Peter Powell

HVACR contractors who deal with commercial buildings are involved in one of the most incentive laden sectors. The sector may be in somewhat of a doldrum now due to the economy, but once it bounces back it will be interesting to see how owners and decision makers factor in those incentives as they pertain to mechanical heating and cooling equipment.

In the end, it all gets down to energy efficiencies. The more energy efficient a building is, the more green it is for those owners motivated to be politically correct amidst all the environmental talk these days. But even if they cared not one whit for the green issue, energy efficiency means lower operating costs. And no owner/decision maker turns a back on that aspect.

Those involved in mechanicals need to be aware of all that is involved in incentives be they political or cost oriented or both.

The NEWS has articles on those all the time. Some are extremely familiar, like utility rebates or federal, state, and local government incentives. If there is money out there that can get into the equation in terms of a new building construction project or a retrofit or a renovation, it would seem obvious to go for them. Many of those, especially on the government side, do seem to come with a lot of red tape. I know that because even at environmental fairs I go to where such “free” money is relentlessly promoted, the promoters do bemoan the challenges to get those dollars. But still the money is there.

REQUIRED INCENTIVES

An added aspect is what might be called required incentives.

One of the newer kids on the block is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification system of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

In many commercial projects, decision makers seek out some type of LEED certification recognition. Gaining that requires an accumulation of points for all the environmentally correct things they do. LEED started out as a right thing to do incentive, but as the concept has caught on, many municipalities began to factor LEED requirements for points into building codes. So the components of LEED are starting to turn into mandatory standards, which should help HVACR contractors place some of their most efficient equipment into those buildings.

THERE'S MORE

But it doesn’t stop there. Also in the mix is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with such programs as Energy Star and GreenChill. The first gives kudos to a wide range of products including mechanical equipment that generally use 20-30 percent less energy than required by federal standards. GreenChill is specifically targeted for the supermarket industry that recognizes stores that do an especially good job at reducing energy. Manufacturers want to produce Energy Star-rated equipment which form the backbone for a lot of mandates in installation and retrofits; and increasing numbers of supermarkets want to get GreenChill recognition. Again, all this would seem a plus for contractors able to install and service the newest in mechanicals.

On of the most recent additions to the Energy Star mix is the National Building Competition. According to a press release from the EPA, “Teams from 245 buildings around the country are going head-to-head to improve energy efficiency and determine who can reduce their energy use the most.” The release said there are 26 different types of commercial buildings including retail stores, schools, hotels, and museums.

This is a retrofit focused endeavor, with finalists chosen in July and a winner announced in November, the winner being “the building with the largest percentage reduction in energy use.”

I guess in a world of “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” it had to come to this. In fact, the EPA building competition is called “Battle of the Buildings.”

It may be a marketing tool to get building owners excited about energy efficiency improvements. But certainly HVACR contractors can do their part in showing their commercial customers that there is even more value when it comes to energy efficiency. Even if a record contract or a mirror ball trophy is not the prize, a customer with a more cost effective building has to be a happy customer - and the customer is a winner.

Publication date: 07/04/2011