It happens in baseball all of the time. Your favorite team is leading by a run; it’s late in the game and the manager makes the call to the bullpen. The crowd goes wild as the stadium sound system is cranked up and the closer runs out to the mound. The inning begins; he gets behind the first hitter and ends up walking him. The pressure builds, fans get nervous, and a wild pitch gets past the catcher; the runner advances to second. Poor control forces the pitcher to slow down his fastball a bit to throw a strike; he leaves the ball up in the zone and the hitter drives it out the park. In the box score tomorrow, (BS, L) Blown Save, Loss will appear next to his name. Just like in baseball, a building without proper control will lead to blown savings.
Of the many reasons to pursue LEED certification, optimum energy efficiency is often the primary goal of the building owner and will also have one of the greatest financial impacts over the life of your building. Functional performance testing ensures that all control systems are operating as described in the designed control sequences and that the equipment has been installed according to plans and specifications. Unlike major league pitchers, once control has been established in a building system, it can be relied upon to operate flawlessly.
Functional performance testing is the primary deliverable for LEED Fundamental Commissioning, Energy and Atmosphere Prerequisite #1. During functional performance testing, the building’s control system is manually manipulated to create a series of operating conditions which mimic actual conditions the building will experience throughout the year. While these tests are performed, the response of the control system is closely monitored and optimized for maximum performance.
Converting the Savings
Let’s say there are three components that contribute to the efficiency of a building’s HVAC system; equipment efficiency, system design and control strategy. Each component has a percentage of savings when compared to the baseline and each component adds to the potential amount of energy that can be saved. The effectiveness of the controls is represented as a negative percentage, or penalty.
In the ideal building, the most efficient equipment was used, the system was well designed and improved control strategies were implemented, resulting in outstanding savings potential. The standard building configuration uses slightly better than average equipment, design, and control strategies. The first two buildings have properly functioning controls and the last two have significant problems. Note that the negative actual savings is not a typo and can easily occur with a poorly controlled system.
Don’t Walk in the Winning Run
Potential won’t take you anywhere. A building, just like a pitcher, can have all the tools to be great. It doesn’t matter if you have the best HVAC equipment in the world or a 100 MPH fastball. If you can’t control it properly, losses will be inevitable. If you can harness that potential with proper control, you’ll win every day of the week.