At Green EconoME we are passionate about saving building owners and operators energy, on their energy costs and maximizing their capital investments. That’s why we cringe when people tell us they finished a project and didn’t take advantage of any of the many available utility incentives. Right now, utility incentives and tax benefits for energy efficiency and clean energy generation are the vehicle that governments are using to mobilize clean energy goals. What motivates you to make improvements to your commercial real estate is yours. What matters to us is that we each benefit from the actions we take, and that those actions hold long term value.

Utility Incentives 101

Utility incentives are financial and sometimes technical support available to specified projects or equipment. They can be offered by the utility directly, a program administrator, or are publicly administered programs. This year, there has been a shift toward centralizing some incentives and programs to be available across California, rather than at the regional utility level. This shift marks California’s response to clean energy mandates and helps distribute funds equitably to all utility customers. It creates a bigger funnel for end-user incentives and rebates to assist with efficiency, renewables, resilience, EV infrastructure, and building decarbonization. Confused? Call us.

Our Top Three California Energy Saving Incentives

Aside from not knowing about available incentives, another barrier simply is that there are so many options, decision-making can be difficult. Here are some key programs that, from our experience to date, are easy to manage, pay well, and have a stable stream of funding:

  • LADWP Commercial Lighting Incentive Program (CLIP)This is offered through LADWP directly to its qualifying business customers. CLIP is for lighting retrofit projects where the building has an annual average monthly electrical demand (kW) above 200 kilowatts. Every efficiency project Green EconoME has completed has included LED lighting retrofits. We leverage this incentive where we can, and consistently see on average 30% savings on the total project cost.
  • SoCalREN Multifamily Program (SCR)The County of Los Angeles administers the Southern California Regional Energy Network (SoCalREN) programs. The SoCalREN offers financial assistance to public agencies and multifamily residential property owners for energy efficiency retrofits impacting both electric and gas use. Green EconoME has served as a consultant and contractor on several SCR multifamily retrofit projects over the past 2 years. See our Case Studies for results. We have seen energy savings exceed program requirements, and have been awarded further program credits.
  • California Energy Design Assistance (CEDA) ProgramCalifornia Energy Design Assistance provides complimentary energy design assistance and financial incentives for commercial, public, industrial, agriculture, and high-rise multifamily new construction projects, or major alterations that are in their early design phases. The goal of the program is for buildings to be designed efficiently from the start, thereby realizing lifelong savings and less environmental impact. CEDA helps the design team identify the most energy efficient strategies through custom energy modeling, then helps the owner implement those measures through incentives to reduce cost. CEDA, along with LADWP’s Zero By Design (ZBD) understands that every team is different and allows room for the professionals you bring to the project to complete some or all of the work, as long as it meets set criteria. 

Tax Benefits 

A powerful 1-2 punch is combining utility incentives with tax deductions like Section 179D, and the CARES Act Qualified Improvement Property (QIP), which allows for accelerated depreciation, while the solar tax credit (ITC) is a full credit off the owner’s tax liability. A clean energy future, regardless of how we feel about it, is the direction California is already moving. Local, state, and federal policy around clean grid infrastructure and lowering carbon emissions can strain property owners, which is why these robust incentives are available, being widely funded, and introduced at a rapid pace. Green EconoME has been helping clients navigate and manage available incentives for their projects, ensuring the richest paybacks possible. Schedule a meeting to discuss your current or future projects.

Green EconoME is a full-service provider. Our team of multidisciplinary, qualified professionals can fulfill your 1-5-10 and are versed in the latest incentive programs and financing options. It is what our integrated approach is based on. Whether your goal is to simply comply or to fulfill ESG strategies, Green EconoME analyzes energy use, and existing conditions to provide solutions that reduce operating costs, and increase the value of your property. Contact us with questions or for pricing. Chula Vista, we are so excited for the health and future of your community, congratulations! We can’t wait to get started.

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.

Los Angeles Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency Ordinance (EBEWE): Phase II – What to Expect

If your building is a covered building and ≥20,000 sq. ft. (a.k.a. needs to comply with EBEWE), then you should have a few years of ENERGY STAR benchmarking under your belt. If not, stop reading and call us immediately at (424) 422–9696! In addition to your annual benchmarking, every five years you are required to show that you have either maintained a high-performing building or are taking steps to become one. Our job is to keep you informed, efficient and in compliance. Your job, when it comes to Phase II, is to make sure you have an efficiency budget in place and enough time to comply by your unique due date.

Below, we’ve outlined the program and Phase II compliance. We’ve also included an infographic for you visual learners, and some tips to comply:

EBEWE Program Summary

Local Policy: Los Angeles’ Green New Deal

Phase I Benchmarking Report: Due by June 1, annually

Phase II Performance Report: Due by December 1, every five-years based on the last digit of your LADBS Building ID

Program Fees: LADBS registration fee + surcharge for benchmarking is $66.41 / building / year, and $183 per audit/RCx confirmation submittal (subject to change)

The EBEWE Phase II Requirements

For Phase II, Building owners must either complete an ASHRAE Level II audit and retro-commissioning (RCx) OR meet one of the exemptions noted below before their compliance due date, which is determined by the last digit of the building’s LADBS Building ID.

https://www.betterbuildingsla.com/_images/content/EBEWE_Ordinance_Brochure.pdf

Prescriptive Path

a) ASHRAE Level II Audit
The in-depth identification and documentation of a building’s energy and water-use equipment. Audits examine existing conditions to pinpoint potential areas of improvement for energy and water efficiency. Must meet or exceed ASHRAE Level II standards.

b) Retro-commissioning (RCx)
RCx is the re-tuning and maintenance of existing systems (energy and water). Your ASHRAE Level II audit will list recommended RCx measures. It will be important to have an implementation plan and budget in place prior to your due date.

Performance Path

Buildings that do not have to go through an Energy Audit and Retro-commissioning qualify for one of the following exemptions:

  1. ENERGY STAR Certification: The building has received this certification from the EPA for the year of the building’s compliance due date, or 2 of the 3 years prior.
  2. For buildings not eligible to receive an ENERGY STAR score, the building must perform 25% better than the national median of similar building types. This data is available through your benchmarking reporting.
  3. The building has reduced its Source Energy Use Intensity (EUI) by 15% when compared to the five years before a building’s compliance due date.
  4. Buildings that do not have a central cooling system must retrofit four of six prescribed energy efficiency measures noted in the EBEWE guidelines (available upon request).

Water Exemption to the Audit and Retro-commissioning:

Buildings that meet one of the below exemptions do not have to go through a Water Audit and RCx:

  1. The building has reduced its water use intensity by at least 20% when compared to the five years prior to the building’s compliance due date.
  2. Buildings that do not have a central cooling system must retrofit two of three prescribed water efficiency measures noted in the EBEWE guidelines (available upon request).
  3. The building’s water use conforms to the LA Municipal and Title 24 Code in effect at any time during the five-year compliance cycle.
  4. The building is new and has been occupied for less than five years from its occupancy date based on the Temporary or final Certificate of Occupancy.

*All exemptions must be certified by, or performed under the supervision of, a California licensed architect or engineer.

Know the Facts: Compliance Tips

  • Don’t be fooled into believing your building MUST receive an audit to comply. Not all buildings need to be audited. The price of an ASHRAE Level II audit can be significantly higher than available exemptions, so make sure you are being advised on the most efficient and cost-effective Phase II path to compliance for your building(s).
  • Performance metrics rely on twelve months of actual energy usage and information about the operations and physical characteristics of the building’s type and use. If this information is estimated or defaulted in your benchmarking report, the metrics will not be correct. Make sure your building has been accurately benchmarked.
  • As you see, this isn’t something that can be done quickly, or for free. If you need more information on creating a budget or financing options, call us.
  • Cities throughout the state (and country for that matter), also have local energy efficiency policy. If you have buildings outside of LA, make sure you are in compliance by checking our 2021 Guide.

As part of Green EconoME’s compliance services, we offer a consultation on the report's results, which includes an explanation and recommendations for energy efficiency improvements and how to meet EBEWE Phase II compliance. We will always make recommendations in the best interest of your building, budget and efficiency priorities.

Contact Green EconoME to meet your compliance requirements.

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.

Resilience, public health, mental health, collaboration between the public and private sectors, science-based strategies, equity, and trust. Are we talking about the current pandemic or the Fitwel Certification System? We are talking about both. The groundswell around health and wellness at the workplace had taken hold before COVID. Now, a clear set of standards and protocols to keep people healthy is required to open doors again.

Fitwel® is the World's Leading Certification System Committed to Building Health for All™. Using evidence-based scientific research, the Fitwel system is a series of standards and strategies developed to optimize building design and operations, in support of the health and well-being of its occupants. The program is run by the Center for Active Design (CfAD), in close collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

Why Fitwel certification matters

As we reopen, occupant trust and safety are paramount. Fitwel certification makes transparent the strategies used to maximize their well-being. For property stakeholders, Fitwel has recently introduced the Fitwel Viral Response Module, an annual certification of policies and protocols informed by the latest public health research on mitigating the spread of infectious diseases. It offers a comprehensive methodology critical to ongoing response. 

Global pandemic aside, wellness is an important differentiator to top companies and those they employ. Talent is attracted to healthy and inspired spaces. When you provide an environment with a sense of place, amenities that cater to a healthier lifestyle, and a building with sustainable design, there are far-reaching effects. Inside, you have thriving tenants who stick. Outside, you create a positive impact on the overall wellbeing of people and the environment. When people can bike to work, emissions are reduced. When there is access to healthy food onsite, people do not get in their cars for lunch. When outdoor spaces are available, both physical and mental health improve. 

This is not conceptual. Research used by the Fitwel system shows a direct correlation between workplace design and occupant productivity and health. Temperature, air quality, lighting, and noise conditions are all factors toward performance and employee well-being. With an estimated 90% of a company's capital being its people, productivity and absenteeism matter. Additionally, disease prevention and good health can result in a positive return on healthcare spending. When a company occupies a building designed with the same goals in mind, their healthcare dollars go exponentially further.

What’s in it for me?

Investing in wellness is a sound long-term play for owners. The rising workforce is vested. According to a 2018 Global Wellness Institute report, global wellness is a $4.5 trillion economy, with a 6.4% annual growth. Workplace Wellness is a key sector, projected to grow to $66 billion in 2022. Conversely, 2018 research from the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), shows that illness-related lost productivity costs U.S. employers $530 billion per year. 

Used in tandem with efficiency and sustainability certifications like ENERGY STAR®, LEED, and BREEAM, you are investing in the full spectrum of building health and sustainability. FItwel extends beyond the building, to the people. It also extends beyond the commercial site, to community development. Whatever your discipline, Green EconoME can manage and deliver the full spectrum of certifications for your project.

To learn more about Fitwel for your property or community, contact us at  info@greeneconome.com or (424) 422–9696.

“The increased risk of catastrophic wildfires poses an immediate threat to communities and properties throughout the state…[The state’s] electrical corporations must invest in hardening of the state’s electrical infrastructure and vegetation management to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.” Kevin Payne, Southern California Edison president and chief CEO, addressed head-on in his General Rate Case testimony the primary issue facing his company and other investor-owned utilities (IOUs) across the American West. Wildfires are an ongoing crisis, and energy companies are feeling the heat. SCE is next up for revenue increase approval by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and their request is in the billions. Although this does mean monthly rate increases to customers, it also signals something larger: the need for end-users to become part of the solution.

The General Rate Case

General Rate Cases (GRCs), are proceedings made by utility companies to the Public Utilities Commission to address the costs of operating and maintaining the utility system and the distribution of those costs among customer groups. Cases are made every three to four years. Although all providers are required to do this, the three largest IOUs bear the most significant impact. In California, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric have already submitted their applications for changes beginning in 2019 and 2020. SCE is in the final phase and approval is expected in early 2021.

The cost of power

SCE’s request represents a $1.295 billion, or 20.1% revenue increase in 2021. Increases for 2022 and 2023 are $366.5 and $534.2 million respectively. Although percentages vary across customer groups, this translates to approximately two cents more, per kWh in 2021. PG&E and SDG&E were not too far behind. PG&E asked for a $1.058 billion or 12.4% revenue hike for 2020. Rolling in third was SDG&E at a combined $2.199 billion revenue requirement, or an 11% increase over four years beginning in 2019.

What is it for?

The key reasons for SCE’s proposed increase are stated as:

  1. Reducing the risk of wildfires to keep the electric grid safe for the public and for SCE workers
  2. Reinforcing grid reliability and grid resiliency in case of emergency
  3. Improving customer service and communication, integrating distributed energy resources, and offering customers more choices to meet their needs

Top of the list, SCE is asking for more funding to help bolster wildfire prevention, risk monitoring, and emergency response. They will do this by adding new and enhanced safety measures like HD cameras and weather stations to detect ignitions. They will increase vegetation management, by continually removing potential fuel like branches and hazardous trees from power lines. They will perform system hardening or fixing bare wires to increase resilience and help further reduce wildfire risk.

Next, is SCE’s plan to upgrade technology and infrastructure to further grid safety, and modernization. Among other things, this means SCE still struggles to keep the power on. Urged by California’s clean energy reform, SCE continues to prioritize and invest in clean energy generation from customers connected to the grid. Stated as part of this, is integrating into the grid Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). Edison describes DERs as, “small scale local resources, often installed at a customer’s home or business, [that] can help meet California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, help customers reduce electricity use and support grid reliability.” Their robust programs and incentives provide compelling opportunities to building owners throughout California.

The case for clean and efficient energy

If you have already implemented or are considering self-generation like solar, and energy storage, here are some of the programs in place. Net Energy Metering, provides billing credits for surplus energy you “sell back” to the grid. Solar Power on Warehouse Rooftops program, is exactly what it sounds like. Providing your warehouse rooftop(s) as a sort of solar farm, for which you will both use the power and get paid for the surplus kWh. SOMAH is a community program for multi-family low-income housing, which offsets tenant cost and implements cleaner renewable energy. SGIP and green energy strategies are programs that provide clean energy solutions and help finance the cost of installation. These are only some of the opportunities to make self-generation easier to light up and quicker to pay back. 

Outside of self-generation, energy efficiency has always been a proven path to reducing your use and cost while qualifying for incentives. For example, enrolling in an energy solutions incentive program like Demand Response, or Express Solutions, may not only offset future rate increases to your site, but qualify you for further discounts, financing, or credits. The best part is that you chose the efficiency modalities that best suit your needs. For effective retrofit measures, visit our Energy Efficiency Retrofits page. Green EconoME’s work at Warner View Center spotlights the impact of integrating newer technologies and self-generation at a single site.  

Fires rage on across the western United States, holding up what seems to be a promise for climate change. If we do nothing, more extreme weather conditions and events will be our fearsome reality. The multi-faceted issue which is met with even more refracting opinions does hold one fact to be true. Wildfires come at an enormous expense and are taxing an aging infrastructure. If this isn’t the tipping point of real change in our behaviors and long-term investments into solutions, how will we be paying for it in GRC cycles to come? 

Visit the CPUC website to read the complete SCE application or to submit public comment. When you are ready to explore energy efficiency or self-generation options for your property, please contact us.

UVC. The humble workhorse of building system maintenance and a Green EconoME recommended measure, is currently in the spotlight as one of the more compelling solutions to killing the novel coronavirus. Although it has hit the mainstream as a light wand that promises to disinfect your groceries, we need to take a deeper dive into how UVC works and shine the light on its true potential: an effective and efficient strategy to mitigating the transmission of COVID-19 inside our buildings. Especially as scientific research is showing further evidence of how the coronavirus can be spread via aerosols, buildings need to have solutions to keep their occupants safe. 

What are UVC lights? How do they work?

Ultraviolet light, aka. sunshine can be divided into three sub-bands (UVA, UVB, UVC), based on wavelength. UVC radiation possesses disinfecting properties, therefore UVC lamps, or germicidal lamps are used to disinfect air, water, and nonporous surfaces. Their ability to degrade organic material is well established in both research and application (ASHRAE, Science, GSA, CDC).

UVC light works by destroying the exterior protein membrane of organic material, like breaking an egg. Doing this “deactivates”, or basically kills the pathogen. This form of radiation is proven to deactivate varied coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV which is in the same family as COVID-19. 

So, will UVC light kill the coronavirus in my buildings

Yes, when used properly. Early studies are showing promising results. As with all scientific research surrounding COVID-19, new data is emerging daily. An August 19th release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states, “UVC radiation may also be effective in inactivating [the virus] that causes the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, currently, there is limited published data about the wavelength, dose, and duration of UVC radiation required to inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” Leading data shows 254 nanometers to be the goldilocks wavelength in eliminating COVID-19 from certain materials like N-95 masks or a room, but dose and duration are still being tested. 

Yes, but is it safe?

Unfortunately, misconceptions or little understanding are still barriers to adopting UVC. It is true, having appropriate guidelines in place around mitigating the coronavirus is vital to using UVC safely. Yet, ultraviolet light has widely been used for decades, and at its core, it is safe. The two main issues are making sure your UVC system properly inactivates the virus, and of course human exposure. 254nm is dangerous to eyes and skin and direct exposure should be avoided. These types of systems should always be handled by trained professionals. Lower radiation used in wands and lamps available to the mass market may be safer to use by hand; however, consumers should be cautious about product claims and continue to use recommended cleaning measures to ensure surfaces are fully sanitized.

APPLICATION OF UVC LIGHTING IN BUILDINGS

HVAC and Air Handling Units

UVC lights have been a favored maintenance and efficiency tool in building operations for decades. When placed downstream of air filters and above drain pans on your HVAC/handling units, the UVC light disinfects cooling coils keeping it free of microbes (mold, dirt, grime), that produce odor, reduce airflow and cooling capacity. Besides the obvious benefits of cleaning the equipment and air, the effect is a better ventilated, healthier indoor environment. This leads to increased occupant comfort and reduces the spread of infection and absenteeism. Additionally, this lower-cost measure can extend the life and efficiency of your equipment. A Pacific Gas & Electric study showed that a dirty condenser coil can increase compressor energy consumption by 30%.

Infectious Disease Control

As discussed above, UVC for ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) is an effective tool in reducing the transmission of disease. Its uses are wide across many settings. In government facilities, UVC is used among other things, for bio-terror control (the stuff sci-fi movies are made of!). It is also used in hospitals and schools to supplement the control of contaminants like tuberculosis and staphylococcus. Across multiple studies, when combined with fans/ventilation, close to 90% of the bacteria irradiated were inactivated. 

The case for UVC lighting

Green EconoME is responding to the high demand of UVC systems, due to the urgency and guidelines for buildings to reopen. In addition to fighting off coronavirus, UVC lighting is a sound energy efficiency measure. It extends the life of your HVAC/AHU equipment, is chemical free and qualifies for LEED points in the energy and sustainability category. UVC lighting is known for its ease to install and maintain and has a low cost of ownership. To learn about Green EconoME’s UVC offering, contact us today.