Here at Green Econome, we've been at the forefront of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) reporting, eagerly anticipating the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling on mandatory disclosures for public companies. Fundamentally, ESG is a way of doing business. Green Econome lives in the world of the “E”, the “Environmental” with our ENERGY STAR® benchmarking and energy and water efficiency services. While we recognize that the “S” and the “G” are equally important for businesses to report on, we are going to focus on the “E” and how that relates to the SEC’s new ruling. Let’s get into it.

Unpacking the SEC Climate-Related Disclosures

What are public companies required to report and how does that intersect with commercial real estate? On March 6, 2024, the SEC passed legislation requiring public companies to measure their Scope 1 and 2 emissions as part of their annual reporting and include how climate risk will affect their businesses in the near future. This ruling is meant to enhance and standardize climate-related disclosures. The SEC also included a materiality clause to help guide businesses as to what to report. Although, it's important to note that since March, there has been intense business opposition. But let’s get to the bottom line here: what are Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and why do we need to report on them?

Defining Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions

Scope Emissions Pyramid

Basically, Scope 1 is for all direct Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions through the combustion of gas in buildings or by the business’ fleet. Scope 2 is indirect emissions for the electricity the business is consuming from the grid. Both emissions are part of the collection of data standard to ENERGY STAR benchmarking. Scope 3, although significant, was not included in the SEC’s ruling.

The ‘E’ in ESG is where Green Econome thrives

We are here to ENERGY STAR Benchmark your portfolio to meet your “E” goals and reduce the operating costs of your building. As a woman-owned, full-service energy and water efficiency construction and consulting company, we have over 20 years of combined experience. We provide accurate benchmarking services and insights to recommend solutions and incentives that will increase the NOI and market value of your property. Let us help you better understand and accomplish your property's ESG goals to reduce emissions and meet science-based targets (SBTi).

Contact Founder and CEO Marika Erdely
Mobile: 818-681-5750
Email: marikae@greeneconome.com

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I love a good federal tax credit since it is a reduction of the tax liability of the owner. Essentially, this is pure cash flow to the owner of the property. What could be better? I have two favorites improved by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credits (ITC) for Solar and Battery Storage, and a new 45L for residential construction and major renovations.

Federal Investment Tax Credits (ITC) for Solar and Battery Storage

While there is a suite of tax credits under the ITC for residential, businesses, and manufacturers, Let’s focus on the ITC for businesses. The investment tax credit (ITC) is a federal tax credit that reduces the federal income tax liability for a percentage of the cost of a solar or storage system that is installed during the tax year. Before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, this incentive was 26%, but with the help of the IRA, it is back up to 30% of the project cost until 2033. (U.S. Department of Energy).

There are two bonus tax credits at 10% a pop if they are attainable.

  • Energy Community Bonus: An energy community is an area identified as a brownfield site and/or locations experiencing high unemployment and fossil fuel investment. Looking at the DOE Energy Community map, most of Los Angeles County is currently designated as an energy community. Unfortunately, this is a temporary map and we in the industry aren’t exactly sure when the map is to be reset and areas may drop off.
  • Domestic Content Bonus: This bonus requires a percentage (starting at 40%) of project materials (by cost) to be produced in the U.S. It is difficult to attain the second additional 10% solar tax credit. I’m told businesses are hard at work on this, making domestic materials readily available. Hooray for U.S. manufacturing!

These projects also benefit from Federal MACRS Bonus Depreciation and State Depreciation (which is, again, a tax deduction—reducing the income of the property for tax purposes).

By the Numbers: Cash Flow for Solar and Battery Storage Projects

Let’s examine some examples of tax savings when installing a solar PV system or an energy storage system. Many people aren’t aware of just how much these tax incentives can help to cover the cost of the project. The numbers speak for themselves.

Energy Storage System (90kW/220kWh)

Gross System Cost  $ 318,244.00
IRA ITC (30% + 10% Energy Community)  $ (127,298.00) -40%
SCE SGIP Rebate Program to Owner  $ (55,750.00) -18%
Federal MACRS Bonus Depreciation  $ (53,465.00) -17%
State (CA) MACRS Depreciation  $ (31,824.00) -10%
Net Project Cost to Owner  $ 49,907.00 -84%
Estimated Electricity Savings (Year 1)  $ 20,939.00  
Estimated Total Net Savings (15 Years)  $ 260,574.00
Payback Period 3.1 Years

Solar PV System (29.4 kW-DC)

Gross System Cost  $ 110,344.00
IRA ITC (30% + 10% Energy Community)  $ (44,137.00) -40%
Federal MACRS Bonus Depreciation  $ (27,807.00) -25%
State (CA) MACRS Depreciation  $ (8,828.00) -8%
Net Project Cost to Owner  $ 29,572.00 -73%
Estimated Annual Electricity Savings (Year 1)  $ 9,700.00
Estimated Total Net Savings (25 Years)  $ 419,117.00
Payback Period  3.8 Years

Tax Benefits Can Cover Over 80% of the Project Cost

The tables above illustrate how HUGE these tax incentives are. In just over 3 years, the entire cost of the energy storage system will have paid itself back. The battery can offset peak kW demand costs in high Time-of-Use (TOU) rates. Looking at the numbers, these energy efficiency projects are a no-brainer.

Green Econome Project Consulting, Construction & Incentive Management Services Have You Covered

Green Econome is here to guide you through the decision-making process and provide you with maximum energy and tax savings! We are a woman-owned, full-service energy and water efficiency construction and consulting company with over 20 years of combined experience. If you have a building for which you are considering solar and battery storage and would like a no-obligation quote, please contact CEO, Marika Erdely.

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What is the 45L Tax Credit?

The Inflation Reduction Act amended Section 45L, a tax credit to incentivize the new development or major renovation of energy-efficient residential properties for lease or sale. The new Section 45L provisions include two tiers of credits for eligible buildings and units certified to applicable ENERGY STAR® residential and U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program requirements. The updated Section 45L is extended to qualified residential properties acquired from January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2032. The tax credit's value per dwelling unit varies, reaching a maximum of $5,000, based on factors including the home type, number of stories, and compliance with energy efficiency requirements.

This residential construction tax credit is fantastic if you are already constructing or retrofitting at high efficiency and want to recognize your residential project as ENERGY STAR® or ZERH certified right off the bat.

Qualifying for the Section 45L Tax Credit

Here are the basic eligibility requirements for homes acquired and/or completed after December 31, 2022, and located in the U.S., wanting to claim Section 45L (as found on the Department of Energy and IRS websites). It is important to note that there are differences in terms for single-family vs. multi-family homes. Please contact Green Econome for detailed information. This is a basic outline:

Single Family Homes

  1. Certified under the applicable ENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes (National} Program Requirements.
  2. Certified under the most recent ENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes Program Requirements applicable to the location of such dwelling unit (as in effect on the latter of January 1, 2023, or January 1 of two calendar years prior to the date the dwelling unit was acquired), or
  3. Certified under the most recent ENERGY STAR Manufactured Home National program requirements as in effect on the latter of January 1, 2023, or January 1 of two calendar years prior to the date such dwelling unit is acquired.

Multi-Family Homes

  1. Certified under the most recent ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction National Program Requirements (as in effect on either January 1, 2023, or January 1 of three calendar years prior to the date the dwelling was acquired, whichever is later), and
  2. Certified under the most recent ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction Regional Program Requirements applicable to its location. (as in effect on either January 1, 2023, or January 1 of three calendar years prior to the date the dwelling was acquired, whichever is later).

All Eligible Dwelling Units

Must be certified as a zero-energy ready home under the Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program of the Department of Energy as in effect on January 1, 2023 (or any successor program determined by the Secretary).

What are the Additional Benefits to the 45L Amended by the Inflation Reduction Act?

  • Increased credits: for homes acquired between 2023-2032.
  • Prevailing wage kicker: tax credit is higher for multifamily projects that meet the prevailing wage requirements.
  • Double the savings! 45L tax credit can also be utilized with the IRA’s Section 179D for buildings over 4 stories.

Green Econome Helps Maximize Savings on your Multifamily Projects

While Green Econome is not a tax professional, we work with vetted partners and offer incentive and financing management, as well as project construction and building certifications for multifamily properties. We are a woman-owned, full-service energy and water efficiency construction and consulting company, with over 20 years of combined experience. Tax credits can be complicated, don’t miss out on crucial savings and upgrading your building’s energy efficiency! Contact our founder and CEO Marika Erdely for a consultation.

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The latest focus in sustainable commercial real estate is on “Environmental, Social, and Governance,” also known as ESG. ESG has received attention from regulators and investors, and, according to a recent report from Deloitte,  “sustainability has become a strategic imperative across industries”. Real estate professionals need to begin focusing on how ESG can impact portfolios and policy. Let's identify:

  1. What is ESG and how will it affect commercial real estate?
  2. How will the Inflation Reduction Act benefit my real estate portfolio?

Here is a simple table identifying some of the elements of ESG:

Setting the Standard: The SEC Proposed Ruling

Soon, public companies will need to report on the three ESG categories, also known as an ESG Strategy, to their investors. The SEC’s proposed Rule on Climate Disclosure gives companies a roadmap for ESG reporting and requires disclosures related to climate-related risks that could have an impact on their businesses, whether it’s their day-to-day operations or a financial impact on their real estate assets.

The SEC proposed reporting will be part of the public corporation's quarterly and annual disclosures and will detail the company’s carbon footprint and include reporting on greenhouse gas emissions from real estate and the climate-related risks to those assets. At NAREIT’s ESG conference I attended this fall, several panelists suggested that insurance companies and banking institutions will be considering climate disclosures in their financial metrics. Additionally, it was mentioned that investors from the European Union would also be looking at ESG disclosures when considering investments in the U.S. Most public companies have been focusing on their ESG strategies, and the process of gathering data for this year’s ESG disclosures is already underway.

Privately-Held Companies and Building Owners Can Benefit

What about private companies, and the private commercial real estate owners that lease to space public companies? Private owners should also focus on having an energy-efficient property and should not ignore the trend toward ESG.

The “E” in the ESG framework stands for “environmental,” which refers in part, to real estate and the efficiency of buildings. All buildings emit carbon emissions, and these emissions (in the forms of kWh and therms) can be broken down into three kinds: Scopes 1, 2, and 3.

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions that stem from sources that are owned, or controlled by the organization, such as company vehicles and the fuel they burn, process emissions from industrial activities, leaks from refrigeration, etc.
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions that arise from the generation of purchased electricity, heating, cooling, and steam (Any utility bill creates emissions such as electricity or gas used by the building)
  • Scope 3: Other indirect emissions that are directly from the supply chain of goods and services that the public company purchases. (This is the largest scope and most complicated coming from the organization’s operations, purchasing and selling goods, such as leased assets, business travel, and employee commuting)

Initially, Scope 1 and 2 emissions will be required to be disclosed by the SEC. However, public companies will soon be mandated to report Scope 3 emissions as well.

Mandated reporting means that if you have a tenant in one of your buildings that is providing products to a public company, the tenant will soon have to be reporting on their building’s emissions and activities. There will then be an effort to reduce those emissions, even if your building is not operated by a public company.

How Do You Measure Your Property’s Emissions?

As with anything new, standards and protocols are being established, along with a host of innovative technologies to harness data. As a trusted platform, Green Econome utilizes ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, which gives owners data that can be used to calculate the property’s total emissions. The EPA is actively developing the platform further, to better meet the demands of GHG accounting and scope emissions reporting.

Green Econome takes a systematic approach to ESG, along with a team of advisors, we measure, identify opportunities, implement, and analyze results to ensure you are on target to achieve your environmental goals. If building certification is part of your strategy, we can fulfill those as well.

Inflation Reduction Act: Tax Strategies and Incentives for Property Owners

There’s good news! There are many financial benefits from the new Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) to commercial property owners and developers.

Personally, I like the investment tax credit (ITC) known as the federal solar tax credit and the fact that it is now back up from 26% to 30% of the total project cost through 2033. Currently, our solar pv projects are benefiting from 58% of the project cost being covered by this tax credit and federal and state depreciation deductions.

Section 179 (a tax deduction) of the IRA provides owners with a dollar amount per square foot if the commercial or residential building meets a certain efficiency standard. Owners can earn $5 per sq. ft. for new construction or retrofitting a building, depending on its resulting energy efficiency. It is a laddered benefit ranging from $2.50 sq. ft. for a 25% reduction in energy usage up to a maximum of $5.00 sq. ft. for 50% or more.

For multifamily landlords, Section 45L (a tax credit) allows up to $5,000 per unit (single-family or apartment) if the building meets certain energy efficiency criteria.

What's In It For Commercial Real Estate?

Energy-efficient buildings will be worth more and will be more attractive for public companies concerned about emissions. Soon, everyone will be thinking about ENERGY STAR Benchmarking —a viable tool to produce data for reporting on your building’s performance.

ENERGY STAR Benchmarking is already widely used for energy and water disclosure laws across the county (and Canada). You can view IMT's national map of programs currently in place.

As an expert in reducing commercial property emissions, I anticipate a big push to move real estate into the world of ESG reporting, which goes a long way toward environmental sustainability. Once the SEC finalizes its ruling, all public companies will be required to focus on the “E” on their buildings like never before. Additionally, I believe that when companies also consider the “S” for Social and “G” for Governance, they will ultimately be better stewards of the planet.

If you need an expert to understand your building’s energy or water efficiency and emissions, please reach out to me at Marika@greeneconome.com. At Green Econome, a team of professionals is ready to help you meet your ESG requirements, save operating costs, and increase the value of your property.

Marika Erdely Headshot

Marika Erdely, MBA, LEED AP+C, Certified Energy Auditor, Fitwel Ambassador
MarikaE@GreenEconome.com
(818) 681-5750

Marika is an expert in energy and water efficiency and is the Founder and CEO of Green Econome, an energy consulting and construction company located in Santa Monica, CA. Marika has over 30 years of professional financial experience and approaches sustainability through an economic lens.

Sunworks Solar Power: Surge of new solar projects predicted, following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act

The energy sector, among many others, has been preparing for the transition to clean energy for a while now. While strides have been made, the roadmap has been less than straight. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) steadies the wheel and gives consumers clear direction. So, how do we get to cleaner energy? The following blog from our friends at Sunworks Solar Power succinctly explains what the IRA includes, and how organizations of all shapes and sizes can access new incentives and choices to achieve the highest return from solar, storage, and electrification projects.

Sunworks Solar Power (2022, September 23). Surge of new solar projects predicted, following the passage of the IRA – Sunworks. Sunworksusa. https://sunworksusa.com/surge-of-new-solar-projects-predicted-following-the-passage-of-the-ira/

Discover the opportunity for Commercial Real Estate in corporate accountability.

ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance is a set of standards used to evaluate an organization or community’s commitment to sustainable (Environmental), ethical (Social) practices, and outlines how those goals will be measured and achieved (Governance). Driven in large part by the boom of ESG or sustainable investing, it is important to look at the wider implications this has, specifically for commercial real estate.

You don’t have to be courting investors, or publicly traded to implement ESG strategies. The bottom line is this is the direction the world is moving. From our perspective, here are four important reasons to consider real estate ESG:

 

  • Altruism and profitability are not mutually exclusive
    Operating a more environmentally friendly and equitable company/building reduces waste, cuts cost, and increases efficiency, according to 2019 McKinsey & Company Research. As an energy efficiency consulting and construction firm, this is top of the list for Green EconoME when it comes to reasons to invest in ESG.
  • Attract top talent & tenants
    Unless you plan to go the way of the dinosaur, formalizing your corporate values and commitments and applying them to your assets will keep you competitive. Make no mistake, prioritizing ESG is a choice, just like the one your prospective tenant, lender, future employee, or buyer will make when considering you and your properties.
  • Plan ahead: policy and the role of ESG
    Globally and locally, regulation is expanding to meet science-based goals for climate action and social responsibility. While ESG or related benchmark reporting isn’t yet mandatory, just like ENERGY STAR(r) benchmarking, ESG data is becoming a leading performance indicator for real estate, and inevitably will become a standardized source of data for government-based carbon reduction targets or other asset assessments.
  • Data in, reporting easy
    The modalities and data collected for ESG measurement are being integrated into risk assessment, financial reporting, and other annual real estate-related requirements. ESG is proving to be a reliable source for centralized data collection that serves the purpose of many. Think of the ways this can increase the efficiency of your organization.

As much as ESG is seen as a trend, it is so because it is at the tipping point of a new paradigm defining this generation and generations to come. It is a framework to approach this decade of action that we are in. The space between energy efficiency, the main business model for Green EconoME, sustainability, and carbon reduction is growing closer, rapidly. Accounting for the impact of your business on its community and the value of who makes it hum is not only responsibility, it's economic success. If you are ready to start your ESG journey, or if you have more questions about ESG, please reach out to Green EconoME.

With the Senate passing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, it is apparent that there is a collective vision of redefining and modernizing our built environment. There is a call to action on how we adapt to meet the needs of future generations. We are reeling with the long-term domino effects of urban sprawl. Socioeconomic inequality, poor building design, limited reliable public transportation, and a decline in public health has brought us to a tipping point. We must prepare to revitalize our cities, retrofit our existing buildings with energy-efficient measures, and reconstruct our transportation networks.

Cleaning Up Our Existing Buildings

The existing building sector is responsible for 29% of GHG emissions, with 40% coming from inefficient HVAC systems. If buildings in Los Angeles are expected to reach net-zero carbon by 2050 as a part of the C40 pledge, there needs to be immediate action. Building systems – electrical, lighting, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning must be retrofitted to the highest energy efficiency standards. Or better yet - break the ceiling on them.

Government subsidies and utility incentive programs need to be more accessible to building owners so they can invest in on-site power generation for their buildings, such as solar PV and batteries. We can then contribute clean energy to our outdated electrical grid and create the demand for green jobs. While we have the innovative technologies that can support such a system, there also needs to be innovative policy reform that will build these self-sufficient power systems to be scaled to the neighborhood level.

Another upgrade that building owners and citizens benefit from is the installation of a cool roof, which reflects sunlight and absorbs less heat than traditional asphalt shingles. Urban heat islands caused by non-reflective material can cause the ambient temperatures to be artificially elevated by more than 10 degrees in our cities. Dense concentrations of pavement from streets, parking lots, and roofs absorb direct heat, thereby increasing the HVAC usage and exacerbating air pollution, contributing to the poor air quality present in high-density urban areas.

Access For All

Cities thrive when they are made of well-connected neighborhoods, with reliable transit, safe bike paths, and sidewalks made for the pedestrian.

In addition to constructing sustainable buildings, we need to construct smart buildings. Buildings integrated into their surrounding streets through mixed-use design, incorporate a balanced mix of institutional uses that stimulate local economies and increase the use of public services.

There needs to be a push for creating smart circulation networks within cities and neighborhoods that incentivizes walking, biking, and public transportation. This can only be accomplished if it is less challenging to alter zoning ordinances, urban growth boundaries, and rate of growth controls. Through smart growth planning, we can adapt to our changing environment and effectively prepare for a growing population. Transportation is a primary culprit in the progression of climate change. It accounts for 29%of all greenhouse gases in the United States, and it is also one of the fastest-growing emission sectors. Leapfrog development patterns make driving even short distances necessary, due to the extensive lengths of blocks, architectural design of shopping centers, and the extensive parking requirements required to support vehicles.

One of the most powerful statements I have heard is “frequency = freedom”. The frequency of a reliable bus, light rail, subway, gives its citizens the freedom to go where they want and at whatever time they need to. It is both unsustainable and unrealistic to expect equality in a city where every citizen needs their own automobile to get to their next destination.

Becoming a Pioneer of Change

It is vital that we construct an equitable environment for all, and create space for opportunity, growth, and city-wide resiliency. It is our responsibility to meet the needs of future generations and be the leaders of innovative strategies that respond to our climate crisis. Buildings are the foundation of cities. They are a place where people work, create, and collaborate to make the impactful decisions that design our future environment. We need existing and future building owners to take responsibility for their building’s carbon footprint and be held accountable to make responsible decisions in their building operations.

How do we galvanize a community to be the pioneers of an environmentally equitable city through decarbonization and smart growth planning? We need to make citizens and building owners aware of how crucial buildings are in reversing climate change, cleaning our air, and the potential economic savings that come from a carbon-neutral building. Cities do this by working directly with building owners, engaging in public outreach, and being educators.

Mandy Reinhart, LEED AP Neighborhood Development, Fitwel Ambassador, has earned her BS in Environmental Sciences with a Minor in Sustainability. She is passionate about urban planning and studying neighborhood design. As Assistant Project Manager at Green EconoME, Mandy can be found working with clients out in the field, moving their efficiency goals forward.

Human activities such as burning coal and fossil fuels have led to increases of roughly 90% in carbon dioxide emissions and 78% in greenhouse gas emissions globally since 1970. As of 2014, the United States is responsible for nearly 15% of that CO2. The five highest polluting sectors are energy production (grid), land-use (deforestation, agriculture), transportation, industrial activities...and buildings.

Across the globe, the above statistics are widely understood. The fact that it is our responsibility to solve and clean up the problem is also widely understood. Local, federal, and international energy policies have aligned with deep decarbonization targets by 2050. In an effort to meet these goals, collaborative programs, coalitions, and think tanks are energized, creating coordinated solutions across the private sectors. 

These coordinated efforts along with meaningful change, are fundamental to adopting a paradigm shift. In this article, we hope to offer a clear understanding of what decarbonization is, and a strong business case for why becoming part of the solution works, no matter where you place the value.

Defining Decarbonization

Decarbonization is the process of removing carbon. The act of decarbonization, or to decarbonize is to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in order to address atmospheric pollution and meet climate goals. This is the basis of the decarbonized economy.

The Decarbonized Economy

Mobilized by climate policy, a decarbonized or low-carbon economy uses clean power sources and practices to lower greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide output into the atmosphere. The need to deploy clean energy strategies with speed and to scale, stimulates research, innovation, job creation, and economic growth. Additionally, a decarbonized economy prioritizes ecosystem resilience, including not only biodiversity but humanitarian issues. 

What are the benefits of a decarbonized US economy, specifically? The World Resource Institute compiled data that shows clear economic benefits to decarbonization.

  1. It’s cheaper to save the planet than it is to ruin it. Low-carbon technologies have become more efficient and affordable compared to fossil fuels. 
  2. US clean energy investment and deployment are creating approximately twice as many jobs as those in fossil fuels. 
  3. Net-zero means net-savings for the US. Despite the trillions in spending projected for 2050 emissions targets, energy revenues are greater. Morgan Stanley Research released data on how decarbonization will strengthen the economy, as well as listed their 5 recommended investment strategies.

Strategies for Decarbonization

So how are we going to do this? The strategies to achieve deep decarbonization nationally and globally are wide and well, deep. For example reforestation, carbon capture, family planning are all ways to offset and reduce emissions. For our purposes, let’s focus on our business: strategies for decarbonizing buildings. 

Building decarbonization is segmented into embodied carbon, which in simple terms are the cumulative emissions from construction and operational carbon which are the emissions from the use of a building. The primary strategies in operational decarbonization are:

  1. Decarbonize the grid. The grid is the biggest culprit of GHG emissions. Our blog about SCE rate increases spotlights how our aging infrastructure is sparking hazardous weather events, and how utilities are depending on their customers to help upgrade and electrify the grid with clean, renewable energy. 
  2. Electrification of buildings. Switching from fossil fuels (burning natural gas) to electric is another key component to moving the needle. So much so that new building codes are being implemented in certain cities, like Berkeley, CA, banning the installation of natural gas lines. Fuel switching incentives, coming in 2021 for multi-family and single family homes, will be another tool, enabling customers to move from carbon-emitting gas appliances to cleaner electric ones.
  3. Self-generation. Solar, battery storage, and other scalable renewables can move you to net-zero the moment it goes live. 
  4. Retrofit to cleaner, next-gen units. The implementation of green technology is pivotal to the progress that needs to be made. One household, one building at a time truly does make the difference.

These strategies are mainly focused on operational decarbonization; however, it’s important to be embodied and operational inclusive. Even with retrofits to existing buildings, coordinating design, new technologies, methods, and deeper savings through synergistic measures will increase the value and efficacy of the project.

Climate Transition: Environmental Effects of Decarbonization

Globally, if we can accomplish this mid-century deep decarbonization we will make strides in restoring our vital ecosystems for a millennium. If as a nation we can overcome the barriers we face to take action, we can, year by year reverse the climate crisis we already experience through increased and costly events such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, pandemics, and heat waves. Climate change is interconnected with human development as well. Stabilizing temperatures stabilize our crops and food supply chain. Energy efficiency benefits everyone, but especially low-income families. Making cleaner, low-cost energy available in poorer communities ensures energy security and access to healthier environments inside homes and neighborhoods. 

Your Path to Decarbonization

Green EconoME founder and CEO, Marika Erdely is invested in getting customers to their decarbonization goals and inspired by getting to net-zero. “The ability to eliminate gas in a building, replace it with electrical equipment, add solar PV, and a storage battery and then go off the grid while also reducing ongoing operating costs is exciting. Electrical costs will continue to rise, but if we are able to add the generation and storage factor to the building, we will be able to offset these increases in costs. To get to a net-zero carbon building would be fantastic!” Marika speaks in detail on this topic on the Building the Future podcast. Multi-family residential is one good example of a property type where we see opportunity for deep savings and impact on the community. Paired with the SoCalREN incentive program, decarbonization of the building and providing low-cost energy to each tenant is achievable. 

Marika is also Co-Chair of the New and Existing Building Committee of the USGBC, LA Chapter, Decarb Committee. A collaboration of Los Angeles’ energy leaders, their mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated. Schedule a personal Q&A to explore and get started on becoming part of the solution.

How much energy am I saving or wasting? How much more can I save on energy costs? Why is the AC kicking on at 3 am every weekday and how can I fix that? If you are a building owner or operator these are questions that no doubt plague you.

In our blog about energy modeling, we explore the predictive nature of modeling and the importance of good design in HVAC systems. Here, we will talk about the importance of monitoring the ongoing use of those systems. By utilizing energy monitoring equipment, you can see in real-time how those systems are performing, and get clear answers to these questions that may keep you up at night...or at least working overtime.

What is energy monitoring

Energy monitoring tracks and records consumption patterns in building(s) via an energy monitoring system (EMS). An energy monitoring system is equipment and software that integrates with your building’s utility provider(s), gathers consumption data, analyzes it, and then provides useful information directly to your desktop, laptop, and mobile devices. Information such as real-time alerts, how much energy the building is using, and how it is used throughout the day. Energy monitoring delivers enhanced control and efficiency, meter by meter.

Connecting energy monitoring in buildings

Connecting an EMS is fairly straight forward. The data is gathered by connecting the energy monitoring equipment to meters or sub-meters on-site for each resource you chose to monitor (electricity, water, gas, solar, energy storage). The best systems offer flexibility to connect and are hardware agnostic, assuring ease of adoption with what you already have in place, and adaptation to future changes and upgrades you may make.

There is a wide variety of energy monitoring systems on the market. Green EconoME works with Energy360 by Intech Energy, a cloud-based energy monitoring system that uses next-generation sensors and wireless building controls, providing real-time monitoring and remote equipment management. The advanced technology of the Energy360 system makes it easy to install and less invasive as earlier equipment. The advantage of being cloud-based is not only mobility, but advanced data analytics. The ability to capture and store, read, and analyze your big data empowers you to make changes toward significant savings. 

So now that you have your EMS equipment connected, the fun can begin! As the end-user, you have a host of robust functions and controls at your fingertips. EMS remote access dashboards deliver analytics that can be viewed as granularly or high level as desired. Three key features include:

Real-Time Monitoring - Receive notifications to uncover problems and anomalies. Visualize your consumption with detailed comparisons, graphs, charts, and maps.

Control Strategies & Automation - Set up and control your equipment remotely. Manage whole building and zone/meter schedules to optimize occupant comfort and demand.

Energy Forecasting - Customize reports to identify energy savings, building performance, and forecast future efficiency or RCx projects.

Why monitoring your energy use is important

There are a multitude of positive reasons to monitor the energy and/or water used in your building. Let me put it this way, it is way more enjoyable to view your utility bills and be surprised by how much you are saving, versus how much you are spending. Think of all the ways you benefit from identifying a problem early, rather than after you have overused and overspent. Below is a list of the benefits we can think of. I bet you will find even more when you consider your specific needs and application. If you do, please call us!

Lower Energy/Water Costs - Save on HVAC, lighting, water use, and expense. This is usually the heart of any efficiency strategy. Energy monitoring allows you to see actual efficacy and identify areas of improvement, thereby informing further strategies.

Improve Tenant Comfort - Fix heating and cooling complaints. This will not only lead to happier, healthier occupants but also happier, healthier operators. 

Increase Facility Value - Higher Net Operating Income. “Smart buildings” show on average, 13% savings. When operating costs are several hundred thousand dollars, this is a significant amount back into your NOI.  

Reduce Equipment Maintenance - Optimize operation and life cycle of systems. The effects of this can go beyond general maintenance to identifying the cause of a serious malfunction, mitigating emergency situations.

Peak kW Management - Lower utility charges by managing and responding to peak kW demand. Peak shaving is a proven and growing strategy to reduce TOU charges and avoid overuse during peak hours. 

Energy monitoring in action

Green EconoME utilizes energy monitoring as a powerful tool in identifying and measuring client energy and water use. We have implemented our solution into a variety of multi-faceted retrofit projects and each has realized significant savings throughout. Combining energy monitoring with a suite of efficiency measures, Warner View Center, which was an LABBC 2020 Innovation Awards, Energy Efficiency Project of the Year Nominee, reduced electricity and gas usage by over 50%, translating into savings of nearly $1 per SqFt., and projected savings of over $100,000 annually in operating expenses. Although that is comprehensive of multiple efficiency measures, Energy360 EMS is the nerve center and is being used by Green EconoME and the building management to this day, to track and monitor use. It acts as insurance and preserves the value of the investments. 

New efficiency products and technologies emerge at a rapid pace. Energy monitoring has been used widely  and continues to stand the test of time. Now more than ever, efficiency and sustainability planning are critical. Demand is going up due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, in many cases taking reduction efforts in the wrong direction. You can listen to an enlightening conversation with our CEO, Marika Erdely, and our partners at Intech Energy about how you can use energy monitoring as an integral part of your efficiency plan and operations. Please contact us to learn more, schedule a demo, or to receive a free quote. 

If you could have a crystal ball to see into the future use, efficiency, and valuation of your property and investments, would you use it? It certainly would mitigate much of the risk and uncertainty in decision making. Well, you do have a crystal ball of sorts - in building energy modeling, or BEM. When used early in new construction or existing building retrofit design, energy modeling is an effective, low-cost way of predicting the energy consumption and performance of your building’s systems. 

What is Building Energy Modeling (BEM)?

Used largely by mechanical engineers and architects, building energy modeling is a physics-based, multipurpose software used to simulate a building and its energy use. 

Without going into the nitty-gritty, an energy modeling program uses inputs about the building, like geometry, construction materials, and system configurations. Then it takes descriptions of the building’s use and operations (actual and/or estimated) and combines input data with information about local weather and other related metrics. From here, physics equations can be used to calculate such things as thermal loads (system design), system responses (to said loads), resulting energy use, and cost.

Why is energy modeling important?

How do all these calculations translate into decision making? In essence, the value of energy based models is the visual representation of accurate, predictive data. Aka, you can play around virtually with different types of HVAC systems and see which one will work best for your specific building. When looking into each system you can discover how long it will last (life-cycle), and compare your spending and saving (cost-savings analysis). Think of being fitted for running shoes. A specialist can identify the intricacies of your foot and observe pressure points and weight distribution. Then they can recommend the best shoe based on their knowledge and your budget. What you get for this service is the proper fit for your stride, less wear to the shoe, and injury prevention, keeping you running longer.

Here are three main components BEM addresses:

Design - HVAC systems come in a complex array of sizes and components. BEM helps engineers understand and identify the proper system scale to meet the thermal load of the building. Additionally, modeling can help design control strategies. In other words, make sure the shoe fits. These key components all lead to the efficiency of the system and meet the needs of operating the building.

Cost - BEM helps decision-makers discern between up-front construction costs and operational energy costs, thereby reducing both, ideally. Factoring data and available incentives, modeling programs can also provide clear payback periods and net values. 

Codes and Standards - Collective analysis of energy models across building stock, can help utilities, municipalities and large scale organizations like the US Department of Energy develop energy efficiency programs and building codes.

The role of BEM in energy consumption and utility bills

At the property level, as outlined above, when BEM is used in the design phase of a construction or retrofit project you can implement not only an efficiently designed HVAC system but a robust, state of the art system. Next-gen modeling is helping building operations link multiple platforms for precise control and real-time consumption data, alerts, etc., leaving few surprises as far as their building’s usage. The effect is lower, predictable utility bills. Knowing what to expect out of your monthly and annual OpEx has a positive impact on annual budgeting. 

Bigger picture, energy based models are used in code compliance, green certification, and financial incentives. Additionally, the data collected from these models help inform large scale energy efficiency programs and standards. The spirit of these codes and standards is to improve the performance and reduce consumption of building stock across utility service areas, and across the country. 

Where the rubber hits the road

The US DOE Building Technologies Office (BTO), is leading the charge state-side, in the development and implementation of emerging technologies in building energy modeling. BEM experts are well-versed in these programs, along with the full suite of available software. None of it matters; however if they are not put to use as part of the design process. A 2017 USGBC article cites that approximately 20% of new construction projects are using BEM. The crystal ball shows - building energy modeling is a powerful tool toward efficiency and savings. It also shows that when used, emission reductions across the country are headed in the right direction. So lace up those running shoes and get to work. Call Green EconoME to inquire about our engineering and energy modeling services.