Step 3: Assess the Opportunity, Understand Barriers, Set SMART Goals and Select Initiatives

The building team will need to evaluate the building for sustainability opportunities, understand what currently prevents the sustainability vision from being achieved, select initiatives that best address the problem and set goals to track progress.

There are two approaches:

  • To achieve substantial cost savings, the owner might consider a whole-building approach, which seeks to reduce the overall resource use, adopt efficient technology, and provide ongoing controls.
  • To find low cost/no cost solutions, it may be easier to start by surveying specific measures that typically work for small to mid-size building owners.

If the latter is the case, consider using the Measure Finder Tool. Consult a technical expert to help select and sequence complex opportunities, such as HVAC and lighting.

Assess the opportunity.

There are a variety of ways to assess the sustainability potential of a building. A comprehensive building assessment and thorough review of energy use, performed by a trained professional, will not only establish a baseline and assess opportunities, but will also uncover improvements. Alternatively, the Building Management Team’s regular engineer can do a self-review.

There are online tools available, such as New Buildings Institute’s FirstView online tool, that can be useful in assessing building performance. This small to mid-size office building improvement toolkit also offers an example Building Assessment Tool.

Assess the opportunity.

In addition to finding energy saving opportunities, consider whether there is also a goal to become LEED® compliant. If so, consider a more thorough LEED gap analysis (possibly just limited to certain areas of the building) that shows where to improve to gain LEED points and qualify for various LEED levels. Consider evaluating the following broad categories as a start:

Assess the opportunity.

While more expensive, a professional audit is the best way to identify the most thorough set of opportunities as well as to provide an expert opinion on the best way to address them. When trying to identify a building auditor, first look for commercial building audit experience, which can encompass the following credentials:

  • Professional Engineer (PE)
  • A Commissioning Authority (CxA)
  • Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP) certification (developed by ASHRAE)
  • Certified Energy Manager® (CEM®) certification from the Association of Energy Engineers (AAE)

Understand current barriers.

A team member needs to determine the combination of policies, processes, behaviors and equipment issues that contribute to current deficiencies and discover any barriers that could prevent corrective action from being easily taken. This may mean consulting individuals as to why they take certain actions instead of making assumptions. For example, the building engineer may have the air conditioning set extra low because the zones are not adequately designed to reach some vocal individuals at one end of the floor and the Building/Property Manager wanted everything done to provide tenant satisfaction.

Set SMART goals.

Determine the metrics that you wish to impact with this initiative given the identified opportunities. This list provides some common sustainability metrics to be considered. Set SMART goals for each metric. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The SMART Goal Worksheet can assist with goal preparation. Set the goal in easily measurable terms given the available resources and the capacity of the Building Management Team.

Evaluate and select initiatives.

Identify the measures and other initiatives that can address the opportunities and help reach building goals. If a third party performed a detailed building assessment, the resulting report should contain recommended measures. The Measure Finder Tool can help identify those measures typically implemented in small to mid-size properties that can meet specific needs. Consult a technical expert to help select and sequence complex opportunities, such as HVAC and lighting.

Evaluate and select initiatives.

Evaluate potential measures on some form of cost/benefit basis to determine their viability within the building. The Improvement Calculator will help evaluate energy saving measures from a financial standpoint.

To optimize energy savings, first select initiatives and measures that will reduce the overall energy load. Second, select those measures that upgrade to more efficient equipment. Third, plan for controls, such as lighting controls or a building management system, to optimize the equipment’s use.

Consider the accelerated replacement of larger capital items. For example, due to the dramatically improved performance of certain new equipment such as air conditioning units, replacing the units before their scheduled end-of-life can prove to be a positive investment for the building.

Evaluate and select initiatives.

Note that not all measures will have a high dollar cost, but some may require a lot of effort to implement or a large number of people (often tenants) to adopt a new process or habit. These efforts, however, can be worth the investment because the financial cost can often be low and the energy or other benefits can be high. You’ll want to gauge the tenants’ interest in participating in sustainability. To the extent tenants show interest, the Green Tenant Guide may be a tool they find useful in driving their own initiative to expand on building plans.

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