- CHARITY BENEFIT
by Thomas McGovern, Navindra Sukhdeo, Lauren Lozada and Jon Hu (Geatain Engineering, PLLC, www.geatain.com)
With Local Law 87 requiring energy audits next year for buildings over 50,000 square feet and property tax numbers ending in 3, you may have already started to research compliance measures. Energy audits identify energy conservation measures (ECMs) which include operational modifications, capital improvements and other measures to lower energy costs. While not covered by Local Law 87, buildings under 50,000 sf will save costs with a comprehensive energy audit. A properly researched and presented audit offers substantial benefits over ordinary audits. How do you know which firm is best for your building? What should be included in an effective audit? This article explains five things to look for, and in the next issue, five things to look out for in an energy audit.
At a minimum, the firm should have completed at least fifteen to twenty ASHRAE Level II audits, which are the standards specified by New York City. It is important to note that effective audits go beyond simply outlining cost saving methods, they present a deep understanding of the interrelation of energy saving strategies. To help your search, here are five things you should look for in an energy audit:
1. The audit compares the building to similar buildings using Energy Star Portfolio Manager. This program contains data for buildings of various types, sizes, descriptions and climate conditions. While many believe it ranks buildings against similar buildings, this is an oversimplification. In reality, statistically representative models are used to compare your energy use to a national survey. Portfolio Manager allows you to estimate your carbon footprint, set investment priorities and track improvement programs.
2. Analysis takes into consideration future building changes and projected future costs. The audit should include a thorough analysis of utility bills, current usage and breakdowns of specific building components to provide accurate projections of future energy use and cost savings. Many factors should be considered in the analysis, including inflation, market conditions, building value projections, changes to occupancy patterns and other relevant economic projections.
3. Evaluates entire building footprint with specific focus on operational improvements with less than one year return on investment. Most energy audits concentrate on lighting and HVAC improvements or “low hanging fruit.” Local Law 87 requires an evaluation of the following building components: HVAC, lighting, building envelope, electrical systems, hot water system and elevators. However, many worthwhile ECMs are available for a variety of other building components, including many which offer a return in less than one (1) year.
4. Considers owner’s unique attributes. ECMs should consider the unique attributes of the client. Available capital, actual building use, seasonal visitors and variable occupancy levels should be discussed to tailor the most effective ECMs. Many buildings have unique operating conditions based on system peculiarities which should be clearly understood before undertaking construction projects.
5. Presents a complete economic analysis. Most audits include only a very basic snapshot of economic analysis, including capital costs, incentives and return on investment. A more complete economic analysis includes considerations such as life-cycle costs, internal rate of return, building valuation, energy value index and related parameters.