Climbing the Tree of Energy Efficiency – What comes after ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ in Existing Buildings?

When an organization first considers energy efficiency, the focus is almost always on ‘low-hanging fruit’ – actions or initiatives that are simple, turnkey, and require very little investment. These incremental efforts drive major impacts in terms of reducing carbon footprint and cost savings, leaving organizations eager to take the logical next steps.

Once the ‘low-hanging fruit’ are picked, however, one must start climbing the tree to find the juiciest fruit – adding risk, complexity, and additional effort to the process. At CodeGreen Solutions, teaching our clients to climb the tree is both rewarding and impactful. While there is a lot of nuance that can’t be captured in a single blog post, my 10 years in the industry has shown that every organization can follow two simple rules to help drive energy efficiency safely and effectively.

Rule #1: Differentiate Product audits from energy audits

Classic energy audits provide a vendor neutral, holistic look at energy saving opportunities across all systems in your facility, allowing you to prioritize and plan. These studies do require some upfront investment, and the accuracy of implementation cost estimates for less turnkey opportunities vary greatly based on a host of factors.

Products audits are energy analyses delivered by product vendors, such as lighting or HVAC equipment suppliers, and are often delivered for free to incentivize the purchase of their product. With product audits, beware the savings estimate (often overstated), but trust the implementation cost.

Organizations that understand the difference between energy audits and product audits can leverage both to get the best picture of opportunities within their portfolio.

Rule #2: Implement a pilot project

As projects get more complex and larger in scale, pilot projects can be the best way to prove out effectiveness. CodeGreen recently worked with a client that had a similar HVAC layout across several facilities – central cooling with perimeter electric resistance heating. Electric resistance heating is an inefficient method of heating but very difficult to retrofit in an occupied building.

We recently piloted a major retrofit project that would utilize advanced control and energy recovery ventilation to minimize electric heating costs. Besides the $500,000 in state incentives that were obtained for the project, utility data tracking as well as measurement and verification (M&V) performed by CodeGreen showed a reduction of over 50% of heating costs and overall carbon footprint of the building by over 33%, giving the client confidence to roll this upgrade out to other facilities. While it lengthened the payback slightly to perform M&V on the project, it was invaluable to the client in the form of confidence to roll out the strategy to other buildings within their portfolio.

The better informed and more sophisticated organizations are about the decisions that they make regarding energy efficiency, the greater the chances of a successful outcome. The result is not only a reduction in energy consumption, cost, and CO2 emissions, but a substantiated way to prove a concept in one asset and reap the rewards in many.


This article is written by Joshua Kace, Director of Energy Practice at CodeGreen Solutions.

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