural light, and having specific building areas devoted to improve fitness and relaxation. Like LEED, WELL has a system to accredit professional practitioners, so having an accredited WELL professional on your certification team means being professionally guided to achieve WELL certification. Innovation in design and building operation to optimize meeting WELL standards is also rewarded.

WELL is a new program, and the first initial projects are being undertaken now and the first professionals accredited. How much will a WELL-certified building benefit a business, in terms of worker health, reduced sick days, improved productivity, etc.? The data will be collected and we will soon be able to validate the claims. However, there is no question that the common sense standards can only succeed in reducing sick days, improving both health and morale, and raise confidence and motivation, critical in sales.

If you are interested in learning more about WELL standards, learning whether this is the yardstick that is best for your building or business, and determining what it takes to become WELL-certified, contact Ms. Bonnie Hagen of Bright Energy Services today at bonnie@brightenergyservcies.com or at 914-425-1376 or Marc Karell of CCES at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

The Importance Of Planning for Extreme Storms

As Texas and Florida begin to recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma’s onslaughts, the full impacts are being assessed and lessons learned. Besides the dozens of people who lost their lives, the property damage is well into the billions. Particularly hard hit are people’s homes, their biggest investments, in most cases, with no or inadequate flood insurance. In addition, for some time nearly one-third of US refining capacity was affected. At least one chemical plant suffered several explosions, causing a mass evacuation from miles of the plant. There have been several reports of releases from pipelines. This toll certainly points to the importance of preparedness and response to minimize damage in the future when future storms hit. Such efforts need to be a partnership between government and the companies affected to be most effective.

Government needs to give companies guidelines on what level of safety in an emergency is acceptable; what level of protection should be provided to the public and institutions. While many do not like regulations, fair, consistent regulations that defines a level of protection and implemented across the board in a smart way (mainly for at risk areas) makes the most sense. In 2011, the Clean Water Act was amended to require facilities that could release oil or natural gas to prepare and be ready to implement facility response plans in case of an emergency. The system worked, as few discharges of oil products were reported, given the new plans and the advanced warning of Harvey that we had.

Of course, it is impossible to expect no environmentally-sensitive spills occur given the historic rainfall (more rain that had ever fallen in a short period in the whole US). We should remember that this is a long-term process, a learning experience. As plants and pipelines re-open, care should be given to assure that before equipment and processes are re-started that they be inspected for viability (replace, if necessary, damaged parts and equipment, make sure the whole system is working) so there is a smooth re-start of operations (with minimal discharges and emissions) and to fully learn lessons to lessen impacts from future storms.

This is also important for municipalities. While Harvey and Irma represented extreme rainfall and wind events, the question that comes up is whether the municipalities were able to handle the water and winds and can they do so the next time. Stormwater systems need to be re-examined and potentially improved. Escape routes better planned and improved, if necessary, in order for emergency services to continue in the area and for greater resiliency. If necessary, municipalities NOT impacted by Harvey and Irma should take note and ask themselves how they might have fared if storms similar in scope hit them and go back and plan and spend to protect citizens better. The images we all saw of floods and wind damage in Texas and Florida should be enough motivation for all municipalities to review and bolster their emergency planning and services, even if it means spending more money and, yes, raising taxes. Harvey and Irma can represent models against which we plan for.

CCES can assist your company in emergency planning, resiliency, and sustainability. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Environmental Risk and Compliance in Aftermath of an Emergency

How do we treat environmental compliance in an area hit by an emergency? Do we suspend environmental rules and procedures as people and land recover? Or do we treat it as nothing has happened? The recent tragedies of Harvey and Irma put this question in perspective.

As Hurricane Harvey left destruction throughout southeast Texas, it was natural to allow residents to return to their homes as soon as it became passable to make their way back. However, was it safe to let people return so quickly?
The USEPA reported that over a week after Harvey hit Texas, over 800 wastewater treatment plants were still not fully operational and there were releases of untreated wastewater from sanitary sewers. 13 Superfund sites in the hardest hit areas were not even visited yet by the USEPA, although it was likely that the flood waters carried some toxic material with them. Over 100,000 people had no access to safe drinking water weeks after Harvey hit. Was it safe to allow people to return without a basic assessment of these issues? Did the government put the residents at further risk of health impacts by allowing a premature return? Remember how in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, the affected area was declared “safe”, and many rescue workers came, only to face debilitating health effects in the future because the air still had high concentrations of ash and other toxic compounds.

In addition, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Texas Governor Greg Abbott suspended many environmental rules, such as waiving the requirement to operate pollution control equipment and regulating operations at different types of facilities on the theory that these efforts could hamper the recovery from the hurricane. These suspensions include air emission and effluent restrictions, as well as performing certain operations, maintenance, testing, and reporting and spill reporting and response requirements of hazardous waste, of which the heavy rains and winds carried outside of containment areas into areas where people may be exposed. Texas also issued guidance allowing local authorities to perform whatever recovery activities it believes will be most effective, even if there are environmental implications. It should be noted that this applies to state rules only, and does not apply to federal rules.

The scope of the suspension is only applicable where normal operations are unsafe due to the conditions and compliance would prevent or hinder actions needed to recover in coping with this disaster. The suspension is only valid in the areas hit by Harvey and only for the time that the area is considered a disaster area.

However, was this the proper decision? Might suspending rules and procedures increase the environmental impact and the risk of exposure to pollutants in the air, water, and solid areas?

Further study will determine whether these were risky decisions or prudent given the circumstances. Lessons will be learned.

CCES can help your firm assess the technical aspects of compliance with and risk from environmental regulations in your state and locality. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Research Finds Proper Lighting Lowers Worker Stress

I recently submitted a great proposal for an upgrade to LED lights for a warehouse. Solid utility rebates, an excellent reduction of energy costs and return on investment (existing lights were very inefficient). Yet, the company’s Board of Directors was split. I presented the facility manager a summary of all the benefits, including that it will likely raise worker productivity. He questioned all of the findings (even as he said he was in favor of the project!), and I only then realized that this company just did not want to deal with change – even if the numbers showed it was beneficial.

After he questioned the ability of proper lighting to improve productivity I decided to look deeper into the notion of lighting influencing workplace stress. A major research study at RPI (found in the journal Sleep Health, June 2017) found that office workers who receive a significant dose of circadian-effective light in the morning, from either electric lighting or daylight, experience better sleep and lower levels of depression and stress, than those who spend their mornings in dim or low light levels. The research team investigated the connection between circadian stimulus (CS), a measure of light’s impact on the circadian system, and sleep, depression, and stress in and better overall sleep quality and mood scores, in both summer and winter seasons.

Further study has pinpointed the likely mechanism. Humans, of course, lived and evolved under the Sun. Natural sunlight contains all wavelengths of visible light and ultraviolet and infrared radiation, as well. Common office or factory fluorescent lights typically emit visible light in a fairly tight range of wavelengths. Many wavelengths our eyes and, therefore, our brains are used to dealing with are absent. This affects our circadian rhythm, as we have not dealt with such a narrow range in evolutionary history, and therefore raises stress and sleeplessness. LED lights more closely mimic the wider range of visible light, reducing the change from our natural system and, thus, reducing circadian disruption and stress.

A 2016 study of the effects on the productivity of garment workers in India working under LED lights vs. fluorescents also showed increased productivity (www.anantnyshadham.com/storage/AKN_LED_may2016.pdf). The authors believe at least some of the effects is due to the reduced heat given off by the LEDs and thus, the more comfortable temperatures in the shop. But the improvement was demonstrated.

CCES has the experts to help you implement a lighting assessment to both save significant energy costs and to raise comfort and productivity of your employees. While saving energy costs are itself great, improving worker productivity (fewer errors, more work done, fewer sick days) can make a business even more money, as well as reputation. We have lighting experts not just to replace existing lights, but to assess if lighting can be made better for your workers or to show off your products or any other reason. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Don’t Overlook Ways To Save Water

This blog and newsletter have historically focused on air and energy. How can you save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and be environmentally compliant? But another important part of a good sustainability plan is water conservation, which is becoming a bigger issue as we face future shortages of quality water. Water has historically been “cheap” and overlooked as an avenue of study. But rates are rising and even in areas with ample supply, it is needlessly costly to be wasteful. Ways to reduce your water usage will save you cost, as well as put you in a more flexible condition.

Water resources are commonly shared. If you manage a facility that needs clean water to make product, there are likely other facilities nearby sharing water from the same source (reservoir system, wells, etc.), not to mention nearby farmers, and residents. If you use what is perceived to be “more than your fair share” of water, that could be both very expensive and put you in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis other stakeholders.

Optimize Your Infrastructure

An easy way to reduce water use is to use water-saving fixtures. Let the technology do the savings and the people involved won’t know the difference (or feel inconvenienced).

Leaks: An overlooked avenue of water loss is through leaks of water through the byzantine pipes of a facility. One area that is a common candidate is condensate from steam boiler systems. There will always be losses, but is the amount returning as condensate somewhat equal to the water sent out as steam? If not, investigate and see where water may be lost and do the necessary repairs. Even a “little” leak that seems innocuous, when continued 24/7, can result in a large water loss. Don’t take condensate or water shipped from some other place for granted that it will reach the destination.

Toilets: A typical toilet uses about 1.6 gallons of water per flush (gpf). High-efficiency toilets typically use around 20% less per flush. The USEPA recommends models that are water efficient through its WaterSense program or Maximum Performance (MaP). Dual-flush models, popular in Europe, provide 2 options; for liquid waste (0.8-1.1 gpf), and for solid waste (1.3-1.6 gpf). Pressure-assist toilets push water and waste down the drain with a pressurization system and use 0.8-1 gpf.

Urinals: Low-flow urinals use less water to rinse away the urine. Some models use as little as 1 pint of water per flush (0.125 gpf), saving 87%. Waterless models rely on gravity to drain urine through a lighter liquid that prevents odorous compounds from seeping through into the air.

Sinks: Aerators are a very cheap and effective way to reduce the amount of water coming out of a faucet. The water does “its job” (washing hands, rinsing dishes, filling up pots) with reduced water flow, reducing water use by up to 75%.

Maintenance, It’s Always Maintenance

I have said in a number of articles in this blog and newsletter the hidden gains of energy cost savings, increased productivity and reliability by doing regular maintenance. Yes, it is not exciting and hard to boast about, but savings are achieved with renewed and improved maintenance. Train your staff to read and follow manufacturer’s procedures. You have paid some for the various water-saving features. Make sure equipment is operating properly to get your money’s worth and maximize savings and benefits.

CCES has the experts to help you put together a comprehensive sustainability program to maximize your savings and benefits in water conservation, energy usage, waste, etc. Specific for what you do and specific for your needs and limitations. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Proof of Benefits of Going Green: How To Get Started

Last month I wrote an article highlighting the growing proof that making a building more “green” and energy efficient has many financial benefits, beyond just saving utility costs. Scientific research has shown “green” buildings lead to greater asset value, larger revenue, and fewer sick days and greater productivity and attention span of workers.

If this has convinced you to look into “greening” your building, here’s how to get started. Here are crucial items to consider as you move forward, usually overlooked:

1. You know what “green” is, but you need to explain fully what it is to the building owner or corporate manager. Develop realistic expectations for all stakeholders. What does the group want to achieve? Are they achievable? Any limitations? I once performed a preliminary “green” evaluation of a company’s headquarters building, including a complex analysis of potential energy efficiency strategies. A high-level contact was surprised; he literally thought that the project’s goal was to recommend where to plant trees! (He hadn’t read the Scope of Work!) Make sure all involved have unified goals, and understand the project is a complex process.

2. Determine your ultimate “green” goals. There are many types of “green” projects. Determine what is right for your building or company based on needs, budget, etc. You may wish to have your work officially certified under the LEED or WELL program. Or you may wish to bypass any official certification, and perform small, focused upgrades. That’s fine, too. What does management want most to achieve: reduced costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better work environment? Do you want to be a leader in your field or “just a player”? There is nothing wrong with reduced goals if you have budgetary constraints. There is something to be said about watching others and learning from their mistakes. These approaches need to be thought through and decided early on.

3. Make sure the contact understands that there is no formula to become green. No shortcuts. No “magic wand.” It takes an understanding of the specific building, its physical structure, the equipment within, the people and productivity inside. Anyone promising you a quick fix will not produce the fix for you, and it’s likely not quick either. Therefore, hire an experienced pro, preferably an engineer.

4. Be prepared to work a little. After you hire the experienced pro, don’t just sit back and expect him/her to do everything. Work with that person to ensure that the work is done to meet your needs. First, begin by providing the pro with the data needed to perform the analysis. Nearly all “green” projects will require the engineer to evaluate current and historic data: concerning the physical building, its history, size, uses and 24 months of recent energy, water, and sewer bills. You should begin to prepare this information as you are reviewing proposals or performing the administrative work to bring the engineer in. Be prepared to field questions from the engineer because while the building may be second nature to you, it is new to the engineer. Time can be saved by anticipating such questions and providing the engineer with information you think is important.

5. Site visits. It is likely that the engineer will need to make multiple visits to the facility to perform counts of equipment and to assess how equipment is operating in order to determine which items things could improve or be more efficient. Ensure that a person knowledgeable about the building and its equipment and operations is with the engineer at all times to answer questions or fill in on procedures. The site visit may involve testing of all major equipment. For a robust energy evaluation, it is important to test both the heating equipment (boilers) and cooling equipment (AC) for a building. For one energy audit, I was asked by building management to “get it over with”: to test both on the same visit. So on a 95°F day, we tested the building’s boiler! (We did it during lunch hour when many employees were out of the building!). But it is crucial for you to work with your “green” engineer to enable all goals to be met and data to be gathered.

6. Ask for and review interim reports. Sometimes building managers then step back and wait for the “green” professional to perform the analysis and develop the strategies and conclusions. But there is nothing wrong with asking the engineer for an early, interim report to make sure the professional has not strayed from the agreed-upon goals. When reviewing an early draft report, remember there may be gaps in it or certain calculations or conclusions you are interested in that are missing. But do review it and speak up if the direction it is going, you feel, is not what you want. Having such a discussion ultimately saves the engineer time and aggravation to be steered in the right direction early.

OK, OK, A Word About Costs

It is probable that as a “green” evaluation is being implemented, you are thinking about money. Good projects are not free and you may have had to put yourself on the limb to get the upfront cost for this project, not knowing what the exact results will be. Yes, it costs money to study your building before the design, procurement, and installation of smart strategies which, at that point, you have a better idea of the financial benefits. Remember, there is growing evidence that all green projects done right will pay back initial costs in a reasonable timeframe. I have seen numerous such projects pay back initial investment in terms of utility cost savings alone (not including the secondary benefits) by 15, 20, 30, and even more percent per year. Yes, the equivalent of putting that money in the bank and making this much interest. No bank nor Wall Street investment pays like a good energy project, without risk (a 20-watt bulb replacing a 60-watt one will save you two-thirds the energy; nothing magic; it’s the numbers!). So be confident working with your engineer to implement smart upgrades.

Also, a growing number of utilities and governments offer financial incentives or tax breaks to install and operate energy efficiency technology. IRS Section 179D (tax deductions for energy upgrades) has expired, but a new version was recently co-sponsored by 30 US Senators from both parties. 179D should return and be retroactive. Also, lenders see that there is a reduced risk on lending for an energy or green project because the financial benefits will be there and the borrower should be able to pay the loan back. This results in more competition to loan money, and lower interest rates.

CCES has the experience and expertise to help your building become more energy efficient and “green” and will work with you to meet your goals, however humble or extravagant. Work with us to get the maximum financial benefits from going green. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.