Between the Omnibus Act and the Net Zero effort, Washington DC is taking a leadership role in energy performance and regulation. A few of the changes in energy performance for existing buildings requirements that are causing building owners, operators, and managers to take notice:

The message is coming through loud and clear – existing buildings need to optimize energy performance now.

existing buildings

If you own or operate an existing building in the Washington, DC market, Retro-commissioning and energy audits are your new best friend – and the smartest first steps toward rising to the energy performance challenge.

A commissioned building is one deemed ready for service. When a new building is initially commissioned it undergoes an intensive quality assurance process that begins during design and continues through construction, occupancy, and operations. Commissioning ensures that the new building operates as the owner intended and that building staff is prepared to operate and maintain its systems and equipment.

Retro-commissioning applies the commissioning process to existing buildings. Retro-commissioning involves a systemic evaluation of opportunities to improve energy-using systems and seeks to improve how building equipment and systems function together. Depending on the age of the building, retro-commissioning can resolve problems that occurred during design or construction, or address problems that have developed throughout the building’s life.

Retro-commissioning can identify and fix issues such as:

  • Equipment or lighting that is on when it may not need to be
  • Systems that simultaneously heat and cool
  • Dampers and valves that are not functioning properly
  • Thermostats and sensors that are out of calibration
  • Air balancing systems that are less than optimal
  • Economizers that are not working as designed
  • Controls sequences that are functioning incorrectly
  • Variable-frequency drives that operate at unnecessarily high speeds or that operate at a constant speed even though the load being served is variable

Many of these small operations and control improvements cost little or nothing to implement, yet some can have big effects.  For example, sensor calibration not only improves current operations but also increases the effectiveness of diagnostic monitoring and testing.

Over the life of a building, the buildings purpose, occupants, and demands might change. These changes have implications for the demands on the mechanical, electrical and control systems. These changes may also hinder performance. Whether the buildings BAS is highly interactive and modern or a collection of patched together systems established over time, there can be a trickle-down effect on building operations where small issues cause big performance problems.

Even without all of the regulatory pressure in the DC area, the retro-commissioning process may be worth repeating more often than current practice dictates, given its low-cost and high energy savings potential.

Building owners see reduced operating costs from energy savings and better equipment performance, leading to an increase in net operating income. Building occupants are more comfortable because the adjustments lead to more consistent temperature control and better indoor air quality. Building managers have to manage fewer occupant complaints and are better able to manage building systems.

If you operate or manage a building in the DC area, and you haven’t retro-commissioned the building in the past 3 years, there’s an excellent chance that you are expending energy unnecessarily.

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