When I tell people I work with high efficiency or “green” buildings many people ask me, “So what is it that you do exactly? What is commissioning? How can building owners save money through energy savings?” The short answer is:
As a consultant I work as a technical representative for the owner of a building or for a contracting party to identify problems (or potential sources of problems) within buildings (or industrial projects) and then (with permission) I fix these problems if I am able. If I can’t fix problems myself, I make recommendations to applicable parties as to how to fix them; then I follow up to make sure that problems are resolved. While doing this I also teach and train the building staff how to understand and operate their facility in an efficient manner to ensure energy savings. This is because more often then not, new systems are complicated and even intimidating for building managers/owners.
This might sound a little weird, because when a facility is built you would expect everything to operate correctly because it’s all new. Well that’s true, but more often than not, this is not always the case. Unfortunately there will always be “bugs” within a system that take time to surface, be identified and get resolved. The problem is that sometimes problems or “bugs” go undetected for long periods (sometimes several years) or are never addressed due to communication issues between parties, time, or money.
Issues can also be created by untrained or inexperienced staff who are trying to “fix” things. Additionally it’s impossible to address issues that you aren’t aware of, especially if you aren’t trained to find these issues… though the most obvious ones have a way of showing themselves eventually.
How does this affect the building and your staff over time?
Since problems tend to compound over time, anything not caught initially may become a significant issue as time goes on. Then again, issues may be so small that they simply waste money through inefficiency in the background. Issues can range from staff discomfort in select work areas (which can lead to lost productivity, absenteeism, and even turnover), to health issues to the degradation of the building (mold etc.)…
As time goes on, eventually equipment becomes outdated or wears out. This creates an opportunity to find undetected issues while solving known issues. An effective means to accomplish this is through performing an energy audit of your facility.
What type of issues are you referring to?
Issues within a building most noticeably involve poor temperature control, stuffiness, lingering odors, humidity issues, static pressure problems (ie. doors slamming or being difficult to open or close), condensation, excessive noise, excessive dust, poor comfort, excessive utility bills and systems just generally not performing correctly.
These issues may simply be an annoyance at first, but if left unresolved they can create the need for very expensive or laborious repairs, require equipment replacement and even negatively affect human health. Since most buildings are created to foster productivity or create a pleasant atmosphere for patrons; any of these issues can have serious implications on the bottom line of your business.
How can an Energy Audit save me money and improve my business?
My experience as a controls technician has demonstrated to me that most of these issues are inherently the result of equipment not doing what it is supposed to, when it’s supposed to. There are many potential reasons for this including, errors in programming, equipment malfunctioning or requiring maintenance, incorrect installation of equipment, design issues or simple human oversight. As equipment ages, there are also opportunities to replace it with newer, more efficient technologies.
The challenge is understanding these systems and their components so that the root of the problem can be identified and a suitable solution can be found. Most buildings these days are controlled by computer based systems. Since computers are a challenge for many, the building operator who is familiar with mechanical systems may stumble with the computer that controls the mechanical equipment; conversely someone may be comfortable with computers, but not understand how the equipment is intended to work. The science behind the controlled system may also be a stumbling block that prevents humans from implementing the correct and efficient operation. This is where the blending of my knowledge and expertise can help.
As a Certified Energy Auditor (CEA) I have been trained to spot opportunities for improvements in facilities and even provide calculations that demonstrate payback times for the repair or replacement of equipment. This can be a laborious process, but it is an excellent investment particularly in facilities that are over 20 years old. Thankfully there are programs available to allow you to finance services or new equipment.
Conducting an Energy Audit is a good idea in a building that:
- Is over 20 years old
- Is regularly too hot or too cold
- Is stuffy or makes occupants feel tired constantly
- Has lingering odors
- Has problems with doors and windows being drafty or not opening
- Is too humid or too dry
- Is costing more than expected to operate
- Is poorly lit
- Has systems that just don’t seem to work
- Has new or untrained staff that must learn how to operate the building correctly
If you are experiencing any of these, I would like to help you solve these issues so that you can get the most out of your new or existing building.
Shane Wolffe P.Eng, LEED AP BD+C, CEA, Level 1 Thermographer
If any of the above problems apply to your situation please Contact me.
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