Organizations Recognized for Cutting Parking Facility Energy Use

July 25, 2015 by

LEEP AwardsThe U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Alliance recently recognized 18 high-achieving U.S. businesses for leading the way to more energy-efficient outdoor lighting. As participants of its Lighting Energy Efficiency in Parking (LEEP) Campaign, the organizations honored have committed to installing high-efficiency lighting across more than 500M square feet of parking space and use a third less energy.

Among the winners are Arby’s Restaurant Group, Denver International Airport, USAA Real Estate, the University of Minnesota, and

Building owners spend more than $16B annually to light their parking lots and garages, but by improving their outdoor lighting by at least 60%, American building owners could save more than $9B annually across 215B square feet of parking facilities. The LEEP Campaign is a program offering free guidance, recognition, and support to encourage facility owners interested in implementing energy-efficient lighting solutions in their parking facilities.

“It might only take one person to change a light bulb, but it took dedicated efforts by the many thoughtful leaders of LEEP award winners to demonstrate how much can be gained through advanced, cost-effective lighting technologies in parking lots and garages,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, David Danielson. “These innovative solutions also enhance safety and improve working conditions for customers, tenants, and employees.”

Altogether, 2014 and 2015 LEEP award winners are saving nearly 30M kilowatt-hours (kWh) and $3M each year by upgrading to high efficiency exterior metal halide, fluorescent, and LED solutions that last two to five times longer than previously-used technologies, and by using controls to reduce energy use when parking facilities are not in use. Some LEEP award-winning sites have reduced their energy use by as much as 90 percent!

The LEEP Campaign is organized by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, the Green Parking Council, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), and the International Parking Institute (IPI). The Better Buildings Alliance is the campaign’s technical advisor. To date, more than 140 U.S. businesses and organizations are participating in the campaign and planning or installing energy efficient lighting in their parking lots and garages.

As a cornerstone of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Better Buildings Alliance aims to make commercial, public, industrial, and residential buildings 20% more energy efficient over the next decade. Through Better Buildings, public and private sector organizations across the country are working together to share and replicate positive gains in energy efficiency and propel change and investment in energy efficiency.

Providing Financial Solutions for the Technical and Sustainability Needs of Public Schools

July 21, 2015 by

financial solutions for schoolsEnergy has become a huge expense in K-12 schools across the U.S. They spend approximately $8B a year on utilities and energy alone. This makes it difficult for them to fund the critical building maintenance and system improvements they need to ensure an indoor learning environment that is optimal for the highest student achievement and success.

So what’s the solution? Financial solutions that help K-12 schools meet their facility needs without increasing taxpayer burden, decreasing staff, or cutting educational programs. These creative solutions reallocate current and future operating budgets and utilize energy savings, so schools no longer have to choose between upgrading facilities or educational enhancements.

One of the most successful programs that offer these solutions to help schools overcome their budget constraints and aging facilities is ABM’s Bundled Energy Solutions (BES) program. The program has helped many K-12 schools around the country fund their infrastructure maintenance and improvements through guaranteed energy savings, with zero budget impact.

Check out this eye-opening SlideShare Presentation that spotlights six K-12 schools that have successfully used the BES program to find the funding for their critical facility improvements and the benefits they received.

Top 5 Outdoor Water Saving Tips for Commercial Buildings

July 8, 2015 by

outdoor water efficiency in drought A swath of the Western states are experiencing abnormal dryness and drought conditions. California is experiencing an epic drought that has sparked mandatory water saving restrictions for the first time in the state’s history!

With water conservation top of mind these days for much of the country, building owners and operators face a unique set of challenges. On one hand, they must comply with restrictions and do their part to save water. On the other hand, a business’ facility or campus is a reflection of its brand reputation. Tenants and their customers expect to see a well-kept, well-landscaped property. This first impression is critical for business.

So it’s important to find a balance between saving water and presenting a neat, clean, well-manicured facility.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), outdoor water use in the U.S. accounts for more than 9 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation. Their experts estimate that because of inefficiencies in irrigation methods and control systems, overwatering wastes as much as half of this water!

And because more than 50% of water use takes place outdoors, this is a great place to concentrate water conservation efforts. Listed here are five creative ways to keep up facility appearances while stopping outdoor water waste, efficiently meeting water restrictions, and mitigating risk of higher water rates:

#1 – Educate and Consult

The first thing is to get educated on any of your state’s water restrictions and conservation programs so you can raise awareness among peers, employees, and tenants on the most efficient and intelligent use of water. Also, it’s critical to know your property grounds and their water requirement needs so you can properly assess and implement the appropriate water conservation solutions for your specific landscapes.

drought tolerant landscapeIf you don’t have the time or resources to fully learn about the topics and solutions, it might be best to work with a grounds maintenance consultant such as ABM Landscape & Turf. A consultant can not only give expert advice and guidance but also provide innovative ways to implement any needed changes as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, as well as take advantage of any money-saving rebate programs. As experts in landscaping services, the right partner will have the experience to assess your property and its needs and be able to customize a plan that provides maximum conservation at minimum cost with the least amount of disruption for customers and employees.

#2 – Replace Sprinklers

A simple and relatively inexpensive thing you can do is convert traditional spray-type sprinklers to jet sprinklers or a drip system in appropriate areas.

Spray irrigation has traditionally been the more common method for domestic, municipal, and commercial gardens and lawns. Conventional spray irrigation systems distribute water over a broad area by means of fixed or moving rotor or mist head sprinkler devices. However, the sprinklers are not very targeted and end up watering everything in the area – including sidewalks and streets. They can also overlap and are subject to evaporation, wind, and runoff. This wastes a lot of water — as much as 50% of the water used for irrigation!

Drip systems are a much more efficient method of irrigating landscapes with plants and shrubs. Water is delivered slowly and directly to the roots of the plants via a hose that is basically full of little holes. Because drip irrigation systems deliver moisture directly to the roots of plants, there is much less water lost to evaporation and wind drift than with traditional spray irrigation systems, and there is no risk of accidentally watering walkways, paths, and roads. Also, when water is delivered slowly and steadily to the plants, there is less tendency to over water and less waste from runoff.

Jet sprayers are an efficient solution for a drip irrigation system when a higher volume of water is required but a standard spray body sprinkler head will be too much for the location. Jet sprayers offer a more controlled spray pattern than conventional spray-type sprinklers so they use less water.

Depending on the size of the landscape, converting traditional sprinklers to either Jet Spray or Micro Spray can reduce water usage between 30% and 60%.

#3 – Get Smart Controllers

Another thing is to smarten up conventional automated watering systems with smart irrigation controllers.

The most common method used to schedule landscape irrigation is manually programmed clock timers. These systems can be a significant source of wasted water because they are not automated and rely on human interaction. Often, schedules are set once and then are never changed. So a lot of times the landscape is being watered in the winter as if it were the middle of summer. Clock timers also have no ability to monitor and understand the current weather conditions — how many times have you seen sprinklers in operation while it is raining or conditions were very moist?

Weather-based, “smart” irrigation controllers have built-in sensors that monitor the local weather and landscape conditions in real time and automatically adjust the irrigation amount, frequency, and timing accordingly. This creates a dynamic watering schedule based on current situations, peak demands, and seasonal change — there is no human intervention necessary so there are fewer errors and waste. The sensors also provide quick response in shutting down your irrigation system during raining or freezing conditions.

By applying water only when and where it is needed, you can significantly decrease overwatering and reduce water use and costs while maintaining a healthy, well-kept landscape. Depending on the weather and landscape, smart controllers have the potential to reduce water consumption up to 70%.

#4 – Leverage Advanced Monitoring Technology

If you already have an existing weather-based controlled irrigation system, you can add more innovative resource management tools and technology that optimize water monitoring, control, and efficiency. Components that can be added include:

Flow Sensors

All irrigation systems are vulnerable to system leaks and catastrophic mainline breaks. These system failures can result in massive amounts of water waste as well as expensive water bills and plant loss. Flow sensors measure the amount of water flowing through an irrigation system and are popular and affordable devices that can be installed to detect and automatically shut down the irrigation system when breaks, malfunctions, or vandalism occur.

Traditional flow sensors are wired. There are also new wireless flow sensors that provide real-time water use visibility and leak alerts and allow you to instantly shut down a system right from your smart phone or device. Not only does this reduce water loss, it also eliminates rush repair fees and minimizes landscape damage.

Wi-Fi and Software

Advances in wireless technology and mobile software solutions are taking weather-based

controllers and flow sensors to the next level. This technology now allows you to communicate in real-time with any sensor, anywhere, anytime — all from a smart phone or device. The amount of data that can be captured, analyzed, and available for viewing is amazing — including gallons used, averages, comparisons, savings, and much more. Access to this multitude of up-to-the minute data helps to:

  • More accurately manage water resources and optimize savings
  • Quickly identify trends and anticipate potential issues
  • Make more informed business decisions

#5 – Embrace Drought Tolerant Landscape

Of course the most efficient thing you can do is transition from a traditional turf and shrub grounds to a drought tolerant landscape. This is a long-term solution that can carry a heavier upfront financial burden; but over the lifetime of the facility will provide the most water-saving benefits — up to 50% less water used and much lower water and energy bills.

A drought tolerant landscape consists of plants that require very little or no water, rocks, granite pathways and courtyards, large boulders, artificial turf, mulch, and more. Not only does this type of landscape reduce water usage, it also requires minimal maintenance. And while not traditional, the right drought tolerant landscape can provide color and texture and offer a beautiful grounds presentation.

Luckily, drought tolerant plants are not limited to cacti and succulents. There are thousands of species of flowers, shrubs, vines, and ground covers that have low-water needs and could save more than 50% of the water used in a more traditional landscape. Also, using native plants that grow naturally in your climate need only about half as much water as non-native species.

Mulch is very important to a drought tolerant landscape. Using mulch and compost improves soil quality, reduces evaporation, and encourages water absorption. Some states are providing incentives and rebates to encourage businesses to go to a drought tolerant landscape.

Also, landscape companies such as ABM Landscape & Turf are providing innovative low- and no-cost financial options that provide guaranteed water and energy savings and allow you to fund the entire project with the future savings. There is minimal capital required upfront and there is zero impact to the existing operating budget. Click here for more details.

Have a Red, White, & Green Fourth!

June 30, 2015 by

Energy Tips for July 4thIt’s July 4th holiday and the summer is really starting to heat up – literally! Are you ready to declare your independence from the heat of high energy bills?

If so, here are some tips from ENERGY STAR specifically for building managers to improve operational efficiency and environmental performance, save money, and reduce energy waste all year long. Have a wonderful and safe Independence Day holiday everyone!

Hot Tips for Building Managers:

Give Your Building a Tune-Up

Regularly examine building equipment, systems, and maintenance procedures to make sure your building is operating as efficiently as possible. Tune up heating equipment; inspect ducts and windows and seal any leaks; calibrate thermostats and set them at appropriate temperatures; insulate hot water tanks and piping throughout the building; inspect and clean/change air filters.

Improve Lighting Systems

Lighting consumes 25% to 30% of energy in commercial buildings. Improving lighting systems can reduce electricity consumption and improve the comfort of occupants in the building. Compare the lighting schedule with building uses to look for opportunities to turn lights off; replace incandescent bulbs for task lighting with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent bulbs; use automatic controls to turn lights off or dim lights in naturally lit spaces.

Take a Look Inside and Out

Reducing the amount of energy used by inefficient office equipment and other products can save energy and money. Purchase ENERGY STAR qualified office equipment whenever possible. Don’t waste conditioned air — install window films and add insulation or a reflective roof coating to save energy.

Upgrade Fan Systems

Air-handling systems move air throughout a building and therefore directly affect the comfort of building occupants. Fan systems can be upgraded and adjusted to optimize the delivery of air in the most energy-efficient way. Properly sized fan systems add variable speed drives, and convert to a variable-air-volume system

Raise the Bar for Heating and Cooling Systems

Heating and cooling systems are large consumers of energy in buildings and offer great opportunities for saving energy and increasing the comfort of building occupants. Once you’ve followed the steps above and reduced the building’s cooling loads, retrofit or install energy-efficient models and upgrade boilers and other central plant systems to energy-efficient standards.

Is Indoor Environment Quality in Schools Being Ignored?

June 20, 2015 by

Poor IEQToday’s students spend an average of six hours a day, five days a week, 40 or so weeks a year, for a minimum of 12 years in classrooms. And according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research, their indoor environment quality (IEQ) can play a major role in their health and academic performance.

Key environmental factors such as heating and cooling, ventilation, cleaning processes and products, and other maintenance issues have been proven to trigger a host of health problems that increase absenteeism and reduce academic performance. For example:

  • Children in classrooms with higher outdoor air ventilation rates tend to achieve higher scores on standardized tests in math and reading than children in poorly ventilated classrooms
  • The presence of dampness and mold increase the risk of asthma and related adverse respiratory health effects in homes by 30-50%
  • Evidence shows modest changes in room temperature affect student ability to perform mental tasks requiring concentration
  • Schools without maintenance backlogs have a higher average daily attendance (ADA) by average of 4 to 5 students per 1,000 and lower annual dropout rate by 10 to 13 students per 1,000

Despite these findings, a recent article in Sourceable is suggesting that critical IEQ problems in schools are being overlooked. According to the article, while IEQ in commercial office buildings tends to get most of the press today, poor performing IEQ has the biggest implications in schools.

ASHRAE 62 recommends a maximum 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 for indoor environments. However, recently measured levels in some schools are far exceeding this number.

“There have been a number of schools where we have measured carbon dioxide levels (as a proxy for ventilation effectiveness) at approximately 3,000 ppm. These have generally been occupied classrooms, often in winter, where the classrooms are closed off and clearly not adequately ventilated,” sites Jack Noonan, senior consultant at technical risk management consultancy CETEC

Another study in 2002 of 120 classrooms in Texas found that 88% of classrooms exceeded 1,000 ppm and 21% exceeded 3,000 ppm.

This is very alarming because a 2012 report — Is CO2 an indoor pollutant? Direct effects of low-to-moderate CO2 concentrations on human decision-making performance — found:

  • Levels of 1,000 ppm to 2,500 ppm significantly decrease performance, and in some cases task performance was classified as “dysfunctional,” at levels of 2,500 ppm
  • The impact of 2,500 ppm of carbon dioxide is roughly equivalent to a 0.08 alcohol concentration — the same as the limit for driving in the U.S.

And, data compiled from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, OSHA, NIOSH, and ACGIH found that even 1,000 ppm levels increase the number of headache, fatigue, and eye and throat irritation complaints. It also notes that levels between 2,000 ppm and 5,000 ppm and stagnant, stuffy air are associated with widespread headaches, sleepiness, poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate, and slight nausea.

Poor ventilation also attracts other indoor air contaminants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde. VOCs are found in a range of building and maintenance products used in classrooms. The toxicity of VOCs vary — some are just irritants while others are known to cause cancer. Studies have also shown that in addition to significant health effects, there are cognitive declines associated with exposures to VOCs.

This critical issue is also linked to the spread of viral and bacterial infections, with mold being a big contributing factor. Mold increases the prevalence of chronic health conditions such as asthma, allergies, and other sensitivities. In fact, asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism in U.S. school children.

According the article, this is a worldwide problem and references a 2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO). Their study found poor indoor school environments to be a particular problem in many countries in the WHO European region, with issues including stuffy air, dampness and mold, uncomfortable temperatures, and poorly functioning toilets.

“Our analysis shows substantial environmental problems in schools, which are largely overlooked. We hope that decision-makers take stock of the evidence and make sure that existing norms and regulations are implemented,” said Dr Marco Martuzzi, program manager, Environmental Health Intelligence and Forecasting at WHO/Europe.

It’s crucial that we put a stronger focus on IEQ improvements and maintenance in schools for the health, safety, and development of our children. However, we know most schools in the U.S. — and everywhere — struggle to obtain funding for these types of facility projects and often have to postpone upgrades due to decreased revenues.

Luckily, there are building maintenance providers who specialize in helping schools make the critical infrastructure improvements and technical system upgrades they need to better manage IEQ. Through creative financing options and retrofit packages, specialists such as ABM Building and Energy Solutions allow schools to fund these projects through future guaranteed energy savings and often times general fund relief. There is no upfront capital required, and no impact on the existing education budget.

For more details on this subject, read the complete Sourceable article. For more information on ABM’s innovative solutions for schools and the benefits these schools have received, click here.