Buildings in America need to become more green. The evidence is clear. An energy management technician made these actual comments in an energy audit report:
“The fire/smoke damper was closed.”
“Dampers in the outside air duct were installed incorrectly. The automated damper motors were installed in such a way that they would never open.”
“When we started adjusting the VAV boxes, we found a lot of flex with no screws to hold it on. Consequently it had blown off. No air was going to the VAV boxes.”
“VAV6-231 cold box damper control motor is bad and will not move.”
“The coils are still dirty. There is a 1.9-inch static pressure drop across the coils.”
“The motor for the exhaust fan is burned. You can see where it has arced inside the motor housing. It will not run. The motor needs to be replaced.”
These are not unusual examples. In every building you will find dozens of such conditions. Since 40 percent of the energy used in the United States is used to operate buildings, it is obvious that a big step in making America green is to make our buildings green.
Energy management in buildings presents skyrocketing opportunities for reducing our national use of energy. It also presents career opportunities for contractors and energy management technicians. Because of our energy crisis, building energy management must increase in the years to come. Those who are prepared for the challenge will reap the benefit.
Energy management follows the green principle of conserving energy while maintaining the comfort and safety of the building. Energy management is a benefit to everyone involved - contractors, technicians, building owners, tenants, and the nation as a whole.
DWINDLING RESOURCESWe all know the energy crunch is here. We have been using our limited natural resources as if they are infinite, and we are now facing the results of our extravagance. Here are a few startling facts that say there is going to be an expanding demand for energy management contractors and technicians in the immediate future:
• 85 percent of the energy produced worldwide is from fossil fuels (oil 38 percent, natural gas 24 percent , coal 23 percent). Fossil fuels can’t be replaced or recovered.
• The United States has about 5 percent of the world population, but we consume 26 percent of all the energy that is produced.
• Most experts feel that we reached peak production of oil and gas in 2005 and that the supply of oil will run out somewhere between 2035 and 2050.
Energy costs will continue to increase as the supply dries up. This means rising costs to building owners:
• Production costs for energy will continue to soar as the dwindling supplies become harder and harder to reach.
• Coal is still available in large quantities. But environmental requirements for burning coal and the costs of production and of transportation of coal and ash mean that these costs too will continue to rise.
• Alternative energy sources (hydroelectric, nuclear, solar, wind, etc.) are developing too slowly to fill the gap.
No matter what we do, less oil and natural gas will be available in the future, and the costs of production of all forms of energy will increase. These costs will be passed on to the consumer, so building owners and managers will become more and more concerned over their rising energy costs. It follows that they will be more and more open to proposals that will reduce these costs.
The new concept for building construction and operation is sustainability. It is defined as “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Energy management is the first step towards sustainability.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE CONTRACTORBuilding energy management is a huge market opportunity, even if you focus only on commercial buildings:
• Most existing buildings are prospects: According to a 2003 government survey, the U.S. had 1,326,000 commercial buildings having over 10,000 square feet of floor area. You can assume that there are many more by now.
• The national energy bill is staggering: Buildings consume 40 percent of all the energy used in the United States - more than transportation.
• The cost of fossil fuels will continue to rise.
These numbers mean that building energy management is a critical need - and a potentially huge market for the HVAC contractor.
Energy management also provides an opportunity to work outside the plan-and-specification low-bid trap. Energy management requires careful and thorough work that is not possible for the contractor working under the cost constraints of being the low bidder. It can free the contractor from the bidding game in favor of negotiated work with a continuing, favorable client relationship.
When energy retrofit work is properly performed, the contractor can show the owner substantial savings in energy costs, plus increased comfort conditions. A successful project leads to continuing negotiated work opportunities with a satisfied client.
Energy management also provides the satisfaction of performing thorough and professional work that contributes to our national welfare.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE TECHNICIANFor the technician, energy management is a green career opportunity that offers:
• Job security.
• Steady employment.
• Increased pay.
Energy management also offers an exciting career. It always offers interesting new problems to solve. There is satisfaction in seeing concrete results in reduced energy costs with improved comfort conditions.
Perhaps even more important is the knowledge that you are directly contributing to conserving our natural resources.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE BUILDING OWNERWith rising energy costs, building owners realize the need for reducing their energy use. Owners with tenants pass the increased costs on, but more and more tenants are not renewing leases and are moving to less costly quarters. Owners are seeing that reducing energy costs is a large factor in allowing more competitive leasing rates.
Additional benefits for the building owner are longer equipment life, improved employee production, far fewer occupant complaints, and satisfied tenants who stay. There are likely to be fewer equipment breakdowns and resulting costly downtime.
Sidebar: From an Energy Management ReportExhaust stacks on the roof of the laboratory building were performing at 82 percent of design. We removed the bird screen from the top of the stacks. We removed the 1½- x 1½-inch angle iron frame that held the bird screen. Results:
Before Retrofit:50,824 cfm
Screen Removed:56,193 cfm
Angle Iron Removed:62,618 cfm (101 percent of design)
Excerpted and reprinted fromThe Green Energy Management Bookby Leo A. Meyer, one of the books in the Indoor Environment Technician’s Library series published by LAMA Books.