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Why Retrofit?

Retrofit

It is becoming more evident than ever that technology is increasing and developing. Whether it be the electronic industry, automobile industry, or the utility industry for examples – advancements are always being made. This is true so much so that there always seems to be some sort of update, upgrade, or reconstruction that is suggested we download or apply in order to improve some aspect of the overall entity. This is essentially what retrofitting is. Though not necessarily appropriate when referring to things such as software or downloadable updates – retrofitting is ultimately this same concept in a more physical way.

The definition of retrofitting is more similar to that of refurbishing or renovating. Refurbishment is geared towards enhancing the overall quality of a product and usually includes improvements to different amenities within a space.  Renovations are almost always used in reference to cosmetic or structural upgrades to a building or property. Retrofitting falls somewhere in the middle.

To retrofit is to add a component or addition to something and because of the size, cost, and permanency of most building systems (water, electric, and gas), a retrofit serves as the best option for building owners to keep up with the different technological advances within the utility industry. Advantages of retrofits can be plentiful as they provide older buildings with the ability to be as up-to-date and modern as those that are brand new in the least costly way possible. A good example of this is the process of retrofitting a business or home’s lighting system.

Instead of replacing entire lighting fixtures, many consumers find replacing their current bulbs with ones that are LED is easier and more efficient regarding laboring costs and time. Some states even offer programs to offset expenditures used for energy efficiency. Research done by Energy Star, the government’s certification program for high-efficiency products, has shown that every dollar spent on energy efficiency within a property has the ability to increase its value by three times. It is in this way that retrofitting serves as the best way to increase return on investment (ROI) with regards to energy efficiency.  Improving properties is also getting even easier with the increase in companies producing retrofitting products. Products such as Roost,Switchmate, and Ambi Climate are all newly launched retrofit gadgets that allow one to utilize their smartphone in order to control smoke detectors, lights, and AC/heating units!

Retrofitting products come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as easy as personally buying and installing low-flow showerheads or as complicated as bringing in an auditor and contractor to assess the situation. As these solutions get more complicated, retrofit kits are even available for purchase by consumers. Utility Relay Company for example offers retrofit kits for outdated and less efficient circuit breakers

Though retrofitting is ideal, it is not always the most feasible or practical. Some items to consider when looking to apply retrofits are location, maintenance, impervious or pervious areas, and the social environment in the area. These should be especially considered within more metropolitan areas. A more in depth look at the challenges regarding retrofitting can be found here and details regarding a larger and broader retrofitting process can be found here.

Creating a Sustainable City through the NYC Carbon Challenge

NYC Carbon Challenge

Climate change is no longer an issue that can be ignored.  Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and along with other natural disasters that have plagued the world in recent years have illuminated the dangers of climate change and made addressing the risks associated with it a top priority.

In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a plan for New York City’s sustainable future called PlaNYC, which outlined specific goals and initiatives to address the challenges.  One of which was the NYC Carbon Challengewith the aggressive target of 30% carbon reduction citywide by year 2030.  With this, Mayor Bloomberg challenged NYC’s universities and hospitals to match the City’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at an accelerated pace of 30% in ten years.

April of 2013’s New York City Mayor’s Carbon Challenge Progress Report states, “Because 75 percent of New York City’s emissions come from its buildings, and 80 percent of the buildings that exist today will still be here in 2050, increasing the energy efficiency of existing buildings represents the greatest opportunity to meet this goal.”

Since 2007, 17 of New York City’s leading universities (such as: Fordham University, St. John’s University, Columbia University, Berkeley College, and Fashion Institute of Technology); 11 of the largest NYC hospital organizations (such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Maimonides Medical Center); 12 global companies (such as Google, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and JetBlue); and 17 of the largest residential management firms (such as RY Management Co., Inc., Metropolitan Pacific Properties, and Century Property Management) – have accepted the NYC Carbon Challenge.

PROGRESS

The NYC Carbon Challenge Progress Report states:

  • Six participants have already achieved the 30 percent goal: Barnard College (Barnard), the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York University (NYU), The Rockefeller University (Rockefeller), New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ), and Weill Cornell Medical College.
  • In five years, the universities have reduced their emissions intensity by a total of 12.8 percent. Six universities cut their emissions by 15 percent or more.
  • In three years, the hospitals cut their emissions intensity by 6.1 percent. Five hospitals cut emissions by 15 percent or more.

Participants have achieved results by pursing system upgrades and replacements, as well as improved operations and maintenance, retro-commissioning of building equipment, investments in public education aimed at awareness and behavioral change, and switching to cleaner sources of energy.

As the Challenge expands and more organizations take accountability for their role in climate change and action to cut GHG emissions – NYC will demonstrate its leadership in efforts against climate change and eventually becoming a sustainable city.

Local Law Calls for Efficiency and Transparency: How Do You Rate?

Energy Efficiency

A building utility benchmark is the comparison of a building to others of similar characteristics, measuring   utility use in an effort to shed light on how they are performing relative to each other.  With a benchmarking tool, you can rank your building on energy and water use – if it receives a low score then it may be inefficient, and if it scores high, it is more efficient on a relative basis.  By comparing the results, one is able to identify areas that could be strengthened and improve overall efficiency.

According to Energy Star, a score of 50 is typical, while a 30 indicates the building is only more efficient than 30 percent of peer facilities.  A score of 75 or higher means the facility is a top performer and eligible for Energy Star certification.  Once you have used a benchmarking tool to score your building(s) you can target a low score with an energy audit that can identify the causes of low benchmark scores.

In some jurisdictions, utility benchmarking is mandated by local law. For example, NYC Local Law 84 (LL84), which went into effect in 2009, requires owners of large buildings to annually measure and report their energy and water consumption to Energy Star.  The following is required under NYC’s LL84’s benchmarking process:

  1. Determine if a building needs to be benchmarked by checking the Covered Building List.
  2. Measure the building’s energy and water use with an online benchmarking tool.
  3. Submit usage data through Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager.

Further enhancing the increase in efficient, high-performing buildings, LL84 law was followed by Local Law 87 (LL87) which mandates ASHRAE Level II Audits.  This is periodic energy audits and retro-commissioning measures for buildings 50,000 gross square feet or larger.  PlaNYC Green Buildings & Energy Efficiency states that the audit and retro-commissioning information includes the following:

  • Basic team information
  • General building information
  • Existing equipment inventory
  • Energy end use breakdown
  • Energy conservation measures identified from the audit
  • Retro-commissioning measures

In alignment with annual benchmarking, these measures required by LL87 will identify specific efficiency projects and work to optimize a buildings’ energy performance – yielding efficiency and long-term savings.

The following ten cities, two states, and one county in the United States have adopted energy benchmarking and transparency laws.  Even though all laws require building owners to track the energy use of their property, each vary in their specific regulations, such as the type of buildings they apply to, how the data should be disclosed, etc.  Click on each to learn more about their individual policies provided by BuildingRating.org.

A recent study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that buildings consistently benchmarked reduced energy use by an average of 2.4% per year for a total savings of 7%.  And, buildings that started out as poor performers saved even more.

The ability to measure and manage is the first step in improving utility efficiency and increasing cost reductions.  As more and more legislation incorporates energy mandates, the analysis of utility data becomes an invaluable tool to comply with local law, measure impact as a consumer on the environment, and manage overall use and spending.

UtiliSave, LLC has been addressing their client’s energy needs for over 25 years.  In addition to performing utility audits to identify operational inefficiencies and uncover refunds and savings, UtiliSave also provides benchmarking and assistance with ASHRAE Level II Audits at no cost.  For more information, contact UtiliSave at (718)-382-4500 or email at info@utilisave.com

What is the Utility Company’s Place in the Sustainable Energy Revolution?

Sustainable Energy Revolution

Since 2011, power companies have been selling less and less electricity.  Current trends in the industry illuminate the possibility of an ever-increasing dip in electric use as homes go solar, appliances become more efficient, electronic gadgets do more with less power, and cloud computing allows companies to rely on less energy-sucking servers.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) also lends itself to believe that U.S. homes and buildings are using less electricity because structures are better insulated, and the warmer winters and cooler summers reduce demand.

Solar power and distributed energy have caught on, and although solar is still a small part in the over-all energy industry of America – making up just over 1% of the total national generation capacity – it has quadrupled in 2010-2014.  These numbers are compelling and are the challenge staring utility companies in the face.  As solar power becomes less expensive, it allows for more and more panels to be installed in homes.  With the decrease in use of electricity, the utilities’ rates for remaining customers will go up, making solar energy even more appealing.  This is the vicious cycle that threatens to weaken utility companies and lends itself to the potential risk of decentralizing America’s power system in the future.

This cycle, however, does not spell immediate doom for utilities, and the power company’s potential shift in power may have a silver lining.  Today, Americans spend about $1.4 billion on fuel for their vehicles which was an abundant market that the electric companies could not tap into.  However, in the new era of sustainable energy, by providing charging systems and contracting with owners to buy back energy stored in vehicles’ batteries, the increase in plug-in vehicles could be the new business model utility companies need.

Plug-in cars can easily be underestimated.  At a mere 250,000 electric cars now on American roads, they account for only 1% of vehicles sold, which doesn’t seem much on paper.  However, sales have only risen with each year.  And, the good news to utility companies is that homes that own a plug-in car typically consumes 58% more electricity.  By riding the wave of efficient energy use and the increase in electric powered cars, it may be a game-changer for utility companies to ensure their existence in America’s future transportation infrastructure.

A downside to this wave of efficient energy use in America is that it could possibly lead to the overall population investing in solar energy for their homes which leaves little room for utility companies as people would rely on “home-brewed” energy for their everyday needs.  It is imperative that the sustainable energy revolution be taken seriously by utility companies and that they embrace the impending change in America’s energy use.  The industry of sustainable energy has untapped growth and potential, while utility companies must begin thinking of innovative ways to stay alive and prevalent in the new energy era.