Here’s how to realize actual savings from green renovation projects.
You’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on a renovation with the goal of raising a building’s Energy Star score from 60 to 75 because your CFO wants an Energy Starcertification. Will it work? How will you know? Was the initial goal a real-world possibility based on experience, or just wishful thinking?
The idea of bridging the gap between a goal (or design intent) and actual efficient operation (i.e., achieving that goal) is just as critical to keep in mind for green renovation projects as it is for new construction. Setting realistic goals, commissioning all work (and recommissioning it down the road), and measuring and verifying that the work is meeting the goals on a long-term basis are three steps facility managers should take to ensure success with green renovation projects.
Defining the scope of the renovation — whether a relatively simple lighting retrofit or a full gut rehab — is the first step to setting realistic goals once the renovation is complete. According to Peter Strazdas, associate vice president, facilities management, Western Michigan University, this is often the most difficult part. Setting the scope, and thus the goals, is akin to setting the project program on new construction. But with renovations, it’s often more difficult to keep the intended focus.
“The program tends to get diluted, so we concentrate a lot on staying the course with renovations,” he says. “We carefully document the program for the renovation at the beginning, and more importantly, we document why we are employing certain strategies.” Strazdas says the reason for careful documentation is to show both his customers — the faculty and students who use the buildings — as well as his facility managers and technicians precisely why decisions were made at the front end. This limits changes and keeps the scope manageable. It also helps with ongoing efficient operations as the technicians know and understand why decisions were made.
“They may understand the technical stuff, but they don’t understand why, for instance, we chose LEDs or occupancy sensors. It’s terribly important to start this explanation at the beginning with the project program.”
Strazdas says Western Michigan currently has more than 300 renovation projects in the works, so it’s easy to see why it’s important to keep each project on target — in terms of both facility management goals and what the customer wants. At the end of the day, those are the two most critical factors that define whether a project is successful or not.
But how do you set realistic goals, then ensure that they‘re followed through to success? With new construction, an energy model is the go-to strategy for setting efficiency goals — and that strategy could work for renovations, as well. If the project is big enough, says Strazdas, the few extra bucks up front to model is worth it. “The model helps identify strategies that we could not have come up with on our own,” he says. “You can’t just work on the back of a napkin anymore.”
But a full-scale energy model for most renovation projects isn’t realistic. Jim Cooke, national facilities operations manager for Toyota Motor Sales North America, says his organization sets goals for renovations by comparing expected results with new construction. He says the first question is: “How close can we come with a renovation project to how efficient we are with new construction? Our goals for renovations definitely revolve around being able to apply lessons learned from new construction.”