Don’t Just Pay for Points
A knowledgeable professional creating a LEED® energy model is not inexpensive. And, usually, LEED requires an energy model to identify energy savings as a prerequisite of certification.
But many building owners never use the energy model to their full benefit, essentially throwing dollar bills at LEED certification. It’s important to recognize that an energy model can be a hole in your pocket, or you can make it work for you while designing systems with reduced energy bills and possibly even lower first costs.
Weigh Options for Various Energy Measures
When it comes to energy efficiency, most people think of layers of insulation or nice windows. But are these choices the most cost effective for reducing your energy consumption? They are almost certainly not, and energy modeling can prove it. Rather than blindly paying a few thousand dollars extra for additional insulation with minimal benefit, why not explore other options?
An energy model can tell you how much that insulation will save you compared to another option like an energy recovery ventilator (ERV). At the same time, it can give you an estimate for your system sizing requirements. The energy model might tell you an ERV can help you size down your air handling unit and boiler to smaller and less expensive units, and, after some quick cost estimating, may show it almost pays for the addition of the ERV. Everyone likes free stuff, and that’s not to mention the lower energy bills or the increased points you’ll gain for LEED certification!
Look at Various Controls Strategies
Most people don’t like to make serious choices on uncertain terms. An experienced designer or commissioning agent can look at sequence of operations choices and know instinctively how they will affect energy consumption, but only an energy modeler can put it in terms of dollars.
On a recent project, the design team discussed concerns about how a various controls strategy would affect the building’s operation. The owner’s usual choice was to use a hot water controls strategy known as standby, where the boiler and hot water stay hot continuously in case any space needs heating. However, this requires extra energy, and often the heat from the pipes causes a need for cooling. In this case, the energy model told the owner that the energy they were wasting was significant. The alternate controls strategy called demand, where hot water is only turned on when a space needs it, wouldn’t cause a problem keeping spaces warm, but would save heating and cooling energy. The energy model allowed them to “try before they buy” because they didn’t need to test an unknown in an operational facility.
It’s Your Money, Use it or Lose it.
LEED asks teams to create an energy model, not because they want to see owners open their pocketbook, but because energy modeling is useful in the building design process. It can pay for itself within an astonishingly short period of time in the right situations. Don’t resent the LEED process for making you create an energy model. If you use it like they intended, you will be thankful.