Building systems play a fundamental role providing safety and suitable indoor conditions for occupants, so it is very important to keep them running properly. There are also cases where building systems accomplish their intended purpose, but at an excessive energy cost. Professional engineering services can help you optimize building operation, providing better indoor conditions while reducing ownership costs.
This article will provide an overview of cost-effective engineering services you can consider for 2018 if you own real estate in New York City:
- HVAC consulting services
- Energy audits
- Fire alarm and sprinkler system engineering
HVAC Consulting Services
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning are among the top energy expenses in NYC buildings. These systems also play a fundamental role keeping suitable indoor conditions for human occupancy: adequate temperature and relative humidity as recommended by ASHRAE, and air pollutant levels at low concentrations.
HVAC systems are among the largest in buildings, normally using up more space than electrical and plumbing installations. Their operation can be considered complex, and optimal performance can only be achieved with an overall system assessment; focusing on individual systems components in isolation is likely to yield only moderate benefits. For example, a high-efficiency chiller will not operate optimally if there are issues with the chilled water pumps, and a new air-handling unit can be hindered by malfunctioning air dampers and leaks in air ducts.
Data gathered according to the benchmarking law has revealed that space heating, domestic hot water, space cooling and ventilation account for nearly 60% of energy consumption in a typical NYC building. Space heating and DHW systems typically get their energy from natural gas or heating oil combustion, while space cooling and ventilation systems are normally powered by electricity.
In a few words, there are ample areas of opportunity to improve HVAC operation. If you get professional HVAC engineering services for your building, you can achieve improved indoor conditions while cutting down your largest energy expense.
Are your HVAC systems consuming too much energy?
As implied by its name, an energy audit provides you with a snapshot of how your building is using energy. Then, the energy consultants suggest a series of energy efficiency measures, each with a technical and financial feasibility analysis. At the end of the process, you have an energy consumption baseline, a target to meet, and a roadmap to get there where you can prioritize the building upgrades with the highest savings per dollar spent upfront.
Depending on building characteristics, there may be minimum performance requirements to meet according to the NYC Energy Conservation Code. Many of them are not mandatory in existing buildings unless you perform a major renovation, but they always apply for new constructions that fall under the scope of the code. If an energy audit reveals that your property operates below the performance level required by code, you can make a choice between simply bringing your property up to code, or exceeding its requirements an aiming for top-level energy performance. The most efficient buildings may be eligible for certification under programs such as ENERGY STAR or LEED.
Keep in mind that Local Law 87 makes energy audits mandatory at 10-year intervals for buildings above certain size thresholds. If this applies for your property, the best way to meet the requirements and deadline is by getting professional engineering services.
There are many cases where building systems are properly designed and installed, but performance diminishes over time due to modifications or configuration changes. There are also cases where low-cost system components wear down and affect performance, but can be replaced in an instant and without any disruption for occupants.
Recommissioning is a process where building systems are assessed in detail, calibrating sensors and controls, while making minor reparations. There are cases where this procedure achieves energy savings of around 10% without major capital expenditures, and the only cost is engineering and skilled labor. As a result, the payback period is typically below one year.
The term retro-commissioning describes a similar procedure that is carried out when a building has only been commissioned at the time of construction. The process is normally more demanding in terms of scope and man-hours, but the basic principle is the same as in recommissioning.
Like in the case of energy audits, Local Law 87 makes this procedure mandatory at 10-year intervals for certain NYC buildings. To make compliance more efficient, the best recommendation is to perform both procedures at once.
Fire Alarms and Sprinkler System Engineering
There are two solid reasons why you should keep fire protection systems under optimal working conditions. First of all, they play a fundamental role in safeguarding occupant lives when there is a fire inside a building. In addition, even if your property is never affected by a fire, consider that NYC has some of the most demanding fire protection codes in the world. There may be legal and financial consequences for disregarding these codes.
There are also certain buildings where a full sprinkler system is mandatory before July 1, 2019, according to Local Law 26 of 2004. This law was published in response to the 9/11 incident, and its main purpose was to make high-rise commercial constructions more resilient against fire. A professional assessment of your building can help you answer three key questions:
- Is the property covered by LL26?
- If covered, is it compliant?
- If not compliant, what must be done to meet LL26?
The next step is a project design, followed by approval and installation. Although the deadline is still more than a year away, consider that sprinkler system installation can be time-consuming in a large building. Better to start early and without rushing: a short-deadline project is riskier and more expensive.
When managing buildings, proactive measures tend to be much less expensive than reactive measures - fixing a problem before it occurs is simpler and cheaper. Although frequent assessment of building systems by engineers may seem expensive, it is actually an investment: as building performance increases, ownership costs decrease.