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Three routes to resilient communities

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Written by: Alexa Stone

In 2020, 16 of the weather and climate disasters in the U.S. each brought losses exceeding $1 billion. Eleven severe storms devastated lives and properties in more than 30 states. Further billion-dollar losses were the result of fires, drought, and cyclones.[1]

Warnings of these climate change impacts have been published – and at times disputed, and at times ignored – for over 50 years.[2] Opinions and intentions have no effect on the extent of suffering and damage.

Pandemic suffering and political discord have burdened cities worldwide. As climate change brings even greater impact, community leaders must now explore paths – some proven; some new – to better prepare for disasters and to recover from them more quickly.[3]

When administrators set sights beyond the pandemic, they lead their communities closer to resiliency along paths like these:

Benchmarking

Benchmark

Quantifying and analyzing energy use is the starting point for managing that expense. That benchmarking process requires that accurate information be input. Some will be readily available. Depending on the type of property, some information may be more of a chore to find. Energy-related costs may have to be extracted from the pages of maintenance contracts and capital project budgets. Fortunately, the one-time chore of finding relevant data will yield recurring cost savings.

Benchmarking data for any building should include the amount of each type of energy used in each of twelve consecutive months. Preferably, that information should be specific to metered areas of the building; for example, an office area, a warehouse, a lobby, or a retail space. The gross floor areas should also be documented.

Other essential data varies by property. For hotels, the numbers of guest rooms, food service areas, kitchens, and laundries should be tallied. Hospital benchmarking should include counts of staffed beds, workers, and MRI machines. A convenient data collection worksheet[2] brings up a lists of required data that are specific to over 70 property types.

That worksheet is a component of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the ENERGY STAR program[3] to promote energy efficiency, helping individuals and businesses save money while protecting the environment. The Portfolio Manager is provided free and online to measure and track energy and other utilities.[4] A full 40% of U.S. commercial building space has been benchmarked in it.[5]

After finding a building’s energy use and cost information, Portfolio Manager dashboards and tools like the “add property” and “add meters” wizards make the configuring that data efficient and accurate.[6]

Collaboration

Target and Track

Once a benchmark is established, it’s time to specify energy use targets and to track performance against those goals. Goals can be based on the energy use of similar existing buildings. That information can be viewed and compared from within the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

Monthly updates and tracking of utility expense for one building can be done in minutes. Organizations managing multiple buildings or many utility meters may choose to partner with a service and product provider to automate the input of utility bills into your dashboard. The time-savings can make the investment worthwhile. Is the organization hitting its goals? If so, utility expense savings should far exceed the investment in an automated solution.

Smart Cities design

Analysis of energy cost and consumption is likely to reveal needs for equipment upgrades and other budget allocations. Worse yet, some of those may not be budgeted. That makes a strategic selection of upgrades the next step in claiming energy savings.

A simplified way to focus on higher-value upgrades begins with quantifying the likely positive impact of that upgrade. How much will energy costs be reduced over the projected useful life? The estimated savings can then be divided by the estimated cost.

Strategically upgrade

Upgrades with substantially faster payback will be attractive options, provided available funds. Sometimes, small ‘quick wins’ can lead to greater investments with greater returns. Regardless of scale, competitive proposals involving varied contractors and fixtures may reveal new and better products and technologies as well as a better price.

Sometimes, better financing is available as well. An Energy Service Company (ESCO) may propose an Energy Performance Contract.[7] In that case, the ESCO would shoulder much of the up-front capital cost. The upgrade would then be paid through future energy savings, leaving capital budgets intact.[8]

More than 30 states, including Florida, offer their own sources of up-front capital. Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) funds in those states are repaid over time through off balance sheet tax assessments. That funding strategy can be long-term and transferrable to future owners of the property.[9]

A strategic upgrade based on quantified value, competitive bids, and the best-available funding will provide the greatest predictable long-term results.

ecoPreserve is here to help organizations that are seeking the next level of energy management success. Reach out with your benchmarking, assessment, or ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

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