The retro-commissioning tune-up industry, which currently totals about $200 million, could become a $4-billion annual market with an energy-savings potential of roughly $30 billion, PCD Engineering President Peter D'Antonio told attendees of the EcoBuild America conference earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
D'Antonio estimated that with building tune-ups costing about $0.30 per square foot and benefits totaling an estimated $0.27 per square foot, there is an expected payback period of 1.1 years. "That's a pretty stellar return on investment."
D'Antonio outlined several benefits associated with commissioning, including the following: reduced operational cost; reduced greenhouse-gas emissions; improved comfort; mitigated problems with indoor air quality; increased operations-and-maintenance staff knowledge; decreased labor costs via increased productivity; increased asset value; and utility incentives. However, D'Antonio explained that there are several barriers to market expansion:
- Lack of owner awareness of what retrocommissioning is, what the need for it is, and what the value of it is.
- Insufficient provider consistency of service.
- Varied and competing certification programs.
- Lack of mandates (i.e., codes, policy, etc.).
- Cost (lack of available funds to pay for it).
D'Antonio emphasized that there are several opportunities for savings through identifying and fixing such problems as duct leakage; heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) being left on when spaces are unoccupied; dampers not working properly; insufficient evaporator airflow; and software programming errors. Other problems can involve valve leakage, air-cooled condenser fouling, improper refrigerant charge, and lights being left on when spaces are not occupied.
When selecting tune-up providers, D'Antonio stressed the importance of finding a provider who is considered objective, has direct and relevant experience, possesses communication/conflict-resolution skills, has adequate organizational skills, and has a forensic personality.
Buildings that are prime candidates for cost-effective tune-ups include those that exceed 50,000 square feet, have unjustified high energy use, have energy systems that fail frequently, yield excessive occupant-comfort complaints, has a building staff that knows the problems but lacks the time to fix them, among other problems.
Additional coverage EcoBuild America is available to Green Building Insider subscribers at www.greenbuildinginsider.com.