At Alternative Utility Services, Inc., energy efficiency and management are our specialties. We work with a wide range of clients and partners who require various solutions we offer, from energy audits and procurement programs to waste management, cost segregation and numerous related areas.
One group that can benefit greatly from many of the programs and services we provide, and who we coordinate with regularly, are builders within the construction world, particularly those building commercial facilities and looking for assistance with themes like energy management. Here are some of the broadest tips we tend to offer to builders in these scenarios for lowering the overall carbon footprint and achieving solid energy efficiency within their builds.
Temperature Setpoints and Dead Bands
Some builders may not have realized how much of an impact the temperature of their structures will have on energy usage and efficiency. Adjusting the temperature setpoints in your building by even a single degree can lead to significant energy savings, so it’s important to be mindful of this as you work. Additionally, turning off equipment or appliances when they’re not in use can also contribute to better energy efficiency.
It is also important to be aware of “dead bands” – the range of temperatures that are deemed acceptable for a given environment or building. Temperature dead bands are often set to plus or minus two degrees Celsius of the setpoint, though this may vary depending on the climate and other factors. Staying within these dead bands as closely as possible can help conserve energy.
However, setting the proper dead bands is often just as vital as sticking to them. If the bands are too tight, workers may feel uncomfortable and raise the thermostat to compensate. Alternatively, if they’re set too loosely, energy will be wasted as the building tries to reach the desired temperature. It is important to find a balance that works for both the occupants of the building and its energy efficiency.
Automation of Management Systems
Automation is a theme more and more builders are leaning into in recent years, and energy efficiency is one of a few major reasons why. Automated systems can help builders manage their energy usage in a number of ways, from ensuring that setpoints are being met to detecting and correcting operational abnormalities.
One example would be an automated commissioning system, which can be used to ensure that all the equipment within a building is working as it should be and adjusting automatically when it’s not. This can help reduce energy waste and avoid any uncomfortable temperature fluctuations.
Oftentimes, automation is also paired with data analytics in order to give builders a better understanding of how their buildings are performing from an energy standpoint. This information can then be used to make adjustments and optimizations that will save even more energy in the long run.
Down similar lines, synchronizing certain automation areas along with the facility’s clock system can go a long way. Systems can be configured to automatically shut down when the building closes for the day, for instance, or to power on early in the morning to take advantage of off-peak electricity pricing.
Building occupants are increasingly used to having everything in their lives synced up, and this trend is also starting to creep into the construction world. By syncing various systems in your build, you can help make the experience more seamless for everyone involved and reduce the amount of energy wasted in the process.
Automatic Shutdown Themes
Another theme that may be considered, either by builders or building managers, is the use of automatic local shutdown for various “hot” desks. Hot desks refer to computers or other electronics left on when employees leave the building — but there are building processes that continue to run and consume energy, even when the people using them are gone.
A hot desk shutdown solution can automatically power off these devices when they’re not in use, saving energy and extending the life of the equipment. This type of solution doesn’t require any user interaction, making it easy for employees to forget to turn off their devices and saving energy in the process.
Ventilation has become even more important than it already was to builders over the last couple years with the rise of COVID-19, and there are several connections here with energy management and efficiency. One theme many builders are utilizing today: Demand-based ventilation rather than traditional mechanical ventilation.
When we talk about demand-based ventilation, we’re referring to a system that uses occupancy or other sensor data to control when and how much ventilation is provided. This can help reduce the amount of energy used to cool or heat a space, as well as avoid wasting energy on ventilation when it’s not needed.
Another way builders are taking advantage of ventilation is by utilizing thermal storage systems. These systems use a phase change material to store thermal energy, which can then be used to offset heating or cooling needs later on.
Phase change materials are also being used in conjunction with solar thermal systems in order to provide a more consistent stream of energy. This helps reduce the need for peak power demand, which can save builders a lot of money in the long run on their projects.
Conduct an Energy Audit
Finally, all builders looking to apply rigorous testing to their projects should be sure to conduct an energy audit on their buildings. This will give you a better understanding of where your building is leaking energy and what steps can be taken to reduce that leakage. Contact us for all such needs; we’re happy to help.
For more on energy efficiency and management among commercial builders, or to learn about any of our services in these and related areas, speak to the team at Alternative Utility Services, Inc. today.
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