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BOMA: Top 10 Efficiency Tactics for Commercial Buildings

April 19, 2013 By Linda Hardesty

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International has issued a list of top-10 ways commercial real estate professionals can make energy efficiency and sustainability a priority, as follows:

  1. Measure and Manage. Benchmark energy and water consumption through Energy Star Portfolio Manager.
  2. Audit Yourself. Perform regular energy audits to identify opportunities for cost-effective energy reductions. Remember to perform midnight evaluations to make sure lighting and HVAC aren’t running when the building is unoccupied.
  3. Get the Word Out. Institute a tenant energy awareness program, using your company newsletter and/or building announcements to keep tenants informed about energy management goals and how they can help. Provide them with energy savings tips.
  4. Become Enlightened. Replace incandescent lights with CFLs, which use less energy, have a longer lamp life and produce less heat.
  5. Go Low Flow. Install low-flow/flush fixtures and hands-free fixtures in restrooms.
  6. Don’t Forget Electronics. Hold an e-waste day and collect old printers, computers and electronics for recycling.
  7. Use Sensors. Install occupancy sensors and photo sensors that monitor daylight. Occupancy sensors also work for HVAC controls.
  8. Be Shady. Install solar shades to block heat.
  9. Encourage Eco-Friendly Transportation. Install bicycle racks and electronic vehicle chargers.
  10. Improve IAQ. Use high-efficiency HVAC filters and change them often. Use low-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives for building improvements.

Although BOMA International recommends energy benchmarking, the BOMA Boston branch opposes Mayor Menino’s efforts to require mandatory benchmarking in Boston using Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager. A spokeswoman for BOMA International said, “BOMA International fully supports voluntary benchmarking and actively promotes it, as evidenced by our numerous Energy Star awards. The City of Boston, however, is proposing mandatory benchmarking and reporting.”

BOMA’s top-10 list mentions CFLs, but not LEDs, as replacements for incandescents. But a Department of Energy Caliper report says that in a test comparing 24 pairs of fluorescent and LED-based ceiling troffers, generally the LED lighting was more energy efficient than the fluorescent. However, some energy managers say the return on investment for LEDs still isn’t as good as for CFLs.



14 comments on “BOMA: Top 10 Efficiency Tactics for Commercial Buildings

  1. Steam (350 degrees) cleaning air handling coils is the number one sustainable practice you can do. Chemicals don’t work and no one cleans the coils anyway. They say they do, but they don’t. In fact Siemens and Johnson controls don’t even recommend cleaning the coils. I challenge anyone to prove to me they have clean coils or even know what a coil looks like.

  2. LED lighting has come a long way. Not quite ready for office lighting but they work great for areas that require lighting 24/7 such as stairways, parking garages, hallways or outdoor lighting such as parking lots and security lighting. The initial cost of the lightbulbs is higher but when you factor in energy savings along with longer life, much lower heat generated (saving air conditioning costs), the cost of future bulb replacement (LED bulbs will last four or five times longer, decreasing labor to replace them, especially in hard to reach places) and disposal costs (nothing in an LED bulb is an environmental hazard).

    The lumens of a compact CFL will start to decrease from day one. It happens so gradually you won’t even notice until the bulb is replaced. The lumen output of an LED bulb doesn’t diminish over time.

    The biggest savings may very well be only having to replace LED bulbs, say, every 4 years vs every year for a bulb that runs 24/7. What is the labor cost to replace the bulb? Bulb management should also be factored in. What other productive tasks can your maintenance crew be doing instead of changing lightbulbs? What does it cost to rent a lift or to hire a contractor to replace a light bulb in a hard to reach area such as an atrium or high up on a pole in your parking lot?

    Labor isn’t cheap and the cost of it isn’t going to go down. The same can be said for electricity. Any product that produces longer life, lower maintenance and energy savings is worth considering.

  3. Another good way to keep energy costs down is to make sure the building envelope is completely sealed. Any breach in the envelope system is throwing money into the wind. Ask for an energy audit!

  4. A good first step is always a rate audit, especially in regulated utility markets. We typically find 6-10% savings for our commercial office building customers – and they have no upfront cost. This is a great source of funding for the other projects.

  5. According to a recent benchmark study I read, Elevators consume approx. 10% of a building’s energy. But for some reason, I rarely ever hear about them when it comes to energy conservation.

    There is an elevator retrofit called the Energy Saver2 from Electrodyn Systems that can be installed quickly and inexpensively into the elevator to turn on lights and/or fans when the elevator is not in use. The return on investment can be realized in under 3 years. (they have an Assessment tool on their website you can plug in your light/fan wattage and it calculates the energy and cost savings)

    (BEWARE: There are about three products on the market that perform this function. The Energy Saver2 is the ONLY product that is actually code compliant. So be careful if you’re in the market for this type of retrofit, to avoid getting cited)

  6. (Correction)
    According to a recent benchmark study I read, Elevators consume approx. 10% of a building’s energy. But for some reason, I rarely ever hear about them when it comes to energy conservation.

    There is an elevator retrofit called the Energy Saver2 from Electrodyn Systems that can be installed quickly and inexpensively into the elevator to turn *off* lights and/or fans when the elevator is not in use. The return on investment can be realized in under 3 years. (they have an Assessment tool on their website you can plug in your light/fan wattage and it calculates the energy and cost savings)

    (BEWARE: There are about three products on the market that perform this function. The Energy Saver2 is the ONLY product that is actually code compliant. So be careful if you’re in the market for this type of retrofit, to avoid getting cited)

  7. LED lighting is becoming more efficient and economical very fast due to large amounts of venture capital raised poured into LED research and development companies from large venture capital firms: Lighting Science (raised $144 million last year), BridgeLux (VantagePoint and Chrysalix), Luxim (Sequoia and Rockport) Renaissance Lighting (Altira, Rockport and Sumitomo), and Luminus (CMEA, Draper and Battery Ventures). And incumbent giants GE and Sylvania.

  8. Since improving IAQ is mentioned, there is also the opportunity to reduce risk and uncertainty in ventilation and moisture management performance by accurately monitoring in space values for both carbon dioxide and dew point.

  9. Real-time energy monitoring allowed us to visualize the energy use in our buildings. It has been a true game-changer for my team and allowed us to take energy efficiency at our buildings to the next level! Remember, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

  10. Lets not forget a good preventative maintainence program that utilizes Infrared thermography to find : loose and worn electrical components in panels and Hvac equipment .motors pumps etc. .

  11. Only disagree with one of the 10 suggestions. There is a much better solution to keeping the heat out than solar shades. As an independent consultant, I have introduced Huper Optik window films to dozens of colleges and universities with consistently good results. These ceramic based films provide year round energy savings in any climate without altering the aesthetics. They have none of the negatives associated with the older metal and dye based films. They are eligible for rebates in many states and can help gain 6-8 valuable LEED points.

  12. Some of the tactics are very good, and by comparison, some seem almost frivolous. The gathering of data, preferably with an investment grade audit is essential. To achieve sustainability one cannot guess, or rely on old, outmoded information and techniques.

    It is important, however, to decide on an objective at the start. Is this a fiscal responsibility project motive for eliminating energy waste, or an environmental, a public relations project, or one of conscience, or a combination? If the goal is sustainability, and a combination of objectives needed there is no room for any frivolous work. And, it must be data driven. Two of the highest standards are net-zero (Pasiv Haus) and Living Building Challenge, perhaps the most sustainable of them all. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel here, because efficiency has been tried and accomplished very well before today.

    The criticisms of CFL’s are valid. It’s now old technology. Passive controls are very important, in most cases. Personal controls of temperature, ventilation, and task lighting are also essential. You are dealing with personal practices, one of the essential three legs of a sustainable building. The others are the envelop and the contents.

    Transportation components are critical: if there is no public transportation you are dealing with a serious handicap as liquid fuels become more expensive. Bike rack

    In improving IAQ, the primary objective of any sustainable building, don’t compromise with low VOC’s. The new benchmark is zero VOC’s in everything brought into the building.

    Maintaining and controlling all water is essential and rain and effluent can and must be kept onsite and used for all non-potable applications. Another essential goal is using as little potable water as is practical.

    IMO anyone opposed to energy and water benchmarking is being disingenuous with tenants, new owners or the environment. Let’s be real, honest and ethical. Benchmarking is becoming mandatory in places like New York City, Philadelphia, and DC. It will soon be national.

    Philly is also home to a unique resource called the Energy Efficient Building Hub. It’s a research and development project for commercial buildings under 100,000 sq. ft. Established by the DOE the HUB is committed to observing and recording advanced energy retrofit projects, capturing what are considered to be best practices in the field. (www.eebhub.org/‎)

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