Two Florida Cities Rank in the Top 25 for ENERGYSTAR

The ENERGY STAR Program, operating out of the US Department of Energy, just released their top 25 cities for energy efficient buildings for 2018 with two major Florida cities claiming a spot. Miami, a veteran on the list since 2012, came in at number 21 while Tampa ranked at number 16 in its first year. To be recognized on this list, Miami certified 106 buildings in 2017 totaling over 23.7 million sqft. and  Tampa certified 154 buildings totaling about 26.3 million sqft. The top two cities of Los Angeles and Washington, DC both had over 660 buildings certified that covered more than 145 million sqft. This is the first time in the lists’ nine year run that two Florida cities have made the list.

ENERGY STAR certified buildings are verified to be more energy efficient than 75% of similar buildings nationwide and use, on average, 35% less energy than typical buildings.  This has a direct effect of building operations’ budgets and something that Hill York has a proven track record of achieving. Please contact Hill York’s Technical Services Group to get started with an energy efficiency benchmark.

 

Buildings ‘get smart’ to improve comfort, save money, and reduce energy use

Today’s economy is one run by consumers and participants having unlimited information at their fingertips at all times.  This on-demand economy has brought smart technology and data analytics into all facets of business today.  The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just released a report discussing how smart buildings upgrades are catching up to this new trend.  Among many other findings, they spoke to the energy saving potential that the South region of the United States has when it comes to smart heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for commercial buildings.

Making much more data and information available to a building operator is driving efficiency in large and small buildings all over the country.  Whereas a smart building with integrated systems can realize 30-50% savings, individual components can be added to small and medium businesses and save 5-15% with little money upfront.  HVAC technologies like smart thermostats, sensors, variable frequency drives, and cloud based energy information systems have huge potential for savings in Florida where HVAC use in commercial buildings accounts for over 50% of electricity consumption, which is significantly above the national average. A study referenced in the ACEEE report proved that rooftop package units installed with smart thermostat controls, multi-fan speeds, and demand control ventilation can save approximately 50% in electricity savings.

With the addition of the aforementioned smart controllers and sensors, real time data analytics can give visibility to a unit’s operating efficiency by the minute.  This advanced assessment of a building gives the operator an unprecedented look into run-time and efficiency so that nothing is wasted.  Hill York has been working with these new smart building solutions for more than 8 years with our Alerton and HYStat controls for large and small commercial buildings, respectively.  Seeing reports from the country’s leading energy efficiency minds further validates what Hill York has been advocating for years; smarter buildings make efficient buildings, which fuel smart businesses.

 

Largest Energy Efficiency Standards in History – Part 1

Big Moves For Efficiency

As I have said in previous posts, energy efficiency manifests itself commercially in two ways: market advantage or federal standards. December ended up being a big month for the forwarding of energy efficiency standards under the Obama Administration. The two, newly implemented standards will save consumers approximately $168.1 billion dollars on utility bills over the next 30 years. This three-part blog will explore the implications of each of these monumental standards as well as the political and industrial ramifications.

Just days after the Paris agreement, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the end result of negotiations between industry leaders and the federal government for commercial efficiency. The effort exerted by this diverse group of stakeholders resulted in new commercial air conditioning and furnace standards that supported current market momentum and future innovation. The energy efficiency standards, which will occur in two stages, are aimed at low-rise commercial buildings such as small offices, restaurants, big-box stores, and schools. Commercial air conditioners cool about half the commercial space in the nation according to the Department of Energy.

The Standard

The standard was finalised by 17 stakeholders, including utilities, efficiency organisations, and major HVAC contractors and manufacturers. The first phase of the standard commences in 2018 with a 13% improvement on efficiency. Then, in 2023, an additional 15% increase is required for commercial units. Over the next 30 years of sales, the result will be more than twice the kWh savings than any previous Department of Energy efficiency standard.

Quality Indoor Air Improves Worker Efficiency

Quality indoor air improves worker efficiency and, as we saw with the Express Scripts project, improving working conditions saves money and energy while increasing worker productivity. Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) published a study that examined the impact of quality indoor air on cognitive functions with heavy links back to workforce efficiency.

The participants were placed into controlled spaces that simulated conventional, green, and green+ conditions. EHP utilized nine different cognitive functionalities to test how the participants worked in the three spaces.

• Basic activity level (the ability to make decisions at all times)
• Applied activity level (the ability to make decisions geared towards overall goals)
• Focused activity level (the ability to pay attention to situations at hand)
• Crisis response (the ability to plan and stay prepared/strategize in emergency conditions)
• Information seeking (the ability to gather info as required from different sources)
• Information usage (the ability to use provided and gathered info towards goals)
• Breadth of Approach (the ability to make decisions along multiple dimensions and use a variety of options to obtain goals)
• Strategy (a complex thinking parameter, reflecting the ability to use well-integrated solutions)

The results revealed that, on average, cognitive scores were 61% higher in green spaces and 101% higher in green+ spaces when compared to the conventional space. The benefits beyond energy efficiency should also be taken into account when making your next equipment upgrade.

US Federal Government Passes Milestone on Efficiency

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced in February that the US federal government recorded the lowest total delivered-to-site energy use in 2013 since they started keeping track in 1975. With more than 350,000 buildings and 600,000 road vehicles, the federal government is our nation’s largest energy consumer at 0.96 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) totalling $24 billion. Because the government is the largest, there is room for improvement and an opportunity for saving. Sustainability goals set by the Energy Independence Act of 2007 and an executive order by President Obama in 2009 contributed heavily to the government’s decline in petroleum fuel consumption, energy intensity and consumption, and potable water consumption.

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) also provides agencies with information, tools, and the assistance they need to plan, track, and meet their energy-related requirements and goals. The aforementioned sustainability goals included reducing the consumption per square foot of federal buildings by 30% from 2003 levels by 2015. With the help of FEMP, and the continued focus on energy efficiency by the administration, the federal government has decreased the energy intensity of its buildings by more than 45% from the baseline year of 1975.

Dedicating part of Hill York’s business to energy efficiency means that we are keeping up with trends in the industry and savings our clients energy and money. I know that, similar to the Federal Government, Hill York will build on our successes and achieve even greater levels of comfort for our clients.

New Florida Building Codes in Effect

It is now July of 2015, which means that the fifth edition of the Florida building Code is now in effect. The updated codes are now mandatory for all new construction or rehabilitation projects that will result in safer, more sustainable buildings and homes. You can read through all the new Florida Building Codes, 5th Edition here, but I will attempt to summarize some key changes in the Energy Code.

Before specifically stating the prevalent changes the Energy Code, the changes will increase capital costs, increase soft costs, decrease operational costs, dampen utility infrastructure demand, and improve asset value retention. This essentially means that a little more upfront cost goes a long way to improving sustainability of valuable infrastructure and improving value.

The new Energy Code now requires buildings to be 19% more efficient than the current compliant building and commissioning is now required for lighting controls and hvac systems over 40 tons. These changes will require a larger focus on sustainable development by thinking through whole building efficiency as well as individual system efficiencies. This change is in line with the trends that we’ve been seeing throughout the industry that Hill York is already ahead of. You can read about those trends here and here.

Cities Set New ENERGY STAR Benchmarking Requirements

As I referenced in a post earlier this week, business driven markets and government policy go hand in hand with Energy Solutions. With the consistent trend toward long-lasting infrastructure improvements and smarter buildings in most industries across the country, it’s no wonder why we see government policy working to accelerate the savings of both money and energy.

Government regulation can be on a macro (federal) level between countries and a micro (city) level, like the movements we are seeing today. Cities across the nation are adopting policies requiring building owners to benchmark and publicly report on their energy use through ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager.

Adding to the list of 17 in the past months, Portland, Atlanta, and Berkeley join cities like New York, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Denver, and Philadelphia as municipalities that are making it easy for Energy Solutions to be implemented. It’s only a matter of time before Florida cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville enact policies that require ENERGY STAR Benchmarking. When they do, Hill York will be there as an ENERGY STAR Partner with over 6 years experience and a Portfolio of over 100 buildings benchmarked already.

Leveraging the Market and Government Policy

The private sector has been driving energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction as a part of a sustainability movement for the past 10 years. Companies and industries such as Microsoft and Coca Cola, and many more, now release sustainability reports so that consumers can see everything that they are doing to help reduce the impact made by their product or service. Apart from the private sector, governments are now pushing the sustainability movement even further with new goals to reach and a plan on how to get there.

In November of 2014, the Obama administration announced a joint sustainability venture with China to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels in the United States by 2025 and to peak carbon emissions by 2030 in China. In late March, the United States submitted its plan to achieve such reduction in greenhouse gases that included reducing building sector emissions and four other actions. One way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was the utilization of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to benchmark buildings and drive efficiency through building upgrades and efficient appliances. Other possible ways to achieve this is offering federal rebates for efficiency upgrades or grants on both the state and federal level.

What does this mean for Hill York, a company at the forefront of efficiency in Florida? It means that while we have been operating on a market driven wave of efficiency, we can leverage new sustainability goals by the US to bring Energy Solutions throughout the state. Hill York is already using Portfolio Manager and has benchmarked many facilities that have grown into large-scale efficiency projects. We also recently secured two Energy Solutions jobs by leveraging state grant money to improve energy efficiency; a perfect example of keeping up with all the tools at our disposal. Read, download, and print the press release here. Our business is driven by both the “invisible hand” of the market as well as government policy, and staying on top of both has put Hill York at the front of the industry.

Seeking Refunds for Misapplied Utility Rates

An issue first unearthed by the Cutrale debacle of Leesburg, Florida, is dredged up once again for over a dozen companies served by Duke Energy Florida.  The utility is admitting that some business customers are paying higher rates than they should, but Duke is refusing to compensate those companies for what they overpaid. Tampa Bay Times Article Here.

A number of factors go into creating these situations, but they all stem from a business not having knowledge and personnel needed to choose the correct rate. Investor Owned Utilities (IOU’s) like Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light, and Tampa Electric offer a slew of different rates for the electricity they provide based on a number of factors like, how much you use, when you use it, how you use it, and many more. In an effort to try and simplify the convoluted choices, the different types of business rates can be placed in a 40×15 matrix as seen to the left.

For buildings like the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg in the Times article above, who had been placed into the wrong rate structure, the matrix did little to help their billing department know something was wrong. As a result, they paid over $20,000 more than they should have and they are not alone. This is such a big problem that former employees of the IOU’s are leaving and starting businesses that review customers’ utility bills, save them money by getting on the right rate, and split the savings.

There are many companies that exist to monitor utility bills so that businesses can focus on their own industry and not worry about their energy bills. In fact, Hill York’s Energy Solutions group has energy service agreements that benchmark energy use, analyze utility bills, and monitor equipment while identify deficiencies that might cost you money. These services range in price depending on the customer, but like the aforementioned shared savings agreement, you could pay nothing upfront.

This case study describes the efficiency offerings we have while also singling out two instances where Hill York discovered discrepancies in utility bills with a value of over $80,000 and $18,000.

Study Ranks Cities’ Energy Efficiency Policies

Energy efficiency in large cities is the most effective way save resources, protect the health of the community, and catalyze the local economy. This week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released their 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard that takes the 51 largest US metropolitan statistical area (MSA) populations and grades them in the five categories below.

•Local government operations
•Community-wide initiatives
•Buildings policies
•Energy and water utilities
•Transportation policies

The intricate scoring system placed Boston in the top spot with 82 out of the possible 100 points. Following after Boston was New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Austin, and Denver to round out the top 10. The four Florida cities on the list, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, all scored in the bottom 50% with Orlando scoring the best at 33.5 points.

Compiling this information in one place with yearly reporting is the ideal way to drive change. The old saying that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure first” holds true. This is the second year this report has been released and cities averaged an increase in their scores by 2 points. Energy efficiency is an important tool for both business and home to save money, save energy, and protect the environment. Florida cities have their work cut out for them and this is an exciting time to be a driving force in the energy efficiency industry.