The New York Power Authority Energy Services Program results to date include annual cost reduction of over $6 million achieved through various energy conservation projects. Several customers have viewed this project as an optimal process to achieve savings and implement infrastructure upgrades and, therefore, have expanded their utilizing multiple phase programs.Continue reading
As building owners and managers work through their annual budgeting cycles, building integration upgrades and maintenance decisions are made based on both return on investment (ROI) and on business risk avoidance. According to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), repair and maintenance account for roughly 12 percent of total expenses. However, in many cases, management falls into a pattern where needed building maintenance is underfunded. Over time, this deferred building maintenance approach (“the we’ll take care of it next year approach”) begins to pose serious risks. The cost of the eventual fixes continues to climb each year and the prospect of a catastrophic failure (like loss of the main boiler or chiller plant) becomes very real. When such an event occurs, the loss of the business can soon follow.
Why would organizations put themselves into such a precarious position? Many times, it comes down to human nature and the need to follow the path of least resistance. To a CFO, the maintenance-related budgetary requests coming in from building facilities staff can often be difficult to visualize. Physical infrastructure systems (power, cooling, heating) operate behind the scenes and seem to silently perform their jobs year after year. The thinking can be “it has worked for 25 years now, certainly it can still work for 26.” In addition, the cost of fixing these systems is often high and always appears as an unexpected, unwanted budgetary item. Yet, over time a costly critical systems failure will result if no action is taken.
Pragmatic Approaches for Sensible Funding of Infrastructure Maintenance
As an experienced building automation systems integrator and Schneider Electric master-level EcoXpert, our company, Stark Tech, works with building owners to avoid such a dilemma. We recommend a more programmatic approach to both planning and funding for building infrastructure maintenance.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Formalize the plan – When assembling an overall facility master plan, organize budgetary line items into categories represented by blocks (see Figure 1 below). These blocks are organized according to both ROI and business criticality. Those blocks above the center line can use utility negotiations to secure better rates and use savings to retrofit lighting systems, variable frequency drives and more. Temperature controls are an easy solution to boost energy efficiency but represent budgetary items with shorter return on investment (ROI). Those blocks below the center line— replacement of chillers and air handling units, replacement of boilers—are more critical but represent longer ROI.
- Make “blended” decisions – Once the key line items have been properly categorized, embrace a more blended programmatic approach which avoids addressing issues one at a time, and instead uses savings from multiple actions that reduce costs to pay for larger capital investments. The natural tendency for most organizations is to ONLY focus on those items listed above the line, ignoring the mission-critical work that needs to be done to address the systems below the line. Time is spent working with numerous vendors who singularly try to convince the enterprise to address one box at a time. Under such a scenario, the focus is on the financial enhancement of the facility today, rather than addressing mission-critical items below the line that have long-term impacts on the efficiency of the building.
- Alter the funding method – For long-term success and operational stability, use the gains accrued from those blocks above the center line (high ROI) to fund the maintenance and / or replacement of the items that are below the line (high criticality). In this way, deferred maintenance costs are kept to a minimum and the risk of catastrophic failure remains low.
Stark’s Building Health and Wellness Program is available to address health and wellness concerns on a continual basis to ensure the health and safety of staff and visitors.Continue reading
The new chiller being proposed to be installed is one of the most energy efficient on the market today. He said the new boilers being proposed are much more energy efficient that the current setup, which is the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities district heating system. – Todd Hanson, Stark Tech GroupContinue reading
Changes to a building that occur over time can often make building performance less efficient and less resilient. As time goes on, building use characteristics often diverge from those that were used initially to design and commission a building. A good example of this is improper outside air ventilation rates which can lead to problems with indoor air quality (IAQ), or excess operational costs. Building power and cooling infrastructure components can also wear out and fall out of calibration. As more and more powered equipment gets added, power capacities are exceeded, and unanticipated downtime issues begin to emerge.
As systems age, they decline in performance, which leads to failures that significantly impact the bottom line. We partner with our customers to implement solutions that keep systems operational by thinking strategically about proactive measures and how those actions impact the business over time.
At Stark Tech, we work as a Schneider Electric EcoXpert™ Partner with expertise in their EcoStruxure™ Building architecture and building controls & automation. Our engineers encounter many situations where building owners need help improving existing building performance.
A perfect example is a research facility that examines proteins and crystals in their research of bacteria and virus-borne diseases. The facility recently decided to upgrade its installed base of microscopes in response to pharmaceutical customer demand for more accuracy. Their existing building power infrastructure supported a 1-megawatt (MW) power switch, which was previously adequate as the building consumed 600 kW of power on an average day, and nosed up to 800 KW on the hottest of summer days when air conditioning systems work at full capacity.
Given the required upgrade, a cost effective, steady power supply with peaks in excess of 1MW was now required in order to accommodate stringent purity requirements and to avoid losing both data and research samples.
Our solution was to implement a lithium-ion-based energy storage solution physically located inside of the building. The battery selected for this purpose supplies stored power to the facility when demand spikes over 1MW and then recharges from the grid. This cost-effective change to the lab’s existing power infrastructure successfully managed the building’s increased power capacity requirements and helped the research lab remain competitive in their market.
Approaches for validating current building requirements
For organizations seeking to ensure consistent building power, cooling, and building automation performance, here are some preliminary steps that should be taken to validate requirements:
- Identify common needs of both traditional and new critical infrastructure – Building owners need to periodically assess the health of different types of building critical infrastructure. This includes both generators and power distribution systems and the IT backbone – anything that keeps the building on its mission at a predictable operating cost. These infrastructure pillars need to be assessed in order to determine whether changes to the building have altered the efficiencies.
- Identify needs unique to your facility – Understanding the unique requirements of the building under management also heavily impacts how technology is deployed to improve performance. Sports arenas, for instance, have a specialized need for higher dehumidification. High precision temperature control and monitoring are needed to both accommodate tens of thousands of fans and to assure that ice rink temperatures, for example, are properly maintained.
Healthcare facilities require more highly regulated environments. Circulating air has to be regularly monitored. Sophisticated backup power systems are required since connected hospitals have no real ability to shut down. In government and municipal buildings–such as prisons and K-12 public schools–a higher focus on safety and security emerges as a primary concern. Commercial buildings are focused more on comfort and lighting so that employee productivity can be maintained. Knowing the unique characteristics of your building and applying the right building automation technologies suited to those unique needs is a key performance driver.
Changing times demand more building resilience
Regardless of the type of facility, building owners also need to be aware that building resilience is emerging as a growing need. For many years, predictable building performance was taken for granted by the occupants. But now, the existing power grid has grown older. As power sources such as coal and nuclear phase out in the US, new solar and wind power are being introduced. These changes make power quality more intermittent and downtime can now occur in areas where power fluctuations were once rare. In addition, pockets of businesses continue to expand across regions driving more demand for clean, “always on” power. In these cases, building infrastructures need to be reexamined in order to withstand the demands of the “new normal.”
This joint planning can either center around resource needs for a tactical project or can be leveraged as a methodology for developing a longer-term strategy surrounding the future mission of the facility.Continue reading
As an experienced building automation systems integrator and Schneider Electric master-level EcoXpert, our company Stark Tech Group has helped to simplify the way building owners benchmark and improve their energy performance.Continue reading
Class B and Class C buildings may have been resistant to making investments or operational changes to their properties due to limited working capital and resources. However, according to the BOMA report, the market for Class B/C Buildings is changing. Tenant preferences, demand for new energy efficient technologies, and mandated policies to reduce building emissions are forcing building owners to look at options to stay competitive and in compliance. The market demands more, and energy efficiency is only part of the solution.Continue reading
As an experienced building automation systems integrator and Schneider Electric master-level EcoXpert, our company Stark Tech Group recommends several tactics to help facilities managers ensure executive buy-in for upgrade projects:Continue reading
Stark worked with the mechanical contractor and engineer to customize the O-Style Victory Energy boiler system to double the capacity within the existing footprint.Continue reading