The commercial building industry is getting ready for pre-pandemic occupancy of offices and workplaces. Our indoor air quality checklist also includes 15 ways to reduce energy bills – because increased energy bills can be expected after major HVAC overhauls.
One thing that did change in the industry in the last year is the idea that indoor air quality matters – a lot. Around 80% of commercial real estate companies want to implement healthy building initiatives that will improve and maintain the safety of occupants for years to come.
Improved Indoor Air Quality: The Trade-Off
Optimizing buildings for better indoor air quality (IAQ) requires Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to work more, thus consuming more energy. Building manages can prevent this from leading to higher energy costs by optimizing their energy efficiency.
Energy Efficiency Tips for Businesses
Our 15-step checklist is a great starting point for building and business owners who do not have on-site building management support or have limited resources. With this list, you can evaluate your building or use it as a starting point for indoor air quality improvements.
The list begins with lower cost energy conservation measures and ends with high-cost, high-reward strategies that can benefit you greatly in the long term. It’s important to note that financing opportunities offered through stimulus legislation have made facility upgrades more affordable than ever before, so it’s best to act now.
Double check your setpoints
During the pandemic, many buildings saved on energy by pushing setpoints outside of typical ranges. But this doesn’t need to end in a post-vaccine world – some areas can be kept at a more energy-conscious range.
Set up setbacks at night and on weekends
Pushing setpoints outside of typical ranges during low occupancy times such as weekends or at nights can save between 8-10% on energy costs while still providing your building with the protection it needs. The best results are achieved by pushing setpoints to the limits allowed by code.
Switch to occupancy-based control
One of the simplest efficiency fixes is to install occupancy sensors that control lighting throughout your building. Occupancy sensors can be connected to a building management system to count the number of individuals within a room and to trigger proper lighting and targeted ventilation increases in case of overcrowding.
Lock out simultaneous heating and cooling
HVAC systems can sometimes work in inappropriate times – they will run heat during the summer and AC during the winter. Poor system calibration can be the reason for this situation, but you can easily prevent this waste of energy by enabling lock out controls that prevent simultaneous cooling and heating.
Optimize start / stop
You can enjoy better energy efficiency by starting your mechanical systems a bit later or shutting them down a bit earlier. For example, schools may stop heating the premises 30 minutes before an evening PTA meeting ends. Modern building management systems can help you automate these energy saving tweaks.
Switch to variable frequency drives (VFDs)
Although switching to variable frequency drives or VFDs can be somewhat costly, the return of investment is usually less than two years. VFDs control pumps and fans by aligning their output to their required loads, thereby avoiding any waste of energy. Reducing fan speed by 20% can cut energy consumption by as much as 50%.
When building age, they usually move away from their original design parameters. Retro-commissioning involves analyzing your BMS’ control sequence to see if any overrides are detracting from your building’s original design intent. You can deploy software for continuous commissioning, which provides ongoing fault detection and daily status updates.
Implement advanced lighting control
Modern building management systems can add intelligent automation to lighting control which takes into account both occupancy and time-of-day factors. Real-time dimming that’s based on ambient outdoor light levels, the time of day and shade controls can provide significant long term energy savings.
Advanced occupant-based control
HVAC systems can connect and work with other building systems, such as access controls, security and space efficiency & occupant engagement apps. These systems allow for hyper-granular optimization of each room’s temperature and lighting based on a certain day’s meeting schedule.
Create an Indoor Air Quality dashboard for operators and occupants alike
You will be able to create real-time dashboards that make indoor air quality and occupancy visible and easily interpretable. The dashboard can appear in your building’s lobby, on a mobile app or on the devices of your operators. The transparency boost from these dashboards improves confidence among occupants that the building is actively monitoring occupancy and indoor air quality.
Perform metering for main building gas, water and electric
With real-time metering for gas, water and electric consumption, you can set alerts for scenarios where you risk going over your baseline – utility providers sometimes charge cost penalties in these situations.
Optimize your central plant
One of the most important energy saving tips is related to the central plant of your building. There are plenty of strategies you can implement for lower energy consumption, such as resetting chilled water setpoints and programming variable speed flows.
Upgrade to a high-efficiency HVAC system
Now is the best time to invest in HVAC system improvements and building management systems, due to the pandemic stimulus legislation which offers major tax incentives for upgrading HVACs and building systems.
Modernize your Building Management System
The advanced building management systems of today have so much more to offer in terms of control and visibility over your building’s conditions, compared to older systems. Modern Building Management Systems often feature cybersecurity protection and offer advanced capabilities related to monitoring indoor air quality.
Don’t just meter — submeter
Energy efficiency does not include only electricity, but other utilities such as water, gas and steam as well. By submetering these utilities, you will be able to detect anomalies or faults within the systems you use. The gathered data is fed to cloud analytics, giving you full control and visibility on how your building uses energy.