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Sustainability
February 2014 Facility Focus

Achieving Energy Savings And Healthier Workplaces

Audits and procedures to increase efficiency and decrease a facility's energy bills.

February 02, 2014
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The world is changing in terms of expectations on building operators.

In the past, it was enough for these professionals to keep buildings clean and stay on top of regular maintenance tasks.

Today, they are expected to follow “sustainable” or “green” practices — even when those terms are not well defined — while always looking for ways to reduce costs.

And, as Judy Gillies pointed out in the November 2013 issue of Cleaning & Maintenance Management, one must stay abreast of the changing expectations in order to stay competitive.

Luckily, a new publication offers soup-to-nuts guidance: The “Regional Operations & Maintenance Guide for High Performance Schools and Public Buildings in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic,” published by Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP).

The guide contains operations and management (O&M) procedures that will lead to overall improvements in the working and learning environment, including reduced operating costs, healthier indoor air, improved comfort, reduced water consumption and improved environmental stewardship.

O&M procedures targeted at energy efficiency can save 5 to 20 percent on a building’s energy bills.

These savings can total up to hundreds of thousands dollars annually, and many can be achieved at no to little cost.

The guide also offers short case studies — “See it in Action” — for each recommendation and links for more details.

Here is a sampling of topics covered in the guide.

Energy Efficiency

Start by benchmarking your building’s energy usage.

By tracking the usage of current and historical consumption through utility bills, you will have a greater understand of how much energy your building is using.

A tool as simple as a spreadsheet or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager can assist building staff in assessing the effectiveness of current operations, setting investment priorities and identifying billing errors.

Once you know what your energy usage is, a good second step toward increased energy efficiency is a building audit.

The most valuable form of these is a third-party comprehensive audit, but they come with an expense.

Simple audits can also be performed by facilities operation staff.

Audits typically cover everything from building occupancy schedules to utility billing data to surveys of plug loads such as computers, copiers, vending machines and more. 

Maintaining And Retrofitting Lighting Systems

Quality lighting is crucial for work and educational environments.

Good lighting design and the use of appropriate lighting technologies are important, but proper maintenance is equally important to preserve performance.

Proper maintenance will keep lighting systems operating efficiently, keeping lighting levels up and energy costs under control.

A good lighting maintenance schedule includes:

  • Periodic cleaning of lamps, lenses and fixture surfaces (annually or more often)
  • Visual inspection for faded or flickering lamps
  • Measurement of light levels with a simple foot-candle meter to address low-light level complaints
  • Inspection of manual and automatic controls for proper function and to make sure controls have not been disabled
  • Cataloging and stocking of proper replacement lamps and ballasts
  • Replacement of all incandescent lamps with the appropriate compact fluorescent lamp or a complete linear fluorescent fixture
  • Lamp recycling policy and a proper storage place for lamps waiting to be recycled.

Transportation

Municipal fleets, including cars, trucks and buses, can be expensive to operate.

However, the investment in regularly scheduled maintenance can reduce costs over the life of the vehicle, while reducing harmful emissions and ensuring the health and safety of passengers.

Regular maintenance also prolongs the life of the vehicle, reducing the frequency at which new vehicles will need to be purchased.

School buses in particular should be targeted for routine maintenance due to the frequency of their use, but the same principles can be applied to other vehicle types as well.

When possible, municipalities should establish a fuel-efficient vehicle purchasing policy.

Though typically a greater up-front cost, high-efficiency vehicles cost less to operate and can result in an overall reduced life-cycle cost to the owner compared to standard efficiency vehicles.

Outdoor Water Systems

Significant amounts of potable water are currently used to irrigate landscaping and playing fields.

Expanding development increases the demand for potable water.

As more water is withdrawn, aquifers and rivers can be stressed to the point of creating water shortages and ecological changes to rivers and streams.

Summer dry spells cause the most stress to underground and surface waters, as water is withdrawn for irrigation and other outdoor activities but not replaced by rainfall.

The use of potable water for irrigation can be minimized or eliminated by specifying drought tolerant plants and grasses, collecting and using rainwater for irrigation, and/or using highly water-efficient irrigation systems.

When specifying water conservative plants, determine soil composition and ensure that existing soils will support the specified plants.

Consider all operating and maintenance costs of any irrigation equipment specified.

If irrigation is necessary, make arrangements to irrigate during morning hours to maximize irrigation benefits and minimize evaporation.

Green Cleaners

Approximately five billion pounds of chemicals are used in the United States each year to clean and maintain institutional and commercial buildings.

The majority of these products are derived from non-renewable natural resources, and for the vast majority of the 70,000-plus ingredients used to make these products, little testing has been conducted to evaluate long-term effects on children or the environment.

Next, do research to find out what alternative products are available.

Figure out how to perform the same work with fewer chemicals.

Initially restrict the use of highest risk chemicals using a sign-out system to control inventories, and be sure to train custodians on how to minimize chemical use.

Eliminate highest risk chemicals by shifting from the old products after finding, testing and introducing preferable substitutes.

NEEP has worked with public sector facility managers all across New England to implement the recommendations in this O&M guide and to help them achieve greater energy savings and a healthier workplace environment.

“The NEEP Operations & Maintenance Guide is an excellent resource,” noted Karen Verrengia, energy manager for Cranston, Rhode Island, Public Schools. “It has helped Cranston Public Schools understand and make improvements to our buildings. We knew we were doing a great job in terms of our energy savings, but the guide has helped us identify additional ways to save. The NEEP O&M Guide should be required reading for all maintenance personnel.”

 

For a free download of the guide, either in whole or divided by chapter, visit http://www.neep.org/public-policy/energy-efficient-buildings/high-performance-public-buildings/Regional-O&M-Guide. For more information or to answer any questions you may have, please visit www.NEEP.org or contact Carolyn Sarno at CSarno@NEEP.org or (781) 860-9177 ext, 119.

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