Mystery Meters

As standard practice, our office conducts a post-occupancy evaluation (POE) for building design projects after a facility has been occupied for a year. We first collect the previous 12 months of utility bills for electricity, natural gas, and water. The purpose of the POE is to determine the energy-use intensity of the building as expressed in thousands of British thermal units per square foot. The utility cost per square foot also is calculated. In this manner, building energy performance is communicated to the owner.

I stopped by a facility to pick up its utility bills — a 1-in.-thick stack of paper. This project had been completed in four phases over six years.

While sifting through the bills, I noticed 10 separate water bills. I went back to the facility and met with the maintenance director. We walked the site and located only six water meters: two sets of domestic, fire, and irrigation water meters. We could not find the other four water meters.

Through a review of owner records, it was determined that the original building (since demolished) had four water meters: two for domestic water and two for irrigation. All four of those meters had been removed from the site by the water utility as directed by the owner.

As indicated by the billing data, each of those four water meters indicated a normal usage pattern. The four meters still were in service somewhere, but not on this site. The bills for the four mystery meters totaled about $20,000 per year. The owner had paid this amount during the previous two years, totaling about $40,000. The owner wasted no time in contacting the water utility to eliminate the billing for the four mystery meters and acquire a refund.

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