Property managers have a lot of challenges, from meeting tenant needs to optimizing an asset for financial success. One of those challenges is efficiently operating a property for maximum energy savings as well as occupant health and well-being.
Next week, property managers and other CRE professionals will flock to the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook, Illinois for the 14th annual Chicagoland Asset, Property, Facility Management Conference. One of the conference’s speakers, Jennifer Allen, will provide a sustainability focus for attendees.
As energy and utility associate at Waypoint Energy, she works as the outreach service provider for commercial real estate for ComEd energy efficiency programs, helping property managers and engineers identify and prioritize energy efficiency opportunities and connect them with available financial incentives.
According to Allen, there are a number of best practices that a property management team needs to implement to maximize a building’s efficiency. These include low cost (or no cost) operational improvements such as turning off lighting for rooms that are unoccupied. The best way to accomplish this is with occupancy sensors.
“You would be surprised at how often we find this to be an easy operational savings opportunity,” Allen said.
Facility managers should of course track maintenance for equipment, keeping an eye on equipment that is old or failing. When it’s time to update equipment, adding variable speed drives to pumps can reduce energy consumption.
Another small—and free—change is to “adjust the temperature set point for the facility down one degree in the winter and up one degree in the summer,” Allen said. “I’ve seen savings up to $36,000 annually from this small change.”
Energy benchmarking through Energy Star has become an industry standard, and building owners can save up to 7 percent just by evaluating current baseline energy use. ComEd also offers free facility assessments that will show custom opportunities for a particular building. The program will also occasionally provide incentives for up to 50 percent of a total project’s cost.
While there are many opportunities to reduce energy and save operating costs, some challenges still remain.
“The biggest challenge to implementing sustainable building practices is senior management approval,” said Allen. “Depending on budget, any project with greater than a three-year payback is going to be tough to sell to most owners.
She suggests that property managers tap into local resources that offer tune-up programs which can help save on operational costs and hopefully be funneled to bigger, more cost-intensive projects. Some utilities also offer incentives for larger projects. Bonus coupons and other specials may also apply to certain projects.
There are a variety of financing mechanisms available. One is property assessed clean energy (PACE). Available to residential and commercial users, PACE programs allow a property owner to finance the up-front cost of energy improvements and pay the funds back over time through a voluntary assessment. PACE financing is associated with the actual property, not an individual
“The money is out there,” Allen said. “The business case is there. We just need to sell it to the senior decision makers with good financials to back up these projects and the value they drive.”
When looking to optimize their space, most property managers start with a free facility assessment, which is a good first step to understanding the savings opportunities and utility incentives at a building. Having a list of prioritized projects will help guide the discussion of financial incentives that a project may be eligible for.
“We highly recommend reaching out to your local utility for specific support,” Allen said. “Utilities will work with Waypoint and firms like ours to engage the CRE market. There are lots of great resources out there that we or they can point project managers toward.”
Next week’s Chicagoland Asset, Property, Facility Management Conference will go into much more information with two panels packed with industry experts. The first panel will take a look at the state of the market, including cost-effective strategies that can add value and what today’s tenants demand.
Jim Hochman, partner at Schain Banks will moderate and he will be joined by panelists Bob Dahlgren, senior director of property management at Podolsky Circle Corfac International; Sam Delisi, regional director of management services at Newmark Knight Frank; Dan Hanson, principal at Mid America Asset Management; Helen Karlos, vice president, property management at Zeller Realty Group and Vince Zuppa, vice president property management at Prologis.
The second panel will look at solving problems and providing solutions for those in the trenches. These include common, everyday tasks that can maximize a building’s efficiency and the challenges that one can expect when working with contractors, vendors and how to meet them.
Moderator Jennifer Cook, event coordinator at Everest Management will lead the discussion, along with panelists Jennifer Allen, energy and utility associate at Waypoint Energy; Kami Farahmandpour, principal at Building Technology Consultants, Inc.; Prasan Kale, co-founder of Rise Buildings; Andrea Kuhn, district general manager at Kastle Systems and Terry Ramsett, CEO and founder of FoodBarz. You can register now for the 14th annual event.