The key to maintenance management is learning how to keep costs down. However, facility managers shouldn't take this as a justification to drop the thermostat to a frosty 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and skip on that extra bag of rock salt. Spending money to save it may be a bitter pill to swallow, but sometimes the right investment will pay off in the long-run.
FacilitiesNet recently illustrated this point by looking at an analysis from Environmental Systems Design, Inc. of the HVAC at Chicago's Chase Tower. According to the report, the high-rise building actually saved more money paying for a new heat recovery system than with free cooling. The case study is a perfect lesson that savings are almost always going to be cooler than free.
ESD began analyzing the chiller plant located on the third floor of the building in January of 2011, in hopes of finding ways to optimize the energy efficiency required to heat and cool the Chase Tower. The ESD reported that the existing chilling systems had served the Chase Tower for the past 40 years with service but not any refurbishment. However, in 2003, the Chase began a series of maintenance upgrades to increase energy savings. These renovations included variable volume air systems and the installment of heat recovery chillers.
While it seemed that a waterside economizer - free cooling for equipment, in effect - first appeared more cost-effective, ESD found that a new, well-planned heat recovery system working alongside modular chillers would greatly improve facility efficiency. According to FacilitiesNet, that's because a building with a waterside economizer would require a boiler to produce heat for its lobby. While efficient temperature controls may be achieved this way via free cooling, decoupled heat and a boiler, ESD noted that greater savings could be achieved so long as building managers took advantage of heat already produced elsewhere in the building.
The Chase Tower is a fully electric building, FacilitiesNet noted, complete with a centralized in-house data center. That means that the tower could recover heat produced by the data center via a recovery system working simultaneously with those modular chillers. In short, the Chase Tower now has the ability to relocate its heat where most needed while still generating the necessary cold water for equipment, thereby eliminating redundancy and wasted energy,
The savings game
While the cost of installing two 1,500-ton heat recovery chillers is most likely not cheap, ESD reported that the building was already seeing substantial energy savings, and that the system would likely serve the building well for another 40 years.
This kind of investment is just one example of the many ways in which facility managers can improve the efficiency of their buildings. The list of potential projects for a facility is seemingly endless. In the realm of heating and cooling alone, there are numerous steps that can be taken in the name of efficiency. According to the Small Business Administration, this may include improving insulation, installing energy-efficient windows, reducing or increasing solar gain, upgrading ventilation systems and installing programmable thermostats. That's to say nothing of lighting systems, roof repairs and technology equipment replacement.
Few facility managers have the budget to tackle all of these projects, and prioritization is key to knowing where to start. There's no better investment for this task than MaintenanceEdge, which can help facility managers track maintenance issues, and UtilityTrac can measure energy savings. Once they have a better handle on where their building is inefficient or failing, they can start to pick and choose which projects will result in the best improvements.