Put your meter where your mouth is

Proponents, advocates, designers, and owners of green or sustainable buildings describe building sizes, construction costs, and how beneficial they are—especially from an energy or emissions perspective.


Proponents, advocates, designers, and owners of green or sustainable buildings describe building sizes, construction costs, and how beneficial they are—especially from an energy or emissions perspective. Trade publications and the popular press abound with such accounts in articles and press releases. Largely absent from pronouncements and publications are factual, measured data to support these claims, even when these data are or can become readily available from meters, submeters, energy management systems, and data loggers.

Frequently, these claims tout how green buildings are some percentage lower or better than the prevailing building code or ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1. Yet those claims often are based on models generated during the design phase, not meters, even though the building is occupied. How can readers compare green-building claims with their own buildings or with national statistics, such as the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)?

With green design implicitly or explicitly becoming common or code, this is more than a rhetorical question. The buildings' community is owed more performance data than what they're seeing. More specifically, designers and owners need to document and report their performances before we further ensconce green design principles and methodologies explicitly or implicitly in building codes and standards.

Consider, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program for buildings, whereby if a building's metered energy consumption, verified by a professional engineer, is in the lowest quartile of energy consumption (based on CBECS data), it earns an Energy Star label. Thus, buildings 50 and 100 years old earn an Energy Star label without doing anything, What, then, can an engineer learn after reading a case study about an Energy Star building that does not report its actual energy consumption?

Green and sustainable rating systems, such as the USGBC LEED program, claim their certified buildings are “more energy efficient” than conventional buildings. A recent report published by the New Buildings Institute found that, on average, 121 sampled LEED NC buildings with a minimum of 12 months of metered data are about 25% more energy efficient than CBECS buildings. That same study found that less than half of the sampled LEED NC buildings would not have earned an Energy Star rating, and that a quarter of them used more energy than the average existing U.S. building. The report states, “Further investigation of the reasons for these shortfalls holds potential for significant further improvements of overall LEED performance.” Such investigations would benefit from more published data.

Here's what would help: In green building case studies, include the actual metered energy consumption data for 12 consecutive months, along with those features and uses of the building that are unusual, such as hours of operation or energy-intensive functions. A simple table of the factual metered data, along with the size in square feet should suffice. It should be assumed that the data includes all of the energy used, including HVAC and hot water, whether purchased from utilities, or generated on-site. If all or part of the energy is not metered or measured, that should be stated, with reasons for the omission. Recognizing that data from the first year may not always be representative; metered data from the second to fifth years are preferred.

Author Information

Spielvogel is a consulting engineer in King of Prussia, Pa. An ASHRAE Fellow, Spielvogel's practice includes evaluating the metered energy performance of buildings nationally. He also is an expert witness in disputes on these issues and he lectures to industry construction groups.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.