How to advance your career by improving energy efficiency

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With increased industry regulation and public support, sustainability is more of a priority than ever before. As a result, more and more organizations are creating executive and senior management positions to manage their sustainability projects. Some of these position titles include Director of Sustainability, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility, and even Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). This new trend gives facilities managers a unique opportunity to expand the roles of their departments and advance their careers.

These positions were usually created once the organization had already begun pursuing sustainability and energy efficiency improvements, according to a recent study by Kathleen Miller and George Serafeim of Harvard Business School. Facilities managers who make these improvements a priority are likely to be remembered once their organization is ready to create a CSO position. In fact, 86% of CSOs were hired internally, according to another study.

When do organizations create CSO positions?

Most organizations move through a similar process as they advance their sustainability efforts, according to Miller and Serafeim:

  1. Compliance stage: Many organizations’ first introduction to sustainability comes from needing to comply with industry regulations. Your organization may very well be in this stage right now. In this stage, those responsible for managing sustainability efforts are unlikely to hold a CSO position…at least not yet.
  2. Efficiency stage: Over time an organization will begin to focus more on how sustainability can improve their business and less on simply complying with industry regulations. These organizations frequently develop an overall sustainability strategy and work to implement it. It is at this stage, that CSO positions are most often introduced.
  3. Innovation stage: Most organizations move into the innovation stage after their sustainability strategies have been in place for a while. These organizations then begin to approach their sustainability efforts in a more proactive way.

How can you move your organization into the efficiency stage and beyond?

The first step is to get the attention of upper management by improving your energy efficiency, thus lowering your energy costs and improving your sustainability.

Most energy efficiency initiatives take the form of equipment or inventory replacements, for example, replacing a low-efficiency water heater with a high-efficiency one. These initiatives are popular because they are easy to identify and install, and the savings are immediately evident. Equipment/inventory replacements are a great place to start, however, they do cause some problems. For example, their contribution to your overall energy savings is minimal overtime, because it is just as easy to replace a high-efficiency product with a low-efficiency one. Organizations often revert back to their original products over time due to budget cuts.

The best way to permanently improve your energy efficiency and move your organization into the efficiency stage is to focus on load reduction. Basically, you want to decrease how hard systems, such as HVAC, have to work to maintain appropriate operational levels. For example, one way to reduce the load on your heating system is by reducing stack effect, according to author and engineer, Ian Shapiro.

Example: Load reduction by reducing stack effect

Stack effect is the “vertical upward motion of air in a heated building in the winter,” according to Shapiro. In the winter, cold air typically enters a building through lower-level outdoor access points such as doors and windows, loading docks, and mechanical rooms.  Once the air is inside, it finds pathways to rise to the top of the building. Some of these pathways include stairwells, chimneys, holes for pipes, elevator/mechanical shafts, etc. The air will then escape through an opening on the upper floor. When this air escapes it will cause more cold air to enter the building, starting the process over. The introduction of cold air into the building causes heating systems to work harder to maintain the set temperature in the building. If you can decrease the number of air pathways and entry points into your building, you’ll decrease the amount of new cold air that enters the building. As a result, you’ll permanently reduce your heating load and increase your energy efficiency.

How to get started

  1. Identify the pathways: Some of the more obvious ones are unused chases and chimneys and stairwell doors. Shapiro also suggests looking for holes around pipe penetrations, holes into chases for piping and wiring, as well as ductwork. Good places to look for these pathways are below kitchen and bathroom sinks and also around exhaust and supply ventilation grilles.
  2. Target entry points: You can further reduce stack effect by caulking and weather stripping the entry points into your building. However, it’s important to target the pathways first, as these improvements will reduce the air pressures that cause cold air to enter the building in the first place. Even as caulking and weather stripping wear over time, you’ll still maintain an appropriate load on your heating system.

How FMX can help: A Computerized Maintenance Management System like FMX can help you plan this and other energy efficiency improvements. With FMX, you can create planned maintenance tasks like the ones above and assign them to your staff. You can also measure the success of this project by tracking heating requests from building occupants.

For additional load reduction techniques check out this article by Shapiro.

About FMX

FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities like work order and preventive maintenance management, reporting, and analytics can be valuable assets in your pursuit of improved sustainability and energy efficiency. Our cloud-based solution features a calendar view simple enough for your team and your occupants to use to submit, track, and manage their requests. You can also use FMX to track equipment histories, worker hours, vendor rates and inventory.

 

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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


How to spring into savings by tracking heating complaints this winter

Turkey day has come and gone which means that winter is coming…and so are the heating complaints.

According to a survey by Building Operating Management, 68 percent of facilities managers said that the most common complaints they receive from occupants are about temperature. And 16 percent of respondents said they field a heating or cooling request every day. Complaints can be disruptive especially when you have preventive maintenance or capital improvement projects to get to, but tracking heating and cooling requests over time can provide valuable insight into your HVAC system.

Tracking heating and cooling complaints from occupants

I’ll bet that you can think of a particular person in your building who is constantly complaining about the temperature. How do you determine if the problem is in your HVAC system or your occupant’s imagination? Well, tracking these and other heating and cooling complaints across your building is a good place to start. You may start to see a pattern. Perhaps other occupants in the same area are also reporting issues. Maybe this person is only experiencing issues earlier in the morning or maybe they only experience issues when the outside temperature drops below a certain point. Tracking this kind of data may help you to determine whether a complaint has some substance to it.

Let’s say you’ve received a lot of requests for a certain area and have determined that the temperature in those rooms is not within range. So you check your HVAC system, but it looks okay. Maybe your problem isn’t your HVAC system at all, maybe there’s a leak or poor insulation is allowing heat to escape. Because you tracked the complaints, you were able to determine that there was a hidden problem.

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) like FMX can help you to track the frequency, location, date and time of heating and cooling requests.

Responding to complaints

Occupants want to be heard above all else. They will feel a lot better if you can show that you’ve heard them and are making an effort to solve their problem. If you are unable to solve their problem, offering them a kind explanation goes a long way. However, if you ignore complaints, occupants will often take it upon themselves to find a solution to their problems. In the case of heating complaints, occupants will often use personal heaters in their work areas. According to a report by the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), 60 percent of facilities managers said that their building occupants have brought in personal heaters if they were too cold. Personal heaters can be a fire hazard, cause power outages and can potentially make the problem worse.

A CMMS can improve communication between your team and building occupants. And with FMX, requesters are alerted when any progress has occurred on their request.

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Tracking maintenance activities

In addition to tracking complaints, you should also keep a log of your maintenance activities. That way if you experience similar HVAC problems in the future, you’ll have documentation on how you fixed it last time. Tracking maintenance activities should also give you an idea of which pieces of HVAC equipment are requiring more maintenance than others: maybe a particular model is underperforming, maybe all of the models from a specific manufacturer are under performing. Having this information documented will help you determine when to replace your equipment and with what.

FMX can help you coordinate HVAC repairs whether they are performed in-house or by a vendor.  You can also track how often you’ve had to make an HVAC system repair and to which pieces of equipment.

Tracking costs

Determining when you should make a capital improvement to your HVAC system can be a bit tricky, but it is worth it. You’ll need to know the amount of worker hours it takes to repair your system and whether or not they’ve increased over time (or the amount of time it takes for your vendor to complete the project and what their hourly rates are). It is also helpful to know your cost of inventory for each repair. This should give a basic idea of how much you are spending on your current system and whether or not it would be cost-effective to replace part or all of your HVAC system.

With the reporting and dashboard module in FMX, you can track labor hours/costs and inventory expenses, so that you can focus on convincing your boss to invest in capital improvements.

How FMX can help

FMX enables facilities managers to more efficiently and effectively track work orders, schedule resources, and plan maintenance. Our cloud-based solution features a calendar view simple enough for your team and your occupants to use to submit, track, and manage their requests. You can also use FMX to track equipment histories, worker hours, vendor rates and inventory.

 

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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


Take the LEED in Sustainability for Your Organization

Nowadays sustainable buildings are no longer wished for, they’re expected. But sustainability advancements are expensive, and your budget hasn’t exactly grown in recent years. And your organization really can’t afford to build a fancy, new, green building. So how do you meet those growing expectations of your occupants (and your boss)?

Gaining a LEED certification for your existing building is an excellent way to show your organization’s commitment to sustainability.

What is LEED?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the one of the most common third-party certification systems for green buildings. It was developed by the U.S Green Building Council (USGBC) and is used worldwide. There are several types of certifications, but the one you should be looking into is LEED v4 Operations and Maintenance (OM) for existing buildings.

Why should I pursue it?

LEED certification has many benefits in addition to the bragging rights mentioned above.

For example, you’ll see an increase in energy and water efficiency. And it just so happens that as you increase your energy and water efficiency, you decrease your utility bills. LEED-certified buildings have shown a 19% decrease in operational costs and use 25% less energy when compared to non-certified buildings.

You’ll also find that your building occupants become more productive as improvements are made to their environment. For example, according to the USGBC, sustainability in schools can even be linked to an increase in student standardized test scores.

Not to mention, as you work towards becoming LEED certified you’ll likely complete all of those preventive maintenance tasks you’ve been deferring for reactive work orders. You’ll also likely see a decrease in reactive work orders because your building(s) will be in tip-top shape. 

Is LEED worth the cost?

Going through the LEED certification process can be expensive: there are registration and review fees, in addition to the costs to update your building.

However, despite these expenses, you’ll likely see an overall decrease in your operational costs (as mentioned before) and an increase in your building value. LEED-certified buildings have been show to increase in value by 6.8%.

In addition, many state and local governments offer incentives for LEED certifications. For example, the City of Columbus, Ohio subsidizes the costs associated with the certification process for private and non-profit developers.

How does LEED work?

LEED certification is comprised of series of prerequisites, such as an energy efficiency audit. Once you have met the prerequisites, points are rewarded for any additional improvements. Your points are what earn you the LEED certification. There are four possible levels:

  • Certified: 40-49 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Platinum: 80 points and above

Each point corresponds to a credit in the program. Credits are the types of improvements that you can get (you guessed it) credit for. 

I’ve thought about getting certified before. Has LEED changed in recent years?

LEED has recently undergone a bit of a makeover. The USGBC replaced the current LEED certification, LEED 2009, with LEED v4 on Oct. 31.

In v4, LEED focuses more on effective maintenance and performance (i.e. showing an increase in energy efficiency) rather than simply updating building design.

In addition, USGBC has done its best to simplify the certification process wherever possible. They have reduced the amount of necessary paperwork, simplified the recertification process, and consolidated many of the credits.

One of the most challenging aspects of the new LEED v4 is the increase in the minimum Energy Star score prerequisite. You now need a rating of 75. The LEED 2009 rating was 69! But don’t give up quite yet, the new LEED v4 focuses just as much on performance as it does on results. If you are making substantial improvements to your building’s energy efficiency, you can still qualify at the LEED Certified level with an Energy Star score of less than 75.

How do I get my LEED certification?

Start the process early: Now is the perfect time to start researching what it would take for you to pursue a LEED certification, especially if your organization starts its budget cycle in January. The sooner you start planning, the better you can manage your time and budget for the project.

TIP: Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) like Facilities Management eXpress (FMX) can help you set a timeline for your enhancements and assign responsibilities to your team members.

Check out the LEED User Guide: You’ll find information on how to prepare for certification, minimum program requirements, the differences between LEED 2009 to LEED v4, and useful tips and tricks.

Run the numbers: Many of the prerequisites of LEED certification involve reporting statistics, like your Energy Star score. These numbers can also help you to determine if it makes sense for your organization to pursue LEED certification at this time.

Focus on advancements, not on points: You’ll receive the best results (i.e. energy savings) for your project if you focus on making general advances in sustainability, rather than focusing on individual credits.

Tackle the easy credits first: Pursuing easier credits first will give your organization more confidence in your ability to achieve LEED certification. For example, you can make interior lighting upgrades and conduct an occupant comfort survey for some easy points.

Select professionals with green-building experience if you’re making any renovations or updates to the design of your buildings.

Submit your project for certification and wait: Unfortunately, the LEED certification process is a lengthy one. Not only does the project take ample time on your end, you also have to wait for your project to be reviewed and approved by the USGBC.

TIP: FMX can help you to keep track of the data you’ll need to submit for your certification. If your organization has decided not to invest in a CMMS as this time, be sure to keep thorough records on your project, especially if you anticipate any personnel turnover.

How FMX can help

FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities like work order and preventive maintenance management, reporting, and analytics can be valuable assets in your pursuit of LEED certification. View our Buyer’s Guide to learn more about how you can simplify your facilities management with FMX.


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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Facility Management Budget

By this time of the year, most facility managers are wiping the sweat off their brow and saying “good riddance” to this fiscal year’s budget plan. While this seems like a good time to relax and take a breath (you deserve it), it’s also the perfect time to get started on next year’s budget! ln fact, facility management professionals suggest starting the budget planning process as early as 10 months before the fiscal year is out. We agree — it’s never too early to start! So, to help get your mind in the right place, we’ve compiled six questions that all facility managers should ask themselves when planning their budget. Check them out in our SlideShare presentation below.
We’re interested — what’s the top priority for your budget plan this year? Is there anything you do to streamline your budget planning process? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

With FMX, you can plan your budgets with confidence. Our cloud-based software provides you with the tools you need to track spending, productivity, equipment status, and more. With the help of our robust reporting and analytics, you can use this data to uncover insights on your facility management processes. FMX tracks resources and inventory while keeping everyone up-to-date with work orders, event schedules, and planned maintenance. Talk to an FMX-pert today to simplify the way you manage your facilities.


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 Riana is the creative services manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not creating content or running the FMX customer community, she can be found doing crafts and drinking copious amounts of green tea.

3 Tips for Maintaining Comfortable and Efficient Facilities this Summer

Under the heat dome

The 2016 heat dome has been all over the news recently and we’re definitely feeling the heat wave here in Ohio! In fact, as luck would have it, I’ve been without air conditioning at home for the past five days due to a bad compressor, seemingly trapping my home under my own personal heat dome.

With some areas of the United States experiencing temperatures ten to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit above average for this time of year, you may be getting more HVAC complaints from building occupants than usual. If your facility isn’t staying as cool as it should be, or you just want to prevent occupant discomfort and wasted energy check out these three tips for maintaining comfortable and efficient facilities this summer.

Tip #1: Stay on top of preventive maintenance

  • Clogged air filters in your air handling units can cause problems if they’re not changed in a timely manner. If your air filters are clogged you may experience reduced air flow through the system which impacts occupant comfort and the fan will have to work harder which consumes more energy.
  • Make sure the fins and coils in your air cooled chillers are clean and free of debris (e.g., pollen, etc.) which can reduce efficiency.
  • Check the refrigerant levels in your chillers and packaged air handling units to make sure they’re within the specifications provided by the manufacturer.

Utilizing facilities management software, like FMX, makes it easy to schedule, assign, and track preventive maintenance tasks and costs to ensure HVAC systems are running smoothly.

Tip #2: Conduct retro-commissioning

Typically, a facility is commissioned when it’s initially built, which is the process of using the building control system to test all systems and components to make sure everything is operating properly.

Retro-commissioning is the process of testing building systems and components again at a later time to make sure that everything is still functioning properly.

  • Retro-commissioning reveals building control programming issues, mechanical failures, and calibration problems that need be corrected. These issues are rectified as they’re discovered during the process.
    • For example, you might discover that air handling units are simultaneously heating and cooling, or dehumidifying when it’s not needed, due to a control scheme problem in the building automation system.
  • The cost of retro-commissioning can be justified through energy savings. Energy savings estimates could be provided by a consulting firm or by analyzing benchmark data for buildings like yours using online tools like the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager
    • Questions to be answered during this process include: How much energy should a good performing building that’s similar to yours (size, type, and age of building) be using? How much energy is your building currently using in comparison? What is the potential for energy savings for your building based on this analysis? 

Using a facilities management software system like FMX will allow you to manage work orders for problems identified during the retro-commissioning process, as well as store data about your assets (i.e., specifications, calibrations, system diagrams, manuals, etc.)

Tip #3: Open lines of communication with occupants

Imagine this scenario, it’s summertime and one of your building occupants is too cold in their room. Without an easy way to notify or request help from the maintenance or facility team, the occupant decides to take matters into their own hands by plugging in an electric heater to warm up the room. Now, the air conditioning is still running and you’re paying extra for the electric heat!

Implementing a facilities management software solution like FMX makes it possible for occupants to quickly submit heating/cooling work orders. Maintenance or facility teams are able to receive these submitted work orders on-the-go and easily respond to and resolve them while keeping the occupants in the loop.


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Brian is the president and founder of Facilities Management eXpress. When he’s not steering the FMX ship, he enjoys hiking, riding bikes, reading books, and spending time with family.

FMXpert Todd Mace: How to Optimize Your Boiler

Introducing the FMXpert Series

We’re excited to reveal this first segment of our new FMXpert series which will provide practical industry knowledge from leading facilities management experts. We’ll cover everything from how-to’s to equipment reviews, keeping you on top of the latest trends and best practices.

Meet the FMXpert

Todd Mace is a Co-Founder of FMX and the CEO of Dynamix Energy Services, a design-build firm based in Columbus, Ohio focusing on maximizing energy efficiencies. He has over 30 years of experience in energy conservation projects and central plant optimization. Join him in the boiler room today where he discusses three simple settings that will help you optimize your boiler and save up to 20% on gas consumption.

Todd’s Tips

Potential Boiler Problems:

  • Short cycling of burner
  • Trouble maintaining hot water temperature
  • Excessive gas consumption

3 Simple Controls:

  • Operating limit
  • High limit
  • Burner firing control

Understanding the High Limit:

  • Ultimate safety
  • Requires manual reset
  • Should be set at highest temperature
  • Example in video: 220°F

Understanding the Operating Limit:

  • Should be set just below the high limit
  • Example in video: 180°F
  • Indicates that the water temperature should not exceed 180°F
  • Turns boiler on below 180°F and off above 180°F

Understanding the Burner Firing Control:

  • Should be set lower than the operating limit
  • Example in video: 165°F
  • Adjusts the firing rate of the boiler; does not turn boiler on or off

Common Problem to Avoid:

  • Don’t set the burner firing control at a higher temperature than the operating limit

Feedback

Do you have any comments or questions for Todd about optimizing your boiler? Do you have any suggestions for future FMXpert segments? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t miss the next FMXpert segment, subscribe to our blog posts today! It’s easy, just click the red Follow button in the right sidebar and you’ll receive our new posts via email.

Three Tips for Meeting Your Energy-Efficient Goals with FMX

This week I’m taking my car to the dealership to have it serviced. If you postpone your car’s routine servicing or wait five years to get the oil changed, it will no longer be efficient (You will be lucky if it even runs!). Staying on top of routine maintenance for facilities is just as important and has a direct impact on energy savings.

As businesses scramble to cut costs and increase profits, energy efficiency is often overlooked as a solution. The reality is that significant energy savings are readily available in nearly every building. In this blog post, I will share a few tips for using FMX to meet your energy efficiency goals.

Click here to check out our energy efficiency infographic!

Tip #1: OFF = Maximum efficiency

Savings can be achieved in nearly every building by turning equipment off when it is not needed. This tip sounds simple, however I commonly see HVAC equipment that is running 24/7 in facilities.

This happens because the facilities managers have no means of tracking a building schedule. All it takes for the system to be overridden to “ON” is one or two complaints from someone coming in after hours to an uncomfortable room.

FMX solves this problem by presenting building occupants with an easy, convenient method to schedule after hours activities. Communication is key, and staff members should be encouraged to buy-in to the organization’s energy efficiency goals. Additionally, organizations can adopt the policy that after hours, the default state of equipment is OFF. If occupants want the equipment ON, their event needs to be scheduled in FMX.

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Tip #2: Planned maintenance increases energy efficiency

It is common knowledge that a proper maintenance plan plays a key role to extending the life of equipment. A less known benefit is that proper maintenance also increases energy efficiency!

By utilizing a CMMS system like FMX, a facilities manager can easily keep track of all preventive maintenance tasks for their equipment. This will reduce the amount of equipment downtime and ensure that energy savings are maintained over the long term. Furthermore, by scheduling recurring planned maintenance tasks and reminders well into the future, FMX will prevent those tasks from falling through the cracks.

PM Task

Tip #3: Find the balance between comfort and efficiency

Comfort and energy efficiency are often at odds with one another. The most efficient way to operate a building would be to turn all of the equipment off all of the time. Obviously this is not possible without seriously impacting occupant comfort. Conversely, the most comfortable way to operate a building is to run it 24/7.

The key to successful energy savings is to find the middle ground between energy efficiency and comfort. When you start making changes to optimize your facilities you will identify occupant comfort zones and discover how far you can push the envelope. During this experimentation phase it is critical to maintain effective communication with the building occupants. FMX is the perfect tool for this job. If a comfort issue arises, a building occupant can file a complaint and allow you to quickly resolve comfort issues before they get out of hand. FMX utilizes automatic email notifications throughout the entire process; from the time the complaint is submitted until the issue is resolved, so everyone stays in the loop regarding the status of the request.

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I hope you enjoyed these simple tips on how you can use FMX to improve the energy efficiency of your facility!

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Brian Gregory
President & Founder