Think your new building is energy efficient? Think again! World Green Building Trends says new buildings could be wasting 8% annual expenses in energy and operational costs. In buildings that have been in operation for years, there can be up to 55% savings in utility costs with retro-commissioning.

In California’s Title 24 CALGreen code, new buildings with nonresidential space need to be commissioned at varying levels of rigor depending on size. But what should a building owner do after CALGreen commissioning is completed and the building is open? Many studies have shown why building commissioning is financially a good idea. There are also several reasons why a building owner might want to re-commission, or retro-commission a building in order to save ongoing costs. Most building owners believe their buildings to be running well and don’t feel the need to spend money on retro-commissioning. This may be true for some buildings. However, all new buildings can benefit from ongoing first or third party energy audits. Let’s talk about the best practices for a building owner to undertake once they have finally opened that new building after construction is complete.

    • The first thing you need to do is get the new building leased up and start moving people in.
      It is easy to think that you need to keep the air conditioning cold, all the lights turned on, and keep all the doors open to make your space look as inviting as possible. However, with technology becoming more ubiquitous and prospective leasers becoming more tech savvy and environmentally aware, they might be more impressed by how your facility automatically turns lighting on and off, automatically adjusts air conditioning, and improves efficiency which will ultimately reduce their cost to occupy your building. Allowing your automated systems to do their job is becoming a better option as it controls your costs during lease-up.
    • Check when your equipment is operating.
      Operating schedules for equipment like outdoor lighting, common area lighting, air conditioning on/off times, and even pool and spa or water feature pumps are frequently left in the ‘Manufacturer Default’ settings. Your commissioning agent should have checked for schedules, but many owners are not aware that they need to provide final schedules of operation to the installing contractors. This can lead to lighting, HVAC, and ancillary systems to be less optimized for your operation. For instance, many thermostats come from the manufacturer with a default start and stop time 7 days a week. Many outdoor lighting time clocks are set to turn on the lights from sunset to sunrise. These might not be the schedules that you need. If you did not provide the final desired schedules you want in operation during construction, then the building system you just took possession of might not suit your operating hours. Sending a knowledgeable operator through every location and every control to ensure your settings are correct is vitally important.
    • It’s good to remember that there is a warranty that comes with the equipment installed during the original construction.
      One of the components of LEED Enhanced Commissioning is a warranty-focused re-inspection and retesting of the equipment originally commissioned. This helps identify equipment – and components of equipment – that are not functioning as originally designed. These can then be repaired or replaced while still within the warranty period. This action in and of itself is one of the most important activities that a less than one-year old building can undertake.
    • Document everything.
      Seemingly small problems might just get fixed right away and not be given too much thought. Faucet aerators that get clogged might just be changed out because they’re only worth a couple of bucks. One area may take a little longer to get hot water to the bathrooms. Another area may seem a bit drafty compared to the other floors. Problems like these in a new building should be thoroughly investigated for the root cause and recorded, because they may be an indication of a systemic problem. It’s better to figure out what needs to be corrected with systems early (hopefully during warranty) than to risk multiple tenant complaints down the road.

VCA Green offers services like New Building Commissioning, Acceptance Testing, Energy Auditing, Retro-Commissioning, and maintenance staff training to new and existing building clients. Give us a call and we can help you navigate code, save operating costs, and keep your tenants even happier. For more information, contact Moe Fakih below.

Contributing Writer: Wayne Alldredge, Associate Director for O&M, Energy, and Commissioning Services

Moe Fakih, Principal
714-363-4700 x501