Capitalizing on Energy Efficiencies


by Kim Smith

I recently read an article in Commercial Property Executive on energy use, and the article stated that property owners can typically cut energy expenditures by 2 to 10% annually through improved management. It reminded me how critically important energy use is and how simple changes can have a profound, long-term impact for property owners.

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, office buildings make up the largest group within the commercial sector and account for nearly 17% of consumed energy. Furthermore, Energy Star states that the average commercial building wastes 30% of energy, which means most owners have plenty of wiggle room to trim the fat so to speak, and take advantage of some savings. On a macro level, opportunities ripe for the picking include enhanced building maintenance, improved infrastructure, properly implemented codes, inter-office initiatives and green programs—but there are literally hundreds of options available for owners to capitalize on, depending on their needs.

Here at KBS we work diligently to be as energy efficient as possible and we’re very focused on reducing energy consumption at the property level while continuing to provide the services tenants expect.

Every building’s infrastructure is different, and while many of our assets are Energy Star and/or LEED certified at the time we acquire them, some are not.  Therefore, “how” we accomplish energy efficiency takes various forms including tweaking existing systems, making capital investments in the building’s equipment, and implementing new technology.

We typically start out by engaging an energy consultant to work with us on identifying appropriate adjustments to equipment and schedules to optimize consumption. At the same time, we engage the building’s utility provider to ensure we are working with the best-rate structures available.  In general, heating and lighting accounts for more than half the energy used in buildings, and KBS will often make a substantial investment to upgrade the building’s lighting and mechanical systems which serves multiple purposes including reducing energy costs, providing tenants greater comfort, and minimizing the risk of failure.

For example, at 500 W Madison in Chicago, the property participated in a retro-commissioning study identifying multiple energy savings measures which were then implemented over a 2 year period of time. The result was staggering with over 2 million KWH saved annually.  Transwestern, who manages the building for KBS, also identified opportunities for savings via lighting and had over 550 light bulbs retrofitted, adding another 350,000 KWH in savings annually.

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Additionally, there’s a lot of new technology on the market these days to help property owners assess and measure energy consumption on a granular level.  We use various sensors on equipment, and the structure itself, to identify ways to improve performance and analyze the data in real time; putting solutions at our engineer’s fingertips.

Tenants can be a big part of the solution to reduce energy consumption and there are many ways they can help. Allowing property owners to utilize daytime janitorial services, installing energy efficient lighting and controls, putting computers to “sleep” and participating in “on demand” HVAC on the weekends are just a few examples that make a big difference.

Energy efficiencies and going green is not a new trend, and it is certainly not a trend that is going to fizzle. If anything, it will continue to gain momentum.  Reducing energy costs improves operating performance at the property level, and dollars saved translates into real value not only for the owners but the tenants as well. When our systems operate at peak efficiency, it enhances building comfort,  and lengthens the life of equipment, saving money in costly repairs and replacements.  Finally, cutting a building’s carbon emissions is good for the environment.

 

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Ms. Smith is a senior vice president and director of property management for KBS Realty Advisors responsible for enhancing the value of property operations, including oversight of third-party property managers across the nation.