By Matt Menard, Market Manager - Air Conditioning
Building owners view their HVAC system as a necessary evil. Tenants / patients / guests don’t want to hear it or see it, and the system better keep everyone in that building comfortable (an impossible task). Hot/cold complaints rank #1 on calls into the facilities maintenance department. The HVAC system is the largest utility consumer in a building, mainly due to inefficient motors and compressors. In the eyes of a building owner, the HVAC system should be hidden, silent, efficient and fail-proof. When the time comes for the HVAC system to be replaced or retrofit, there are many opportunities to improve the system.
These improvements can bring ‘value’ to the building owner in the following ways:
1. Energy Savings: In an average commercial office building, the HVAC system is the largest consumer of electricity, accounting for 40% of the electric bill on an annual basis. Designing and installing an HVAC system that utilizes energy efficient equipment is one of the most logical and effective ways to slash operating costs in a commercial building. For the past 20+ years, most HVAC manufacturers have put energy efficiency near the top of the R&D priority list developing and utilizing technologies that provide significant improvements in efficiency. EC technology from ebm-papst is the perfect fit for OEM’s as they strive for higher efficiency, replacing inefficient motors with the most efficient motor technology and integrated speed-control. Many retrofit projects result in energy reduction by 25%, with some extreme cases exceeding 40%. When combined with government and utility sponsored low-cost financing and rebates for installing efficient systems, building owners will be presented with compelling ROI’s for choosing high-efficiency systems.
2. Improved Performance: The hospital of 30 years ago had 1 patient per room and very little technological equipment outside of an X-Ray machine. Today’s hospitals have double the beds, hundreds of computers for the staff, and high-tech tools including CAT & PET scanners and robotic surgical machinery. All of these changes have one thing in common: they produce enormous amounts of heat. A 30 year-old HVAC system in a hospital is likely to be undersized and strained, which won’t provide the best environment for the hospital. When a retrofit is performed on the HVAC system, the increased need for cooling capacity and changes to the air distribution system need to be taken into account to create a comfortable and safe environment for all staff and patients The UConn Health Center Bioscience Connecticut facility is being replaced due to inefficient and inadequate mechanical facilities in the existing buildings.
3. Better System Control: Even the best and most efficient HVAC systems will operate poorly and inefficiently if not controlled properly. The ability to control different ‘zones’ within a building allows for the HVAC system to constantly adjust airflow and temperature based on the needs of that zone at any given time. With EC technology from ebm-papst, fan speed can be modulated to provide accurate control and energy savings. For example, at noon an office cafeteria requires high-volume conditioned air to serve the lunch crowd. At 2:00, all of those people have vacated the cafeteria and are back to their desks, so little airflow is required. Decreasing fan speed for that zone reduces airflow and the refrigeration system can operate at a lower capacity, both saving energy. A properly designed and installed automated controls system allows for adjustments to be made in all zones based on time of day, day of the week, current weather, occupancy, etc. These adjustments and decisions are done automatically and consistently by the computer-based system without the need for human input, keeping all building occupants comfortable at all times in all areas of the building. In addition to improved comfort, the building automation system can help save enormous amounts of energy as the HVAC system will supply only what is required in specific zones, as opposed to full-blast in all zones at all times.
4. Increase in Asset Value: In the commercial real estate market, a building owner’s business is the building. The value of this building can be measured in two ways: revenue generated by the building, and asset value of the building. Improving any part of the building, including retrofitting the HVAC system with a modern efficient design, increases the value of that asset immediately. In other words, if the building were sold, a premium would be paid for the building with the modern HVAC system than that of the antiquated, inefficient system. In another case where the building owner retains the property, a modern HVAC system can help with revenue as a premium lease rate can be negotiated due to the efficiency and comfort provided to the tenant.
5. Being Green: Efficient buildings and “Being Green” can bring value to a building owner that cannot be immediately measured in dollars and cents. “Green” and “Sustainability” are very common marketing campaigns being utilized by companies to promote their global citizenship. Possibly included in these campaigns is the commitment to own/lease buildings that meet certain Green/Energy guidelines. Building owners can take advantage of this market segment with the choices they make in creating energy efficient buildings, and many times charge a premium to clients.
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