Funding Energy Efficiency Projects
February 8, 2010
There are several ways to fund energy efficiency projects, but none of them seem to be particularly any good in today’s economic climate. Even though reducing energy use in buildings is usually achievable, most property managers cannot utilize those savings on their corporate balance sheets. Also, most commercial mortgages will not allow building owners to take on additional debt. As more and more building owners are interested in spending money to save money in their buildings, how can it be financed?
There are several newer options for financing energy efficiency.projects. One is the green lease, which offers incentives to invest in energy efficiency. One problem with the green lease is that it works primarily for new leases: most landlords do not want to disrupt an existing lease. So this option will take some time to get into the marketplace.
Another option is the use of Property Assessed Clean Energy Bonds, or PACE bonds. These are municipal bonds associated with a property tax lien to provide the financing of an energy efficient project. If the building is sold prior to the financial payback period of the project being finished, the cost is transferred to the new property owner via the property tax. This is very new and many municipalities do not allow it, and many landlords still do not favor it. To date, it has been used primarily for renewable energy projects.
A third option is the Managed Energy Services Agreement (MESA). This solves the ..... read more
LEED Existing Building Services
January 14, 2010
A review of an existing building to see if it meets the Department of Energy’s Energy Star program will usually take between one and two days of time, and thus cost appropriately for most firms to provide that service, including ours. To engage in an analysis of an existing building to see if it can achieve LEED EB (Existing Buildings), can take up to one year, consume hundreds of hours of time, and produce up to 2,000 pages of documentation. At this point, you are asking, “What is LEED EB and why should I pursue it?”
LEED EB is simply the rating system created by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) that measures the operations and maintenance, on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. The main reason most companies pursue such an ambitious goal is market differentiation of their building. With the highly competitive market for tenants that the last year’s economic realities have produced, many building owners are trying to position their buildings so that they will not be rendered non-competitive as the transformation of the green building movement continues to grow. In other words, with all other things being equal, most tenants would much prefer to rent office space in a LEED building versus a non-LEED building.
Such an endeavor obviously costs money that building owners could be using on other improvements in the building, so the next question is “Is LEED EB worth the ..... read more
Small Wind Energy
December 3, 2009
In the world of wind energy there are multiple categories of wind energy production. One category that is beginning to grow very rapidly is small wind. Small wind generally refers to wind turbines that produce 100KW of energy or less. These types of wind turbines can be used by individuals or small businesses looking to harness alternative energy resources. Small wind turbines offer clean, renewable, and sustainable energy allowing for conservation of natural resources and independence from traditional means of energy production. During these times when energy costs are rising as well as the concern for the environmental impact our energy consumption has, alternative energy production by employing means such as small wind turbines, are becoming viable solutions to these problems and the way of the future.
Currently the United States leads the world in wind energy production and wind turbine manufacturing. The market for small wind energy has been growing at a rate of 40% per year and is expected to continue to increase. It is projected that by 2020 small wind turbines will produce 3% of the United States electrical energy. Although wind turbines still carry a sizable upfront cost this may be something that is about to change. With the demand rising production of wind turbines will increase causing the price of production to go down and along with government incentives will make it much more affordable and create a larger market for wind energy. Comparatively a small ..... read more
Sustainable Facilities – The Standard of the Future
November 23, 2009
Sustainable design is a responsible business practice. That’s why it is important for energy efficiency and sustainability to become the accepted standard in commercial construction. Not only will sustainable design help protect our environment and preserve our limited natural resources, it will also save businesses money in the long run. And, the more people know about sustainable design, the more likely they are to embrace the concept for their facility.
The ultimate goal of sustainable design is to create net zero-energy buildings that produce as much energy as is consumed. The benefits include reduced energy usage, improved indoor air quality, greater water conservation, and optimized operational and maintenance practices.
Much like the term “fast track” that was popular several years ago, the terms “sustainable” and “energy efficiency” should be part of every building design. You don’t hear the term “fast track” anymore. It was a new concept of speeding up design and construction to deliver a facility faster, but now it is standard operating procedure. Everyone wants their project fast-tracked. I want the same thing to happen for sustainable design.
While both economically and environmentally beneficial, implementing sustainable design techniques can be challenging, so they require the coordination of everyone involved.
My company, Optima Engineering, recently worked on large department ..... read more
Sustainable Efforts within Optima Engineering
March 9, 2009
Moving into Optima Engineering's Platinum LEED workplace has energized us to improve our sustainable efforts within. Knowing that offices contribute a significant portion of our nation's waste, we want to unite with others by putting forth our best effort towards the restoration of our ecosystem.
We are constantly evaluating our everyday office procedures and implementing new green practices to lighten our ecological footprint as a company. Working together, we can make a difference in waste reduction. pollution caused by trucking. Our office supply company uses recyclable packing materials.
To achieve our goals, we are getting back to the basics: REDUCE what we buy, REUSE what we have, RECYCLE applicable materials and RESTORE our sense of values.
Administratively, Optima is making great strides with its green efforts. Our waste reduction efforts include using responsible decisions when disposal is our only option. Our goal is to need more recycling bins than trashcans.
Optima's Recycling Efforts
Presently, we donate or recycle all e-waste. Electronics like telephones, radios, TVs, computers and cell phones make up the bulk of electronics that have the potential to cause the most environmental damage, due to their hazardous ingredients. Optima's all unused items are sold, donated or exchanged. Leasing equipment makes sense when exchanging. We now order solar-powered electronics such as calculators, and do so only if a replacement ..... read more
LEED 2009 and Energy Modeling Changes
February 24, 2009
One of the big changes in LEED 2009 is the scoring system, specifically in how it relates to energy modeling. Energy and Atmosphere Prerequisite 2 (minimum energy performance) and Credit 1 (optimize energy performance) have changed significantly. First, the threshold for the prerequisite has changed from 14% to 10%. Then the points awarded in the credit have changed from a 1-10 point scale, to a 1-19 point odd numbered scale, awarding basically double the points for same percentage improvement over the baseline building. But the biggest change is in the fine print, as the baseline itself has changed. Where the current LEED baseline is Appendix G of ASHRAE 90.1-2007, the new LEED 2009 is based on the 2007 update of ASHRAE 90.1. So the question becomes what are the major differences in Appendix G for 2007? In studying the documents side by side, first let’s note what has not changed:
Lighting power densities are IDENTICAL in both the space by space, and the building area method. This is very surprising, given the abundance of T5 lighting in the market. Lighting remains arguably the best way to pick up efficiency against the baseline, when HVAC system types are similar to baseline systems.
While there are some minor changes, efficiencies of HVAC equipment are very similar between the documents. This is however not a surprise, as no major upgrades in unit efficiencies have happened in the ..... read more
Project Control with Earned Value Management
November 3, 2008
What is Earned Value Management?
Earned Value Management (EVM) is a systematic project management process used to indicate variances in projects in an objective manner, based on the evaluation of the work performed compared to the work planned. When properly applied to a project, EVM provides and early warning indication of project performance issues.
EVM uses principles of Earned Value (EV), which is a project management tool used to measure project performance. EV is essentially an approach for project managers to monitor the project plan, actual work, and work completed to verify if the project is performing as expected.
In simple terms EV compares the actual project performance to the planned performance with respect to budget and schedule at any point in time during the project.
Why Use Earned Value?
Earned Value can be a valuable project management tool, but the utility of it must be understood for it to be used correctly. EV indentifies the variances in a project and informs a project manager on what is occurring in a project, but does not identify the "source" or "cause" for the variance, nor does it address the required action necessary for the "correction" of the variance.
Earned Value provides an objective assessment of project performance and once introduced can provided a common understanding and perspective among project mangers regarding the metrics of project performance.
The other major benefit to using EV is ..... read more
Steps to Design and Install a PV System
September 23, 2008
Is installing a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System an easy thing? Is it something I can do at my home on my own? How hard could it be? I, too, want to “run my meter backward”.
Well, I can now tell you from experience. We have recently installed an 8.6KW PV system on the roof of our new building.I wanted to quickly go thru the steps, from concept to electrons flowing, in the state of North Carolina.Here it is in a nutshell.
Find a suitable location for your PV panels and equipment. You need un-obstructed space, facing south. This is not as easy as it sounds, for roofs are usually much more crowded than you realize, and parapets and equipment, vents, etc. all cast shadows.
Find a reputable dealer to help you with the concept and give you a budget. Check for tax credits and local code issues.
Have a professional engineer design your system and specify the equipment.Include a good monitoring system.
Select a good installer and get a price. This is time sensitive, since PV prices vary every month. Get the vendor to double check the engineering plans – it is new technology and is easy to make a mistake.
Get a building permit.
Submit the paperwork for the system.As of August, 2008, this includes the following:
Fill out a Duke Energy “Application for Interconnection” and pay their fee (there are several form options, depending on the size of your PV system: under 10KW is the simplest).
Provide an electrical one-line diagram.
Submit the proper form to ..... read more
Go Green with Optima!
July 24, 2008
Optima Engineering is now exploring new and innovative ways to make our office environmentally friendly. Optima strives to achieve sustainable design with our projects and we see the importance of continuing past the design aspect and executing environmental efforts to reduce office waste and energy.Optima Engineering aims to reduce its carbon footprint and provide a positive example of a company that has successfully “gone green”. We would like to share several different green ideas that we plan to implement at our office during the course of the next year.Please feel free to follow the links provided for excellent ways to practice green behavior.
Research and gather information from case studies of companies that have successfully gone green.
Insist that employees turn off all electronic devices at the end of the day.To prevent phantom energy connect all of a cubicle’s devices to one power strip and turn the strip off at the end of each day. Additional Information on Phantom Energy and Prevention .
Compact florescent light bulbs save up to 75% of energy used in the office. See assortments and pricing from Optima’s primary office provider, Staples. CFL Options-Staples .
Controlled temperature at the office, keeping the thermostat at no higher than 68 degrees in the winter and no lower than 76 degrees in the summer. Distributing fans within the office helps make these temperatures comfortable for staff; fans also consume considerably less energy than ..... read more
Project Management Systems
July 17, 2008
Projects have been managed for, as long as there have been projects.Only till recently has project management been recognized as a science, which could be defined.Project management is a growing profession, which is quickly becoming understood and respected as a necessity in the ever-changing landscape.Much of what is accomplished in today’s world, both public and private, is project driven.Project management can be executed in a variety of industries, occupations and situations.
Understanding that project management is here to stay, there is a need for a set of requirements as they relate to a project management system.A project management system is a:
“A complex set of interconnected elements, technical and human, that organizes and interacts, both formally and informally, in order to transform resources into outputs and outcomes such that a common goal or objective is achieved. (Kerzner 2001) (Keating 2001) (SEF 2001).”
Requirements for a project management system in this instance are identified as the essential topics that should be established in a system in order to accomplish the system goal(s).In addition to the project management system requirements there is a need to understand the guiding principles of a project management system.
Projects by their nature are complex systems and can be extremely dynamic.Therefore any project management system should not be considered static, but it should be understood that the system is constantly growing and ..... read more