Retrocommissioning Key to Improving Energy Efficiency

Retrocommissioning — a process that identifies no- and low-cost energy efficiency improvements in existing buildings — is key to lower operating costs and improved building performance, according to McGuire Engineers president William J. Stangeland.

Energy savings can range from 11 to 72 cents per square foot.

In an article for HPAC Engineering, Stangeland says his company has worked on retrocommissioning projects for a major museum in Chicago and a large community school in Wisconsin.

McGuire Engineers studied the chilled water system to cut energy use at the museum, which cooled, heated and humidified more than 1 million square feet of space to tight tolerances year-round.

Through modifications of air-handling units, the hot-water-piping system, and sequence of operations and the integration of temperature/carbon-dioxide sensors in classrooms, the community school reduced its energy use and improved occupant comfort.

Retrocommissioning should target the building envelope to reduce energy waste from openings to the outside that are not sealed tightly. The process should also look at energy management systems, operational controls and equipment that are not working or programmed correctly.

Stangeland says a good way to start retrocommissioning is to perform an energy audit or document the building’s Energy Star rating.  Next steps include:

  • Developing a plan with the present-day requirements of the building and its systems, and identifying operational problems and any other low- or not-cost measures to implement.
  • Testing all building systems to confirm proper operation or to determine needed work.
  • Implementing and documenting tasks in the plan.
  • Repairing and/or upgrading deficient systems.
  • Retesting all building components after changes are made.

Businesses across the UK could save more than £3.7 billion ($5.6 billion) annually by investing in energy-efficient equipment, according to research published by the Energy Efficiency Financing scheme earlier this month.

Some 35,000 buildings that used the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool to track and manage energy use between 2008 and 2011 realized an average annual savings of 2.4 percent with a total savings of 7 percent, according to EPA.


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One thought on “Retrocommissioning Key to Improving Energy Efficiency

  1. Here’s a NY take on this:
    Once upon a time a girl dreamed of coming to NYC and going to Columbia University, and her dream came true. Then one day walking from her apt near the university she was hit by a falling brick and killed. This encouraged NYC to pass a law that all buildings had to be inspected so owners would be fully aware of conditions that required repair. Which was ammended to if you didn’t repair it after learning it needed fixing, you had to put up a sidewalk shelter. Which was ammended to you couldn’t get indefinite sidewalk shelter permits UNLESS you could prove you were doing SOMETHING to actually fix your building. Get the idea? Building owners, and not just slum lords, I’m in the industry and it’s ALL types of owners, including co-ops who should be most interested in maintaining their commonly held property, just don’t get it. A building falling apart becomes worthless from related issues, water penetration, heat loss, structural failure, vermin.
    If we expect these same building owners to embrace energy conservation, we are kidding ourselves. The ONLY way retro commissioning and all forms of energy conservation will make a significant change on on buildings energy use before the turn of the century is if it is MANDATED by the government. Yes, rising fuel costs will create a slow, lagging, effort to retro-fit. While draining our world of fossil fuel and destroying the enviornment. Which, sort of defeats our sustainability efforts, dosen’t it?
    We make cars stop at red lights, for the common good and the good of the driver. Enforcing energy conservation is no different, it’s for the common good, and the good of the owner (remember, you heard that one here first).

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