Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 World Energy Engineering Congress (WEEC)—touted by presenter the Association of Energy Engineers as “the most important energy event of national and international scope for end users and energy professionals in all areas of the energy field”—in Orlando, Fla. The event featured a number of well-known speakers, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who spoke on national security and energy policy. Also, it presented a varied and extensive conference agenda with multiple tracks. Of particular interest to me, because my firm does both energy audits and commissioning, were the Energy Services and Green & High Performance Buildings tracks, which included sessions on commissioning (Cx), benchmarking, and energy auditing.
Two of the Cx sessions I attended focused on existing-building Cx (EBCx). One, “Existing Building Commissioning in Mission Critical Buildings,” I found particularly noteworthy. A case study presented by Saverio Grosso, vice president, Eneractive Solutions, it described Eneractive’s EBCx efforts at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Sidney Kimmel Center for Prostate and Urologic Cancers. A state-of-the-art treatment center focused on genitourinary cancers, the Kimmel Center certainly meets any definition of a mission-critical building. And as with any energy-related project in a mission-critical facility, the mission—in this case, the comfort and safety of patients—always is the highest priority, with any reduction in energy consumption being contingent on not adversely impacting that mission. Grosso also discussed the challenge of balancing the differing—and often conflicting—HVAC requirements of the various space types in a health-care facility (e.g., operating and examination rooms, offices, and waiting areas).
One of the questions the presentation answered concerned the fundamental difference between EBCx and a comprehensive energy audit. The explanation was that, as with any retrocommissioning, there has to be design and installation reviews and functional-performance checks/tests. There are, of course, many similarities between the EBCx and energy-audit processes. If a significant return on investment is to be obtained, the implementation of no-cost/low-cost energy-conservation measures—identified through an energy audit—is critical to the project’s success. Readers familiar with the Cx process described by ASHRAE for new construction will see many similarities between that process and the EBCx process used at the Kimmel Center. For example, Current Facility Requirements vs. Owner’s Project Requirements had to be defined and agreed upon. Other major milestones were energy analysis and benchmarking, trending and data logging, design and installation reviews, functional checks, performance tests, reporting and issue resolution, and one that really resonated with me: a persistence strategy stipulated during the first project meeting.
The other EBCx presentation I found interesting was a case study on automated ongoing Cx. The presenter made a strong case for using building management systems (BMS) for continuous Cx. Regardless of whether it’s an older building being retrofitted, which may require the addition of an entire BMS, or new construction designed with a BMS that may need only a few more data points, continuous Cx clearly will pay for itself in both efficiency gains and reduced maintenance and occupant complaints.