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Saving Money Through Building Controls and Optimization

Presentation by Bill Gruen and Andrew Eckrich – 2019 IAPPA Meeting, hosted by Independent Colleges of Indiana

Bill and Andrew explain what building controls are, define terminology associated with a building’s life cycle, and give a couple examples of how we’ve saved our Owners money through energy and optimization services:

Demystifying the Terminology

There are a lot of terms to understand in the construction, building operations, and maintenance world. You may often notice engineering lingo is thrown around as if everyone knows what each term or phrase means. A core focus at Schmidt Associates is ensuring the buildings we design and construct are done so to the highest possible degree of energy efficiency, all while informing our Owners about our process and making them comfortable with the end results. So, what are some of these terms that you will come across and what is the difference between them?

Below, we’ve outlined the basics of a handful of the most common terms we use:

Retro-Commissioning (RCx)
  • This is a service that is meant to return the building to the design intent. During retro-commissioning, the contractor learns the building systems and how they are operating and compares them to the design drawings to determine if they are operating efficiently. All efforts are made to get the building back into its design condition; these efforts are documented for the Owner’s records.
  • Can identify repair and rehabilitation (R&R) project
Utility Analysis
  • A crucial first step in any facility assessment which helps bring attention to the most energy- and cost-intense buildings in a customer’s portfolio.
  • Use data already in-hand to assemble easy-to-read graphs and compare similar buildings to one another.
  • Benchmark buildings against regional and national averages using ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager
  • Use data to understand the past and target improvements for the future!

Left graph: Buildings ranked from highest to lowest energy intensity (energy per ft2) | Right graph: Those same buildings ranked from highest to lowest cost intensity ($ per ft2, in red). Annual utility cost ($ per year, in green) is also shown. Together, these graphs tell the “energy story” of the whole campus!

Energy Rebates
  • Utilities incentivize efficient equipment to the point that it (when fully installed) costs the same as “standard” equipment. The efficient equipment then slashes your operational costs.
  • Type #1 – Custom / New Construction
    • Usually paid on a $$$ per kWh (or therm) saved based on first year savings
    • ~$100,000 rebate cap per project, but can be higher in some cases
    • Use for non-one-for-one replacement or more complex renovation projects
    • May involve multiple systems or a Building Energy Model approach
    • New construction programs may also be a part of the custom program, or it may be separate
    • Apply prior to contract execution or material purchase
  • Type #2 – Prescriptive
    • Usually paid on a $ per lighting fixture or per ton of efficient HVAC equipment installed
    • ~$50,000 rebate cap per project
    • Usually a one-for-one replacement or retrofit
    • Apply after project is complete within 60-90 days
  • Type #3 – Energy Studies
    • Utility companies also offer assistance to pay for energy efficiency studies
    • Energy upgrades in response to these studies can then be incentivized via Prescriptive or Custom Rebates!
  • To learn more about energy rebates, check out this blog, and call us with any questions!
Commissioning (Cx)
  • Performed directly after construction, and ensures all systems are operating the way they were designed to operate.
  • Professional service performed by a third party, not the designer.

OPR: Owner Project Requirement | BOD: Basis of Design Authority | CxA: Commissioning Agent

Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing (TAB)
  • A systematic process or service applied to HVAC systems and other environmental systems to achieve and document air and hydronic flow rates with the purpose of making the HVAC system operate as efficiently as the designer intended.
  • Typically led by a contractor and is separate from commissioning; done years after building has opened. Typically done years after the building has opened.
  • Generally, this service identifies low cost and no cost measures that can be implemented via the control system. For example: adjust equipment schedules, correct economizer operation, and reduce/eliminate simultaneous heating and cooling.
  • Can also identify R&R projects for the building owner.
  • Several Indiana utilities are offering study incentives to help pay for these services.
Optimization
  • This can be considered “retro-commissioning on an ongoing basis”, or “continuous commissioning”. The objective over the long term is to maintain optimal building performance and avoid any creep or variation in operational excellence.
  • Involves:
    • Weekly/monthly reviews of the control schedule
    • Periodic review of equipment operation
    • Benchmarking energy performance
    • Catching operational anomalies within a short time frame to fix any issues and keep energy costs under control.
  • Especially important on buildings that have not been commissioned–as there is likely a high initial energy savings opportunity.
  • Requires collaboration between the designer, your staff, your controls service provider, or other team partners. We help lead, coordinate, and communicate the activities necessary to operate the building well. The team must work together with the same goal in mind!
  • The controls contractor, or someone specifically trained on that system, usually performs the control updates.
  • Not in conflict with commissioning; it complements the service well. Optimization allows energy costs to be controlled from the outset when initiated as soon as the building becomes occupied.
  • Helps identify potential deferred maintenance issues to prioritize projects.
  • By benchmarking or tracking utility costs, it is easy to track the ROI of the service.
  • The life of the equipment is elongated and building occupants are more comfortable if issues are tackled right away and equipment operates efficiently.

Schmidt Associates can work with building owners and institutions to retro-commission and optimize their buildings. Give us a call if you want to learn more about how we can help!

Q&A Session with Bill Gruen

Though quiet upon first introduction, Bill Gruen—Manager of Energy and Optimization Services—brings a laser focus of energy efficiency to projects at Schmidt Associates. Below, we take a few minutes to get to know him.

 

 

 

 

Tell me about yourself.

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and went to college at George Washington University with a Chemistry major and Economics minor. The last semester of my senior year, I figured it out; I had taken an environmental economics course and it just clicked. I then went on to graduate school at Boston University to receive an M.A. in Energy and Environmental Studies. That’s when I knew I wanted to make a difference for the environment by moving to Washington, DC and writing legislation or working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Though I never actually moved to DC, that dream directed my professional career through opportunities at several different employers. Whether it was conducting lighting audits across the country, managing energy efficiency programs for utilities, or working to make malls more energy efficient, every step of my career has followed that initial vision.

And your family?
I met my wife, Stacy, through a friend I have known since high school who used to organize annual trips for a diverse group of friends. The 1999 trip was to Costa Rica, where I really hit it off with my wife. Though she lived in San Diego at the time, and I was in Denver, we had our first “date” in Sedona—eagerly anticipating the much hyped “black-out” of Y2K. We married in 2002 and now have two teenagers–Julia, 15 and Eli, 13—a labradoodle named Kaya, and a Russian Tortoise named Oogway (which is Chinese for turtle). We also have had a Chinese exchange student, Candice, living with us for two years now. She is 16 and will stay until she graduates in a few years. All the kids attend the International School of Indiana (ISI).

Bill Gruen - family

What does Stacy do for a living?
Stacy’s work in global communications and media management has been in diverse environments – notably at eight Olympic Games (Summer and Winter), 11 FIFA World Cup soccer tournaments, a U.S. Presidential Campaign, and with the Los Angeles Lakers during the “Showtime” era. She was an Emmy-award winning television producer in Los Angeles, and now serves as the Curriculum Coordinator at ISI.

What do you do in your free time?
Having three teenagers in the house keeps us pretty busy. Julia is on the swim team and participates in several school organizations, Eli plays soccer and hockey, and Candice is on the cross country and tennis teams and also takes DJ lessons in Broad Ripple. I also am on the ISI Parent Association Board, as well as their Board of Directors. When I am not busy with one of those things, I love watching soccer and riding bikes.

Do you ride competitively?

No, but my wife is also a big bike rider. We own several bikes, including two tandem bikes. Two years ago, we did a sponsored ride on tandem bikes with the kids along Lake Michigan. It was three days and 150 miles total. The first day, we rode 63 miles, set up our tent and camped, and got up the next day to do it all again, and the same thing the last day. That was an adventure! One of our favorite rides is the Kal Haven Trail in Michigan. It goes 33 miles from Kalamazoo to South Haven, so you can literally ride all the way to the beach and jump in Lake Michigan at the end.

What’s your favorite band?
The Who. My older brother took me to see them in 1980 and I was hooked. In 2006, I was at the World Cup in Germany (my wife was working the event) with my two young children. I was doing daddy daycare with a double stroller in Frankfort through the days and would watch the matches in the evening. The Who happened to be playing at a huge festival in Belgium at the same time, so I got a ticket. They were the last band of the night and would start around 11, so I took three trains the day of the show to get to the concert that night.  Once they finished their set around 1:30 a.m., I returned to the train station. However, the first train was not until 6 a.m., so I had to stay up all night to get back to the kids and start my daddy daycare again the next day with virtually no sleep. It was worth it, though!

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
I have been to two Super Bowls (Pasadena and Miami), one Stanley Cup Game 7 (Denver), and two World Cup Finals (the men’s in Tokyo and the women’s in Vancouver).

Bill Gruen - family 2

If you ever have questions about energy efficient design, biking, soccer, or The Who, feel free to give Bill a call!

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle Miller, Steve SchaecherMyrisha Colston,  Drew Morgan, and Steve Spangler

Saving Money Through Building Controls & Optimization

IAPPA 2019

Bill Gruen, Manager of Energy & Optimization Serivces, and Andrew Eckrich, Mechanical & Energy Engineer

March 29, 2019

In this presentation for IAPPA, Bill and Andrew explained what building controls are, defined terminology associated with a building’s life cycle, and gave hard examples of how we’ve saved our Owners money through energy and optimization services.

Chilled Beam Retrofit in the Rotary Building

Big Ten & Friends Mechanical and Energy Conference – Hosted by IUPUI

Eric Broemel, PE, CEM with co-presenter Holly Thomas, PE, IUPUI Energy Engineer

October 1, 2018

The presentation focused on the design and construction of the Rotary Building on the IUPUI campus. The building was recently renovated to accommodate the IU School of Medicine. Achieving LEED Silver certification, the renovation included the extensive reprogramming of the space, the addition of a central communicating stair, the improvement of the building envelope, as well as entirely new mechanical and electrical systems throughout the building.

Schmidt Associates received an ASHRAE Design Technology Award for this project. Through the submission process for the award, the actual energy usage of the building was recorded after construction was complete. It was discovered that the usage was significantly larger than predicted by the LEED energy model. Through follow up and further adjustment of the of the HVAC systems, Schmidt mechanical engineers worked alongside IUPUI staff.  Together they were able to correct the issues and bring the usage in line with expectations. The presentation highlighted the issues that were uncovered and the actions that were taken to resolve them.

Case Study: St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church

HVAC & Accessibility Renovation – St. Joan of Arc Sanctuary Project

In preparation for the Centennial Celebration in 2021, the Schmidt Associates team kicked off the first phase of the St. Joan of Arc Sanctuary Restoration Project in 2017. This phase included:

  • Updating/adding HVAC and electrical components
  • Making the sanctuary more ADA accessible
  • Adding a new bride room/cry room and a reconciliation room
  • Improving overall functionality of sanctuary spaces

As with many historic structures, this project came with it’s own unique set of challenges and solutions. But by the end of phase one, the church’s parish has been able to attend services comfortably year-round.

Learn more about this unique project:

 

Energy Rebates: Don’t Leave Money on the Table

When the electric grid was still in its infancy, electrical utility companies needed more people to use electricity to make a profit. They would therefore incentivize the purchase of electric vacuums, laundry machines, dish washers, water heaters, radiant floor heating systems, and so on. But in today’s world, we have so much electric demand that brownouts and blackouts have become increasingly common. As electric demand increases, modern utility companies find it more cost-effective to not build more and more power plants, but to incentivize energy efficiency – giving rise to energy rebates.

The goal of energy rebates is to save money while saving energy – incentivizing efficient equipment to the point that the equipment, when fully installed, costs the same as “standard” equipment. The efficient equipment then slashes your operational costs. According to a study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there is a lot of potential incentives based on consumption percentages.

energy rebates graphic

 

The incentives from rebate-worthy items can affect all areas of MEPT:

  • Mechanical – high-efficiency chillers, rooftop units, VRF systems, and building controls
  • Electrical – LED lighting, lighting controls, variable frequency drives
  • Plumbing – high-efficiency pumps and boilers
  • Energy-efficient data center servers and HVAC Kitchen equipment is also incentivized

The Process:

As an HVAC engineer on a project, the process for making sure a client gets the most efficient equipment in their space starts from the very beginning – designing with the equipment in mind. How do you know which type of equipment is best for the client, or how do you prioritize which equipment is most important if budget is tight? Here, we optimize the best systems with the client’s budget. Once the design is fully developed, we can choose which type of incentive is the best for the project – prescriptive or custom.

Prescriptive: application is submitted within a 90-day window of installation or project completion

Custom: pre-approval and energy savings calculations are required beforehand, and then once the project is approved, equipment is purchased and construction can begin. A  final application is required after completion which describes any changes to the project (and thus original calculations)

Just how much could you save?

  • Incentives on new construction usually equals approximately $0.40/sf
  • 72,000 sq. ft. elementary school, full lighting and HVAC upgrades, $36,500 prescriptive
  • New High School Performing Arts Center (theater, stage, lighting, HVAC in just this area), $4,500 custom incentive
  • 83,000 sq. ft. elementary school, $32,000 incentive custom

Schmidt Associates can help with energy rebates:

Sure, you can go through the rebate process yourself, but it can be a long and tedious one.

We can do it for clients in the fraction of the time, almost as if from muscle memory. We use our experience and internal software tools to streamline the process. The energy rebate money is available for owners, and Schmidt Associates can make the process cost-effective and painless. Contact us for help or further questions.

Designing Residence Halls Specifically for the Student

Integrating specific academic environments into four Ball State University Residence Halls was a key early design consideration for the combined $141+ million projects. There was an opportunity to create an interplay between pre-millennial student lifestyle, academic, and career interests while also optimizing for energy efficiency. By adding the latest technologies, new amenities, and flexible design elements into the residence halls, a new sense of camaraderie and function can be seen throughout.

Here’s a synopsis for each:

Botsford/Swinford Residence Hall – Emerging Media Center

Size: 164,000 square feet
Cost: $27,800,000

  • Audio and video production studios
  • New lounge spaces
  • Demonstration kitchen—enables guest chefs to demonstrate food skills including healthy eating and unique cooking styles
  • Original structure was demolished to its concrete frame and foundation
  • It was designed for LEED Silver certification and received LEED Gold certification.

Botsford/Swinford

 

Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall – A Living-Learning Community for Dance, Theatre, and Design Students

Size: 154,000 square feet
Cost: $33,000,000

  • Two-story lounge spaces and central lounge with a performance area
  • Dance studio, black box theatre, computer lab, fitness room, and drawing room
  • Strong sense of collaboration and camaraderie
  • The new facility re-images the entry into campus where students are center stage
  • Currently in review for LEED certification.

Schmidt/Wilson

 

Studebaker East Residence Hall – Creating A Home-Away-From-Home For International Students

Size: 109,750 square feet
Cost: $18,450,000

  • Student collaboration is enhanced through a new multi-purpose room and three two-story lounge spaces
  • Lounges are equipped with kitchens so students can share cultural foods
  • Provided a sense of community for present and future students
  • New highly-efficient mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and technology systems throughout the building resulted in LEED Gold Certification.

Studebaker East

 

DeHority Residence Complex – Collaborative Spaces for Honors College Students

Size: 131,070 square feet
Cost: $21,920,000

  • Integrating social, learning, and living space so dedicated honor students can combine interests and ambitions
  • Semi-private restrooms with lockers. Each room has stackable furniture and adjustable wardrobe closets
  • Students can take advantage of the exhibition hall for meetings and presentations
  • Ball State’s first LEED Silver certified building on campus.

DeHority

 

New Residence Hall 1 – Construction is underway for the third living/learning community developed from the North Campus Master Plan.

Size: 137,700 square feet
Cost: $43,600,000

  • Built for S.T.M. students and equipped with a makerspace, fabrication lab with 3D printing capabilities, and a virtual reality pod.
  • New campus neighborhood
  • Living/Learning Community
  • Site amenities include a fire pit and hammocks
  • LEED Certification anticipated
BSU-NewResHall1

New Residence Hall 1

 

Like what we did? Need someone for your next project? Let’s Talk!

 

Optimization: Saving Energy and Money

Today’s HVAC systems have the technology to perform amazing things —providing comfort, safety, and efficiencies. To achieve optimum performance, the systems must be “tuned” to stay in sync with the activities of the occupants and monitored to affirm proper operation.

This can be done through building optimization, a post-construction service which includes:

  1. Working with the building owner to develop an optimization plan
  2. Providing oversight of the optimization plan through the duration of the established time period
  3. On-going monitoring of the building systems to ensure they function at peak performance

The objective of this service is to optimize the function of the building’s HVAC systems.

Optimization provides:

  • Occupant comfort
  • Reliability
  • Energy efficiency
  • Operation efficiency
  • Extended life of the equipment

All of these elements combined allow Schmidt Associates to provide long-term optimization services that save both energy and dollars, while ensuring occupant comfort. Want proof?

During design of a recent project, we modeled the building to predict the actual energy usage once built, based on parameters about hours of operation and other conditions provided by the client. However, once the building was occupied, the actual energy bills were much higher than the energy model predicted, so we started providing optimization services.

In 2015 the building had achieved an Energy Star Score* of 45. It was using almost 140,000 kWh of energy each month. Through two year’s worth of optimization, the building now has an Energy Score of 89 and is using approximately 122,000 kWh each month. The decrease in energy consumption is the direct result of properly scheduling the equipment, fine tuning the VRV system, and removing the data center usage from the rest of the building.

The building wasn’t designed poorly. It wasn’t constructed poorly. It just required special attention in certain areas to maximize its performance.

 

* ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency.

 

 

Infographic: 7 Types of Engineering

Check out our handy infographic about the 7 types of engineering systems that affect a building: