See the Latest Facilities Energy Solutions at IFMA

September 18, 2014 by

ABM will be at the IFMA World Workplace Conference & Expo in New Orleans again this year. If you are attending the show, stop by Booth #923 to check out our latest sustainability solutions including:

Hope to see you at IFMA! For more details, visit our website.

Energy-Saving Opportunities for County Buildings

September 11, 2014 by

Energy Efficient County BuildingsResults are in! The Energy Efficient County Buildings study by the National Association of Counties (NACo) shows that counties across the country are starting to take advantage of energy saving initiatives, as well as budget-neutral improvements financed by third-parties and paid over time through the resulting energy and operational cost savings. By doing so, they are positioning themselves to make 10% to 20% energy saving gains in their buildings, with very limited investment!

However, the study — co-authored by the Institute for Building Technology and Safety — also reveals that a majority of counties lack the proper know-how or third-party organization partnership to manage their buildings more efficiently. It points out counties need to be better educated about the challenges and opportunities around energy management, and encouraged to better track, benchmark, and reduce their buildings’ energy consumption.

To gather its research data, NACo interviewed nearly 400 counties regarding their energy costs, usage, tracking habits, and improvement activities. With the data, they were able to build the County Building Database that will serve as the foundation for energy efficiency strategies for county governments. The database will help counties compare energy use against peers nationwide and recognize opportunities for improvements in county building performance.

To see the rest of the results, and find out the best performing counties in the country in terms of energy management, read the full study — Energy Efficient County Buildings. Also, if you are interested in finding out more about cost-neutral facility improvements that are funded from guaranteed energy savings, contact ABM. Our Bundled Energy Solutions do just that.

Growing Green – Using Endowments to Fuel Energy Improvements and Savings

September 2, 2014 by

Since 2005, U.S. school revenues have been steadily decreasing, while the cost of utilities has continued to soar. This has led to an increase in the number of schools deferring facility improvements and energy upgrades.

It’s ironic because by deferring energy improvements and continuing to use old and inefficient building systems and equipment, schools are actually incurring even more excess costs from wasted energy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) estimate that by improving energy efficiency, schools can save billions annually.

Green UniversitiesCapital constraints aside, colleges and universities have even more unique challenges when it comes to financing energy improvements for their campuses. If not using ever-tightening operating budgets, many must tap into endowments for funding such projects. However, endowments are from private donors and often have strict rules for disbursement.

In a recent interview in Marketplace Morning Report, Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) Founder and Executive Director Mark Orlowski dispels the myth of using endowments for energy projects and explains how colleges and universities can actually grow, rather than subtract, from their endowment money by making campuses more environmentally friendly.

He’s referring to green revolving funds (GRFs). Similar to Bundled Energy Solutions for K-12 schools, GRFs leverage endowments to provide upfront capital for energy efficiency and conservation projects and reinvest the energy costs savings back into the fund for future projects. They are “revolving” because GRFs loan or allocate money for efficiency, track the savings in utility bills, and “revolve” them back into the fund.

“There is a misperception that university endowments can’t invest in these kinds of projects because the donor money is restricted and they are not allowed to do things that are not in the best interest of, or in alignment with, the wishes of the donors to those endowment funds,” said Orlowski. “The reality is this is actually an investment, and not an expenditure from the endowment, and so rarely are there restrictions on the investment strategy so there is tremendous opportunities.”

Prestigious universities such as Harvard University have discovered the value of GRFs and have been using them successfully for years to save millions and meet their sustainability goals. To help more schools like Harvard understand this compelling financial option and take the steps to leveraging it to make energy improvements, Orlowski has launched the Billion Dollar Green Challenge as well as created an online tracking platform called the Green Revolving Investment Tracking System (GRITS).

Billion Dollar Green ChallengeThe Billion Dollar Green Challenge encourages colleges, universities, and other nonprofit institutions to invest in self-managed GRFs, with the goal of creating a combined total of one billion dollars in funding on hundreds of campuses. Participating institutions achieve reductions in operating expenses and greenhouse gas emissions, while creating regenerating funds for future projects. Started in 2011, 47 institutions have committed $92 million to date.

GRITS is a web application designed to manage every aspect of an institution’s GRF, including aggregate and project-specific financial, energy, and carbon data. It also helps track and manage projects, as well as reports on environmental benefits and financial return.

“GRITS automatically calculates your energy savings and your financial savings so you can look at your return on investment, your payback periods, also actually see real data from dozens of other institutions around the county,” said Orlowski. “We already have over 200 projects in this library and there are more being added almost every day.”

According to Orlowski, The Billion Dollar Green Challenge and GRITS are transforming energy efficiency upgrades — from perceived expenses to high-return investment opportunities — for today’s colleges and universities.

Check out the entire Marketplace interview with Mark Orlowski here.


Energy Efficiency Opportunities for Data Centers

August 20, 2014 by

Energy Efficiency for Data CentersWhen you think about data centers, you think technology and leading edge. So you might be surprised to learn that except for big names like Google and Facebook, typical data centers have yet to embrace energy efficiency practices.

Data centers provide a substantial energy drain — Between 2005 and 2010, electricity used by data centers worldwide increased by 56%, accounting for between 1.1% and 1.5% of total electricity use. In the U.S., the increase was about 36%, accounting for between 1.7% to 2.2% (Growth in Data Center Electricity Use 2005 to 2010). And, data centers are predicted to consume 15% of the world’s energy by 2020 (EPA Report 2007).

According to a recent FCW article, although data center leaders have heeded the efficiency message, other facilities have yet to implement techniques on a widespread basis.

“A lot of federal and private industry facilities have been slow to adopt the changes that some of the big players have done,” said William Tschudi, leader of the High Tech and Industrial Systems Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Tschudi’s group was recently designated the Energy Department’s Center of Expertise for energy efficiency in data centers. Part of the center’s mission is to provide tools, best practices and technologies to help federal agencies improve their energy efficiency.

The good news is, federal regulations are starting to target the issue of data center power drain. In March, the House passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, which calls for federal agencies to increase the energy efficiency of the data centers they operate. And, the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (passed in February) tasks federal CIOs with creating data center optimization plans that take energy use into account.

The Energy Department has also issued a Better Building Challenge to promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings and a Better Plants Challenge for the industrial sector. The DOE is working to launch a similar data center challenge program as well.

Industry standards are also adjusting to accommodate energy efficiency opportunities. ASHRAE, a global organization credited with establishing de facto thermal standards for data centers has raised the climate threshold. Although 68 degrees Fahrenheit was once the norm, they now recommend 80.6 degrees for enterprise servers and 89.6 for storage. Humidity recommendations now range from 60% to 80%.

Innovations for Data Center Efficiency

This shift in legislation and industry guidelines have opened up opportunities for new and exciting energy efficient methods for data centers.

Cooling is a main cause of a data center’s energy consumption. Traditionally, air conditioning systems have worked in conjunction with water-based chillers to beat the heat in computer rooms. But recent innovations have given water a more direct role in replacing or supplementing air conditioning.

Evaporative or Free Cooling involves towers that use outdoor air to cool water that circulates back into the data center to remove the heat from computing equipment. Although water is effective for energy efficient cooling, it can be a scare resource. So there are also cooling systems being created using wastewater and reclaimed water as well.

Immersion Cooling is another innovation for water challenged areas of the country. This is where processors are submerged in tanks filled with non-conducive fluid. It doesn’t need a special environment such as a raised floor and doesn’t generate the noise associated with fan-based air cooling.

Another big energy drain is networking – which takes up 10% to 20% of a data center’s energy consumption. Grants are being awarded to conduct energy research in large data center communication networks. This includes developing a new protocol that can be built into a hardware device that would adjust itself to the communications distance to minimize energy use.

Simple Steps to Take Today

Luckily, data centers don’t have to wait for these innovations, or invest a lot of money or resources to save energy and reduce downtime. There are several no- and low-cost measures that can be implemented now that have dramatic energy saving potential including:

  • Raising the computer room temperature from 68 or 69 degrees to 72 or 73 degrees can make a huge difference in energy costs
  • Organizing the network of cables under a raised floor promotes better air flow and keeps the room cooler
  • Consolidating many servers to one can reduce energy use by up to 20%
  • Using blanking panels on unused racks prevents hot air from being sucked back into the rack and keeps room temperature lower
  • Segregating hot and cold air improves efficiency and reduces downtime because hot air can be confined so it won’t create issues for equipment and cold air can be circulated with less air pressure
  • Eliminate power conversion using DC instead of AC to reduce energy intake and improve reliability

Click here to read the complete FCW article. And for more on the cost of data center inefficiency and tips for reducing downtime and saving energy, check out ABM’s Did You Know? Data Centers Infographic.

Data Center Infographic


Creative Financing Options Help Solar Industry Continue to Grow

August 14, 2014 by

According to a recent FacilitiesNet article, solar is not just a public relations move for companies anymore. The industry is growing by leaps and bounds and continuing to gain traction in many states.

Whitehouse Solar Panels

Statistics from the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) support this, showing solar represented 29% of all new energy generation installations in 2013, and Q1 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power. Even the White House is now — finally — partially powered by solar!

Part of its increasing momentum is that solar companies are becoming faster and more efficient at installations, which is lowering the overall costs. This, coupled with some creative financing programs, are making solar much more affordable and viable for facility managers.

Among the most popular financing options are Solar Roof Lease Agreements, Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), and Energy Performance Contracts. These novel approaches have facility managers taking a whole new look at solar.

Lease Agreements and PPAs both allow a facility manager to lease out their roof space to solar vendors who install, manage, and maintain a solar system. The only difference between the two is that with a PPA, the solar vendor can sell the electricity back to the facility manager at a fixed rate, often at a reduced cost than what they are currently paying, protecting the facility from the volatility of rising energy costs over the life of the agreement. The advantage of these agreements is that the facility manager receives a lease payment, has lower energy costs, and does not have the burden of bankrolling the project.

Performance Contracts allow facility managers to implement a solar system without the need for any upfront capital. The project is funded entirely from the guaranteed energy savings provided by the solar installation. Facility managers can start saving from Day 1, and other energy efficiency improvements can be made at the same time as well.

“There are soft benefits [to solar], of course, but at the end of the day, this saves money,” said Tom Kimbis, vice president of executive affairs for SEIA.

Read the complete article for more information.