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Commissioning & Energy Management: Complementary Professions Compound Benefits

March 27, 2014 By Andrew L. Heitman

Andrew L. Heitman

The benefits of commissioning and energy management for building and facilities owners are not only complementary, when applied in concert, those benefits compound. Today, there is an urgent need for such collaboration.

One of the nation’s greatest challenges is meeting its energy needs while balancing a multitude of complex issues that come with that challenge. While there are many debates, there is a broad consensus on the value of efficient energy management in the building sector.

Residential and commercial buildings in the US account for about 40 percent of primary energy use, 70 percent of electricity consumption. The ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings and Industrial Plants program estimates as much as 30 percent of the energy consumed by commercial buildings in the country is wasted through various inefficiencies. Improving building energy performance is imperative.

Effective energy management involves identifying and understanding where and why energy is used in a building or facility and using that information to measure, manage and minimize energy consumption while meeting performance standards. A bedrock principle of the newly-formed Energy Management Association (EMA) and its certification program, the Energy Management Professional (EMP), is to assimilate energy management principles with the commissioning and retrocommissioning methodology.

The value of this approach is confirmed by a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Portland Energy Conservation Inc., and The Energy Systems Laboratory at Texas A&M University that concluded retrocommissioning is one of the most cost-effective means of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

The commissioning methodology provides for systematically investigating, analyzing and optimizing building performance. This staged approach reveals how closely a building is performing to specification, identifies areas of equipment malfunction or underperformance and is essential for developing strategies for improving performance of the various building systems.

It’s worth noting that the commissioning process is by definition an inclusive one. It requires the participation of all major stakeholders from the owner to engineer to operations and maintenance staff. This ensures that there is “buy-in” to the process and that it elicits valuable input from those who manage the building on a day-to-day basis.

An ancillary benefit of commissioning-based energy management, one that appeals in particular to building and facility owners and operators, is operational savings due to complementary improvements in building performance. This can include everything from how reliably equipment operates in the facility’s mechanical room to how hot or cold occupants feel on a daily basis. Performance improvement can lead to significant building-wide benefits and may be realized by a sharp drop in the number of work orders for O&M staff, better management of labor expenses, fewer unanticipated calls to materials or maintenance vendors, improved safety and security, and code compliance (a rapidly evolving issue).

The U.S. is experiencing a proliferation of mandatory benchmarking codes that require rating and disclosing the energy performance of homes or commercial buildings. About 40 such codes are in place, including huge population centers such as the State of California and New York City, and many more are envisioned. There is no question that the data disclosed by these codes will impact property values. And there is no question that a well-commissioned building will improve its score, adding a market-based incentive to adopt commissioning-based energy management practices.

On April 22, 2014, the new Energy Management Association will be officially launched in an organizational meeting at the Cx Energy Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. The group will consolidate and build upon the energy programs presently managed by the AABC Commissioning Group and membership is open to building owners, facility managers and those who provide products and services to the industry. In this spirit, the EMA organizational meeting is open to conference attendees from all these professions and its founders are eager to receive their input and together launch a new era in commissioning-based energy management.

Andrew L. Heitman, LEED AP, CEM, EMP, CxA, is owner of Building Energy Sciences, LLC, and president of the Energy Management Association.

EMA is a new and innovative association that is dedicated to advancing the quality of energy management products and services for the benefit of the building owner. The founding members are certified Energy Management Professionals (EMP), a program that was developed by ACG, the world’s leading association of certified commissioning authorities. Management of the program has been transferred to EMA. For more information on the EMA visit www.EnergyManagementAssociation.org. Those wishing to participate EMA’s conference and/or organizational meeting may visit www.commissioning.org/cxenergy/.



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