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. 


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.


allison_blog
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.