We need an improved framework for building operating decisions, including using the stuff you buy.

Last year, I was invited to participate in a survey researching current building O&M practices and the challenges and needs facing maintenance and energy management in buildings today. Angela Lewis, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Reading, in partnership with Penn State University, was leading the survey, and her findings can be found on mywww.integratedprojectdeliveryfacilitator.comwebsite (click on “Improve Building Performance” on the home page).

Lewis’s findings parallel much of what I have spoken on and written about in the past, namely that energy performance benchmarking is not usually set in the design phase although some will argue it is. Operation budgets are also not be part of the initial phase of the building program.

Instead, when a facility manager takes over a project at the end of construction, he will most likely not have either a well documented operating budget or a month-to-month energy consumption profile to measure actual building system performance. Furthermore, there will not be a PM workorder system in place. After 45 years in the building industry, I continue to be amazed with building owners who focus most of their attention on a building program’s first cost, which is only approximately 15% of the life cycle cost of building. Little attention or funding is given in the design and construction phases toward the next 25 to 50 years of owning and operating the building.

Get Ahead of the Audit

Today, it is very popular and politically correct to initiate energy retro-commissioning projects with the goal of reducing a building’ carbon footprint, while these same building owners continue to overlook the need to incorporate operating budgets, month-to-month energy consumption profiles, and/or PM workorder systems on capital projects. Aren’t there lessons to be learned from completing energy audits after buildings are built?

It’s my belief that as early as the initial building program’s project need phase, or the fine-tuning of these needs in the program phase, consideration and documentation of O&M goals should be set and operating budgets should be considered. If we are really going to reduce energy consumption, limit new energy use, and improve the environment, we need to do the right things when planning a building program instead of going back after the project had been completed and think of how we can make the facility better. By then, it is too late and the funding will most likely not be available.

Some will say that this is being corrected via the LEED® certification process as well as other programs, but if you have read Naomi Millen’s article titled, “Does Your Facility Hit Its Energy Target,” in the June 2009 issue of Building Operating Management, she notes a building survey indicated 42% of LEED buildings were falling short of their energy goals. This didn’t surprise me because I was around for the first energy crisis when a few award-winning, energy-efficient buildings were, in fact, sick buildings and not the high-performance buildings they were touted to be.

Using CMMs

I’ve said on numerous occasions that the LEED measurement and verification credit should be a prerequisite, not an extra credit. Experience has shown that building programs do not want to fund the measurement and verification credit because it requires an investment to monitor, measure, and report on the building’s energy performance during the warranty. Think about that for a moment. A building owner will invest millions, if not hundreds of millions, to build a perceived high-performance building but won’t invest a negligible amount of dollars during the first year to confirm he achieved his LEED certification goals.

The same can be said for planning and investing for a CMMS in the building program phase of a job. If it is not done then, you can be assured it probably won’t happen after the building is occupied. This is noted in Lewis’s “Improve Building Performance” survey. This survey, as well as other surveys, found that simply purchasing a CMMS program does not ensure the software will be used.

In fact, a survey by the Association of Facility Engineers (AFE) several years ago noted, at that time, approximately 85% of purchased CMMS programs were not used. Here again, the very popular LEED certification program doesn’t require a report of how the CMMS programs is functioning. Once the building is up and everyone involved has patted each other on the back with a “job well done,” they are off to another exciting and creative challenge while the facility staff takes over ownership and a lot of day-to-day challenges.

If the building industry and building owners are really interested in reducing energy consumption, O&M equipment and systems to always perform at peak efficiently, and to improve the environment then we really need “a framework for improving building operating decisions.” ES