Sustainability is often thought to mean renewable energy systems and projects; while renewable energy systems are among the sustainability options for a building, but they are not nearly the total sustainability picture. Even at this time with as much growth as the renewable energy field has seen, in reality, renewable energy is an option for relatively few facilities, particularly in a high density urban area with a lot of existing structures, like New York City. Not focusing on renewable energy projects may seem to be contradictory to the Low Carbon Engineering concept, but it really is not. We can, and have done, renewable systems where a client had specifically wanted it but, generally, we find it more cost effective and widely applicable to improve on the existing facility without adding something new to it.

Sustainability is far more than renewable energy. For most facilities, and for the DSMEA Low Carbon Engineers, sustainability services are entirely about making facilities as sustainable as possible with the systems they already have. This is done through the use of ASHRAE energy audits and implementation of energy monitoring; as well as through the auditing and benchmarking requirements mandated by New York City.

Sustainability Services

These types of facility audits are most commonly done following the ASHRAE Level I, II, or III format and methodology. What audit levels are completed will depend upon building characteristics and uses, as well as the desired outcome for the facility. The process of each level, and respective results for the building, are summarized below:

  • Level I Audit
    • Quick assessment of building energy systems
    • Benchmark of the building’s energy use
    • High-level definition of opportunities to optimize energy systems
    • Outlines incentive programs
  • Level II Audit
    • Detailed survey of energy systems and facility operations
    • Breakdown of energy source and end-use
    • Identification of Energy Efficiency Measures (EEMs) for all energy systems
    • Estimation of savings and costs for EEMs
    • Identification of EEMs requiring more data and analysis
    • Locate and correct building operational faults
  • Level III Audit
    • Completed to justify capital-intensive projects identified by Level II audit
    • Longer term data collection and analysis
    • Building computer simulation calibrated with field data
    • EEM and resulting energy response modeling
    • Detailed cost estimating (construction bid-level)
There are few more effective, and less costly, ways to make us feel really accomplished as Low Carbon Engineers than by finding some existing control system or energy system component that is simply not working the way its supposed to anymore. The process of finding these existing problems, getting them fixed, and watching the carbon and the money NOT fly up the chimney or out the window is called retro-commissioning (or RCx). Retro-commissioning is all about finding the savings where they already exist, instead of having to invest capital to then create savings.
Local Law 84, the first law enacted by New York City’s Greater Greener Buildings Plan, requires all large buildings to measure annual energy and water consumption through a process called benchmarking. Benchmarking gives building owners a much better understanding of exactly what their buildings are consuming, and how their usage compares to similar buildings, which raises awareness of what areas could be improved upon within the facility.
Also enacted as part of the Greater, Greener Buildings Plan, Local Law 87 requires that all buildings over 50,000 ft2 periodically perform and energy audit and enact retro-commissioning measures uncovered by the audit. LL87 audits are particularly beneficial in that they often uncover operational or equipment faults, which are doing little for the building other than wasting money. Once a building has invested in a proper and thorough audit such as is our objective with all auditing, including LL87 reporting, the return on the investment is not in achieving compliance. The return on investment comes from implementing the measures and achieving a more cost effective and sustainable building operation.
We use Tru-Use™ for quite a few things, and one of those is to help identify what existing systems can be improved upon in a building. Monthly utility metering data really only tells us how much the building is consuming, which isn’t very helpful when trying to pinpoint a specific control issue or an inefficient boiler. Since Tru-Use™ meters update and log over a much smaller time period, it’s easier to see when consumption spikes are occurring and identify why they are happening.
See our Tru-Use™ page for more information about what Tru-Use™ could do for your building.