30 Mar

Beyond Saving Energy + Water: Other Ways My Colleagues Better Our World

Jordana Viuker politics, Social 0 Comments

Bright Power’s mission is to “improve the comfort, health, and productivity of buildings and their occupants while eliminating their negative impacts on the planet.” It’s a mission that we take seriously and one that draws a lot of smart people who are trying to do right by the planet. But many Bright Ones (our affectionate pet name) not only bring value to our clients and their building portfolios, but also regularly do extra to make the world better.

Since I’m proud of Bright Power and the individuals that comprise our company, indulge me while I brag about my special coworkers.

CHARITABLE GIVING

Karl Haviland, a Senior Software Developer at Bright Power, is involved in Soccer for Charities, an organization started by Karl’s friend Zach Puga to raise awareness and funds for lesser-known nonprofit organizations through the love of soccer. Karl has helped organize and run the event for the past three years. In 2016, Soccer for Charities raised enough money to support two elementary school teachers in Cameroon and provide the class with uniforms through the Benekin Foundation. In past years, Soccer for Charities raised several thousand dollars for Crohn’s Disease and Colitis as well as the Hydrocephalus Association. Bright Power entered a team each of the past three years. In 2016, roughly twenty different Bright Ones participated together with friends and relatives.

In December 2016, Bright Power’s Energy Analysis Team organized the New York office’s participation in the New York Cares’ coat drive for the third year. In total, Bright Power employees donated thirty-eight coats this season.

REDUCING WASTE

In February 2017, Bright Power participated in the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)’s project to estimate the amount and types of food wasted in New York City. As the NRDC’s research proposal explained, “Assessing the amount of food that is wasted – and could potentially have been eaten – along with identifying some of the root causes of why food is wasted is a critical step in helping identify strategies to reduce food waste.” Bright Power participated in this food waste audit to promote research into this sustainability-minded pursuit.

Unrelated to the NRDC study, Bright Power began composting appropriate food waste in 2016. Our New York office currently has four compost bins. Crystal Sun and Stephen Walsh, two members of our Energy Analysis team, deliver roughly 20-30 lbs of our compost per week to GrowNYC’s Food Scrap Composting program via the Bowling Green Tuesday Greenmarket.

In Summer 2016, Bright Power received notice from the NY Department of Sanitation that the recycling laws for businesses were changing. While we always had recycling bins prior, the laws drew our attention to the need to be more diligent. As a sustainability company, we were eager to comply. Once we started paying more attention to our recycling process, however, we noticed that the building maintenance staff would combine our recyclables into their general trash. Mike Battle, Bright Power’s Office Coordinator, tirelessly coordinated efforts between building staff and management to comply with the new laws. Unfortunately, no change resulted. Taking matters into his own hands, Mike researched recycling vendors. This led Bright Power to contract an environmentally-friendly office cleaning company, Managed by Q, which partners with a separate recycling company to pick up all of Bright Power’s recyclables twice a week.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

There’s no doubt the reason Bright Power is a special company is its leadership. Jeff Perlman is a unique and visionary President. When Trump’s travel ban was signed, Jeff published his public reaction here. He also sent an email to our entire company that moved me to tears and made me very proud to work at Bright Power. To show you the personal and caring way Bright Power’s leadership approached the issue to us as individuals, I’ve included just the end of Jeff’s email here:

“Please know that I am going to do everything I can to provide all of you with a safe place to work, and have instructed the Ops team to do so as well. If anyone wants to talk to me or Katie about this, our doors are open. Our immigration attorneys are also available to connect with if/when you need. Another resource available to you is the free Confidential Employee Assistance Program which may be of help during this uneasy time.

And please support each other and your friends, families and neighbors. If you want to use the office for any meetings to help fight this, you are welcome to do so. We are stronger together.”

RESEARCH

Separate from Bright Power functioning as a for-profit business, we are committed to being an industry partner within the building sustainability space. As such, we have supported Enterprise Community Partners and the National Center for Healthy Homes (NCHH) in a long-term health study on the impacts of green buildings. Bright Power has also contributed to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s efforts by providing resident engagement data and analysis. Additionally, we made our Local Law 87 (LL87) cleaning code open source to help align research efforts within the industry and make the data easier to understand and compare. Sarah Newman, a Bright Power Research Analyst, recently published a blog to share her stimulating analysis of the Local Law 84 (LL84) public data available.

 

I’m honored to be part of a team so fully committed to reducing our clients’ energy use, water consumption, and utility costs. But it warms my heart all that much more to do so every day surrounded by some of the best folks I know. I’m looking forward to witnessing and participating in all the good doing to come.

23 Feb

The Steam Heat Balancing Act

Leyna O'Neill energy management, tenants 0 Comments

Steam heating systems can be tricky. These ancient systems are deceptively simple and notoriously difficult to regulate. Most owners and managers allocate maintenance budget to the boilers themselves.  However, when it comes to the pipes and radiators – the steam distribution system that heats the spaces that your residents actually care about – building maintenance staff are often left to their own devices.  

In New York City, you can pretty much tell which buildings have steam heat in the winter without ever going inside — it’s common to see windows wide open in the dead of winter, a consequence of imbalanced steam systems. All that heat flying out of the windows represents dollars flying out of the owners’ pockets.

But, without a comprehensive strategy for making a steam heating system perform its job well – i.e. provide even heating across all occupied spaces in your buildings – you aren’t just negatively impacting your bottom line by paying too much in energy costs, you’re also risking your topline.

Let’s take a look at some of the side effects of a neglected steam heating system.

Crying Babies

Anyone who’s lived in a building with steam heat knows there are some unique quirks. One Brooklyn resident I spoke with said that her newborn son is not a fan of their building’s steam heating system. The sputtering and clanking are known to wake people up, and that includes babies. Contrary to popular belief, those noises are not signs that the system is working well: it’s a tip that something is off. But more importantly, it’s a nuisance to residents. Strike one.

Secret Solutions

Maybe residents are having a tough time getting a hold of their landlord or super, or maybe they think they just know best since the problems are in their homes. Whatever the reason, people often want to take matters into their own hands when it comes to fixing problems caused by their steam heating system.

Case in point: a master-metered San Francisco apartment complex we’re working with is undergoing a major steam heating system retrofit, spurred by exorbitant electricity costs. When their steam heating system wasn’t warming up their apartments like it should, residents decided to buy electric space heaters, sending electricity costs through the roof. Strike two.

Enough is Enough

My own experience with steam heat wasn’t a pleasant one. After roughly 3 years of shoddy heating in my Brooklyn apartment, a frigid winter finally froze our pipes and had me saying enough is enough. Yes, there were other factors that made me want to leave my apartment, but reliable heat was chief among them. I went through all of these phases with my steam system. The noises were annoying, but I got used to them. When I got space heaters I was concerned that they were unsafe and I was not pleased with my electricity bills. But when I had no heat coming into my apartment and an unconcerned landlord, I knew it was time to go. Strike three.

Finding the Right Balance

By no means are we condemning steam heating systems. When maintained properly and routinely, these simple systems effectively deliver heat to all kinds of buildings. However, routine maintenance is key, and often undervalued. Poorly maintained steam systems cost more in energy bills and in emergency repairs, but, perhaps more importantly, they negatively impact your customers, i.e.your residents.  If the system is a little wonky, most residents will just deal with it.  But when steam heating issues pile up, it can push some residents over the edge, causing them to move, and putting a dent in your topline revenue.

For more information, Building Energy Exchange recently released a great white paper called Better Steam Heat.  And, of course, we have many experts in steam heating systems at Bright Power – feel free to send us an email at info@brightpower.com or give us a call at 212.803.5868.

22 Feb

Top 3 Tips for Energy Purchasing Contracts

Dan Levin investment, procurement, utility 0 Comments

Real Estate executives are all too familiar with those “lowest price at the moment, buy it now” cold calls from energy brokers trying to sell supply contracts. What that broker or consultant (or property manager or supplier) may not be sharing with them, are the answers to key questions like: “what’s behind that price” and “how does the energy supply contract affect the management of my properties?”  These are important questions, especially since energy supply contracts are often valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Below is a guide to helping you avoid common and costly mistakes before you sign your next energy supply contract.

Have a Plan

  • Define your goals and purchasing strategy. Proactive energy procurement has numerous operational and financial benefits, which can be difficult to attain without clearly defined goals and strategy. Some questions to consider include: Are you more comfortable with the budget control provided by a fixed rate or are you looking to achieve the lowest rates with a risk-tolerant variable-rate product? Do you want each building or legal entity to have a customized strategy, or achieve economies of scale in aggregating your portfolio?
  • Set your benchmark. Give yourself something to compare against. Do you want to beat last year’s rates, find a number that fits annual or long term budgets, or try to perform well against the utility supply rate? Pick one or two benchmarks for comparison, and then move forward using them. Over several years and contracts, these benchmarks will help put your costs and processes in context.
  • Give yourself time. Since energy markets move on a daily basis and market fundamentals such as weather, supply and demand affect long term price changes, when you buy is as important as what you buy. You or your representative should be watching the markets, and advising when the time may be right. Begin the process 4 to 6 months in advance of the contract end date, and give yourself more flexibility.

Read the Contract and Ask Questions

Insider terminology can make energy contracts confusing and difficult to grasp. However, since the contract creates financial and operational obligations for your company; you should always know the impact of what you’re signing. Energy supply contracts not only identify price, building lists, and payment structure, but also provide instruction for a number of “what if” scenarios.

  • What if I sell a building? Every contract has an Early Termination Fee (ETF). If you know a building will be sold during the contract term, exclude the building or ensure the new owner can assume the contract. Alternatively, a short-term and well-timed fixed rate could add value by lowering operating costs before the sale.
  • What if there’s a large change in energy usage at a building? Energy contracts can contain provisions that impose penalties when usage changes outside of a specified range, such as due to efficiency upgrades, installation of new equipment or a period when the account will be off line.
  • What happens upon contract expiration? Most energy supply contracts typically continue indefinitely with the supplier after a contract expires, but the rate and terms post-expiration can be hidden and unpredictable. These post-expiration terms should, at least, be made clear to you. In practice, you and your broker or consultant should be developing a new plan for renewal months ahead of expiration.
  • Which accounts are included? As obvious as this sounds, it very often it isn’t clear. A contract addendum should include account numbers, service address, rate class and annual usage.
  • What is the swing or bandwidth? In the cold winters of 2014 and 2015, many Northeast retail energy buyers were hurt with high usages and extra charges. Having a negotiated “swing provision” provides insurance that the supplier will provide the correct amount of energy at the agreed upon rate structure.

Avoid Racing to the Bottom

When someone jumps out and tries to “beat a price” that’s your cue to step back and closely evaluate. Those “great deals” often come at a hidden price and can create an uneven playing field. Many times, what is falsely advertised as the “lowest price” isn’t actually favorable, as suppliers or brokers will add hidden fees and pass along unnecessary risk to the customer in the contract fine print. A trusted “lowest price” is the one which results from your designed process. If you can develop a plan and achieve your benchmarks, you can comfortably execute agreements for your organization on your final RFP contracting day.

In summary, there’s a lot to think about when you’re buying energy.  And there are, unfortunately, a lot of people in the energy business who profit on not sharing complete information with their customers.  So remember to take the time to: create and execute a plan, read the contract and ask questions, and don’t just jump at what someone says is a great price. Of course, Bright Power’s Energy Procurement Team has a wealth of experience in these areas and is always here to help you.

21 Feb

Bringing Work Home: Sustainability with a Baby

Jordana Viuker tenants 0 Comments

While my sustainability work (which includes managing project scopes such as Passive House Institute US, Enterprise Green Communities, and LEED for Homes) made me aware of the importance of indoor environmental quality (IEQ), I never cared about it as much as I did once I had a baby.  IEQ is a broad term covering the overall effects of a building’s interior on occupant health and well-being.

Healthy IEQ has been linked to improved productivity in the workforce (see The COGfx Study – fascinating!), and it is a key component of the newest iterations of green building standards, like LEED v4 and the WELL Building Standard. But it wasn’t economic output I was concerned about in my apartment – just a healthy infant, since, as studies from the NIH, the DOE, and the WHO (among others) have concluded, IEQ can have a very real impact on health and development.  So I set out to learn more about what I could do in my own home to improve IEQ for my family:

Testing
At the suggestion of a colleague, we tested our apartment with an analyzer kit sold by Home Air Check. The test we purchased measured VOCs, actively growing mold, and toxic formaldehyde. Our apartment didn’t score well in a couple of these categories, which is why we were especially motivated.

Carpeting 
The materials used to make and install carpet (not to mention everything that gets trapped in it!) are usually IEQ nightmares. If you do want carpet (I must say our little guy loves it – despite the rug burn), choose carpet certified by The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) as Green Label Plus.  We also made a rule that our apartment be shoe free to reduce what we contribute from outside.

Paint 
Many of us know by now to buy low (or preferably no) VOC paint. Most of our buildings, however, have layers and layers of painted walls – some of which could contain lead. Before making any holes in the walls, we wet the area with a damp napkin and vacuum the area immediately after.

Cleaning
We replaced all of our cleaning products with only those that score an “A” from the Environmental Working Group. (We did the same for cosmetics.)

Furniture
We tried to find products that were GreenGuard (or, even better, GreenGuard Gold) certified or those made from unfinished wood. Since GreenGuard products tended to exceed our budget, we opted for used items since these have already spent years off-gassing!  Our beautiful hand-me-down crib is unfortunately not unfinished, and it has plenty of new paint-chipped bite marks at this point…

Plants
NASA’s pioneering study on air-filtering plants in 1980 guided our selection of houseplants.  We added a small bamboo, a snake plant, a peace lily, a Chinese evergreen, and a few spider plants to our collection.

Fresh air
Ultimately, the best solution in our apartment (which had been renovated just prior to our purchasing it) was to leave the windows open as much as possible.  (Although, we are not far from a highway, so that is another consideration.)

Of course, I wish we lived in a Passive House, so we would have continuous supply air filtered through Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERVs), but we’re not there just yet. So, while I continue to be on the lookout for IEQ issues and resolutions (I’m currently saving up to buy an air purifier), I’m also learning to relax, enjoy my beautiful son, and take deep breaths – even if that means sometimes inhaling a few toxins!

21 Feb

New York State Zero Emission Credit Announcement

Dan Levin procurement, utility 0 Comments

Attention NYS Electric Customers:

Beginning April 1, 2017, New York State Zero Emission Credit (ZEC) charges will be assessed to all NYS customers’ electric bills. The purpose of these charges is to help NYS meet clean air goals set by the Clean Energy Standard (CES).  ZEC costs will support cleaner electric generation by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and by keeping certain nuclear generation plants in service. These initiatives support the two NYS goals of reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 40% and of requiring 50% of electric generation to be from renewable sources by 2030.

Cost Impact

ZEC charges represent a cost increase of $.003 to $.005/kwh to the electric supply cost for all retail (ESCO) and utility supply customers. This adds approximately 2% to a typical Con Edison electric customer’s bill, when you factor in both supply and delivery charges.

New York State Steps into a Leadership Role

In the last year, the establishment of the CES has helped reinforce NYS as leader in supporting clean air, renewable energy, and slowing climate change. As we enter into a time of uncertain environmental leadership from the federal government, New York continues to move toward a future of energy largely being produced through clean and renewable methods. At Bright Power, we feel these initiatives are in sync with the long term needs of our customers and our planet.

 

31 Jan

Standing Up for What is Right

Jeff Perlman politics 1 Comment

I was planning to write an uplifting piece about the “irreversible momentum of clean energy,” following on what President Obama wrote, just before leaving office, in Science Magazine.

If you want to read that piece, click here.

But given the recent events surrounding the President’s executive order on immigration, I feel compelled to write to you about something else: standing up for what is right.

At Bright Power, we have employees who were born in over a dozen countries. My employees have been coming to me – as I imagine your employees, colleagues, tenants and friends may be coming to you – scared and unsure of the security of their place in this country.

The US has long been a place that the brightest and best from around the globe seek to come, and our companies and communities are the beneficiaries of this global braintrust. This is one of the core strengths of our economy. But how can the foreign nationals in any workplace or apartment complex in America be productive if they are forced to worry if they are the next target? How can companies continue to recruit global talent if they cannot guarantee for prospective employees a safe place here?

As leaders of organizations and in our communities, we must stand up to protect those with less power and less privilege, within our organizations, communities, and beyond. We cannot simply look at this month or this quarter and, if the numbers look good, ignore what is happening in the world around us.  This is about what is good for the long-term health of our businesses, but this is also about what is right.

This country – the richest in the world – has been a place of refuge for so many — in my family and probably in yours, too.  People who didn’t have the privilege of education or wealth, who were chased from their homes or lucky to escape with their lives, coming here with nothing but the desire to prove they could be a productive part of this open and welcoming society; a place where we judge not by who you are or where you came from, but by what you can do.

Political decisions made haphazardly about immigration, taxation, trade agreements and use of military, to name a few, have dire consequences not just on our ability to conduct business, but on our position in the world and on the lives of people in this country and across the globe.

So I stand with other business leaders, from Google to Goldman Sachs, from Ford to GE, against ugly isolationism and xenophobia, and for the loving, inclusive, and welcoming country that has been a beacon of hope and light to my ancestors, to current immigrants and to so many around the world. And I invite you to stand with me.

Jeff Perlman
President and CEO

31 Jan

Reflecting on “The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy”

Jeff Perlman Economy, energy, politics 0 Comments

Just before leaving office, President Obama wrote in Science magazine, about the “irreversible momentum of clean energy.” Just look at the employment trends: “~2.2 million Americans… currently employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services… [compared] with the roughly 1.1 million Americans who are employed in the production of fossil fuels and their use for electric power generation.” We’ve seen evidence of this ourselves at Bright Power, where our staff has more than doubled in size since the last election and in 2016 alone our revenue grew over 70% — not a lot of conventional energy companies can say that. Insofar as the 2016 election was a referendum on jobs, President Trump should want to support the largest areas of employment in the energy sector (hint: they’re not coal mines).  And equipment costs for renewables and energy efficiency, especially for solar energy and LED lighting, have been on a steady downward trajectory, which means that they are increasingly less dependent upon government subsidy.

All of this is good news for the real estate industry. We have a growing set of tools we can use to deliver more value to you, across your portfolio. Finding opportunities to lower energy usage and costs, fixing buildings to make them more comfortable and more efficient, and following them on an ongoing basis to reduce headaches for you and your maintenance staffs…all of this continues to work for you, no matter who is in office.

While the Clean Power Plan (CPP) itself now seems doomed, the electricity sector has already nearly achieved the 2030 carbon goal today (we’re at 27% carbon savings and the 2030 goal is 32%). So as long as we don’t start forbidding the use of renewables in favor of coal (really, Wyoming?), we should far surpass the CPP goals even without the CPP.  And while the recent executive orders in support of oil pipelines mean that they will likely get built at some point in the future, it is a small enough amount of oil and far enough in the future that it’s not likely to have a major impact on prices.

Plus, energy policy has always been made primarily at the state level anyway. Rather than anything resembling unity across the states, support for renewable energy and energy efficiency is likely to become even more of a patchwork with even deeper contrasts – defined state-by-state, municipality-by-municipality.  It is more than a full-time job keeping up with the constant policy and program changes, but there’s gold there if you do.  Just ask the dozens of properties in California that we’ve helped access funds to pay for 80+% of our energy and water improvements.

Furthermore, despite all of the attempts to confuse the public on the issue, even after November’s election, more than two-thirds of Americans support action on climate change.  This means that  the President needs only to listen to the people on this one.  But even if he doesn’t, we’ll keep moving forward either way.

23 Nov

Built to Last

Jeff Perlman Business, Economy, holiday 1 Comment

A Thanksgiving message from our CEO, Jeff Perlman

AdobeStock_58690495

A few weeks ago, a Bright Power employee attended a tenant meeting at a building that recently completed a heating system upgrade project with us. Tenant meetings can sometimes be like walking into the lions’ den, but in this case, the first thing he received was not a roar but a hug from an elderly lady. “Thank you!  My apartment has never been more comfortable – I haven’t had reliable heat in years, until now,” she said.

Moments like this crystalize why we do what we do. Together, we make buildings better, which makes people’s lives better, and, importantly, makes those buildings more valuable and reduces our harmful impacts on the planet. It is a winning proposition all around. And we are thankful that this is the work that we get to do every day.

In this time of Thanksgiving, when we reflect on what is important to us, and especially now, as we try to heal the wounds from a bitter, bruising election season in which facts were often ignored, I want to reaffirm our commitment to some of the basic truths that we live by here at Bright Power.

Climate Change Isn’t Going Anywhere…and Neither Are We

Protecting and preserving our planet has always been and always will be a no-brainer for us. In the last few years, we’ve been fortunate to have strong support from federal and state governments who are committed and connected to our mission of reducing the negative impacts of buildings on the planet. It’s hard to know how the incoming president and his administration will coincide with this mission, and it’s safe to assume that we may encounter some new obstacles.  But regardless of what happens at the federal level, states, municipalities and, importantly, the private sector will continue to lead.

We can’t lose sight of the important progress we’ve made.  Over the last 8 years, we have largely been able to transform the conversation from “why should we reduce carbon emissions and other negative environmental impacts of our buildings?” to “how can we do better?”

With many major cities, large swaths of people and some of the most valuable property at risk of being submerged (or turned to inhospitable desert) in the coming decades, we need to work hard to prevent the worst outcomes while also planning for the impacts that wilder storms, more severe draughts and more vicious floods will have on business, the economy, humanity and the planet.  All of this directly impacts our work and our clients.  For example, CBRE has written about how rising sea levels effect real estate developers, Morgan Stanley about how climate change impacts investors, and the head of the Reinsurance Association of America about the climate change impacts on the insurance industry .

Our Work is Good Business

For better or for worse, saving the planet isn’t the sole driver of most decisions. Fortunately, the work we do at Bright Power to save the planet also makes good business sense. Wasting resources like energy and water is bad business and bad for the bottom line – that’s never going to change.  And the benefits are more than just saving on operating costs – implementing best energy management practices leads to more comfortable spaces that are easier to lease, longer lasting equipment, and fewer emergencies and unplanned equipment replacements.  A building with better indoor air, better light, fewer toxins, on-site clean power generation and lower operating costs  is a more desirable building.  And a more desirable building is a more valuable building.  (In fact, acknowledging and evangelizing the business benefits of our work might just advance our cause with the new president and his administration…)

Resiliency is Key

We talk a lot about resiliency, often in the context of new and exciting backup power technology. But now more than ever, it’s important to talk about resiliency in a broader context. Being resilient means being able to bounce back after a hit, a storm, a change. And times they are a changin’.

Being resilient means being prepared, having a strong foundation, and clear plans and principles to turn to when something unexpected occurs. At Bright Power, we’ve spent the last 12 years building a great track record and a strong network of forward-thinking partners who understand the value of what we do for each other. We are so thankful to get to work with and for you every day. It’s because of our great achievements together that I know we will be able to bounce back from whatever tries to push us off course.

**

Lastly, I want to put a few things in writing that were always a part of who we are as a company, but seem like they should be made explicit given what we have heard in our national discourse over the past few months.

At Bright Power we celebrate the diversity in our workforce, are proud of our support for working mothers, and aim to create a comfortable and safe working environment for all of our employees regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin.

We are committed to making this world a better place for everyone: for you, your employees and your residents; for us, our families and our friends; as well as for all the other people and creatures all over the globe whom we may never meet.  We believe that this isn’t just the right thing to do – it is the way to build a great, long-lasting and important company.

Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, and how much support we get from the Federal government, we will continue to find opportunities to deliver solid business value that improves our communities and preserves the planet.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jeff

31 Oct

Energy Management: Trick or Treat?

Leyna O'Neill energy management, holiday 0 Comments

JackolanternINLINEReal estate owners and managers are often spooked by energy and water investment projects for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re haunted by unsuccessful past projects or maybe the results are just ghosting them. Whatever the reason may be, success lies in the approach. Below are some of our top tricks that will help you reap the treats of an intelligence-driven approach to energy and water management.

Don’t be Caught by Surprise

There’s nothing like an unsuspected scream or menacing shadow to scare the bejeezus out of you. However, scary situations are often avoidable with careful planning and awareness of your surroundings. For example, locking into a fixed-rate energy procurement contract is a proactive way to manage the cost of energy supply against volatile (and sometimes terrifying) market prices. This is a particularly useful strategy to consider in a mild autumn, when prices are stable. If you’d like to learn more about this winter’s energy market predictions, check out our blog on the subject here.

Survey the Whole Scene (or don’t just grab the first pumpkin that you see)

When you hit the pumpkin patch, you need to survey your options before landing on the perfectly shaped, sized, and inspirational gourd. That’s how we recommend implementing energy projects too, especially across a large portfolio. For example, take government and utility financial incentives: the SoCalRen program is an amazing opportunity to upgrade properties in Southern California at very low cost, but which properties should you choose? By evaluating your entire portfolio, you can assess where your investment dollars will have the biggest impact and show the highest returns.

Don’t be on the Losing End of Dramatic Irony

If only you could explain to the horror movie lead that answering the door is a poor choice because you know what is lurking on the other side. Alas, they can’t see the whole picture. Buildings are complicated environments with sprawling, interrelated systems and you want someone who can think holistically across all of them in order to effectively manage energy and water. Just because there is a heating problem doesn’t mean that the solution is in the boiler room. In fact, sometimes the source of the problem isn’t related to the equipment at all. In multifamily buildings, residents are as important a factor as any to consider when diagnosing any problem. This is why we recommend whole-building audits and continuous energy management services. Having our engineers go inside a building, speak with residents, and examine all of the systems’ functionality is crucial in diagnosing the root of an issue and presenting an informed solution. Providing continuous expertise and energy management lets us help you anticipate problems and recommend how to avoid them. Otherwise you’re liable to be frightened purely because you’re operating with incomplete information.

Don’t Jump to (Scary) Conclusions

As any parent can attest, some of the scariest things are the things that we don’t understand.   And the only way to combat that is to probe a bit deeper and to figure out what is actually going on. It’s like in the Wizard of Oz when they finally peek behind the curtain…or those big, spooky Halloween displays that make your five-year-old scream and cry until you show him that it is just a toy (with an on-off switch), not a real skeleton coming to life.

For example, one of our clients always found water on the floor of their boiler room. Noticing that it appeared to be leaking from the bottom of their water-tube steam boiler, they called the manufacturer’s representative to come out, drain, and inspect the boiler. When he opened it up and saw corrosion on the tubes, the rep said “it’s all gotta go.” Our client was looking at frightening repair costs, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Before rushing into anything, we helped our client select a nondestructive testing (NDT) company and supervised a more thorough ultrasonic testing of the boiler tubes. When the results came back, they were surprising. The corrosion had looked bad, but there was actually minimal loss of tube wall thickness. When we leak-tested the boiler, there were just two pinhole leaks and a leaking joint. The root cause was likely that this boiler had run much more than the standby boiler, and therefore experienced many more heat up and cooldown cycles. The rep replaced the two leaking tubes, we fixed the control logic so that the lead boiler would rotate weekly, and together we filled, started, and tested the boiler – just in time for heating season.

There is so much to gain from strategic energy and water management. From avoided capital costs to utility bill savings and resident retention, the list of benefits is hard to pass up. But in order to get the treats, it’s important to bear in mind these tricks.

Happy Halloween!