Rock the Watt
continued from page 25
• Shut the Sash Programs are proving
to be effective means of reducing energy in
labs equipped with variable-volume fume
In most facilities, these strategies can
reduce energy for a low initial cost, especially when compared to capital-intensive
systems, such as heat recovery. Unfortunately, just as your car needs a regular
tune-up to run smoothly, operational
measures need regular maintenance to
But operational measures are different
in they rely more heavily on people to
work properly. Energy-efficient equipment, such as light-emitting diode (LED)
lights or high-efficiency cooling systems,
typically deliver energy savings provided
the equipment is properly maintained.
In contrast, measures that rely on control strategies to deliver savings are more
easily undone by the people that control
them. Adjusting setpoints and equipment
operating schedules or removing signage
tends to increase energy over time.
Although products and services, such
as fault detection and diagnostics or
retro-commissioning, can help bring
these problems to the forefront, they still
require manual intervention by facilities staff to correct the problems and
keep the lab HVAC systems operating
Engaging stakeholders to improve
Sound project management practices,
backed by behavioral science, can help improve long-term outcomes. Here are three
practices which help ensure your facility
operates efficiently over time.
By: Mark Mullins, PE, PMP, Principal,
Bright Trail Energy
Labs are among the most energy-inten- sive facilities, consuming roughly three to seven times typical office buildings,
driven in large part by HVAC systems that
have high air change rates, high outside air
requirements and operate continuously year
HVAC energy can be significantly reduced
by a variety of low-cost operational improvements; but over time, energy savings often
deteriorate as users and operators adjust the
setpoints and controls. Although software
systems can help identify these problems,
efficiency projects need to account for how
people interact with the systems. Applying
sound project management practices along
with findings from behavioral science can help
improve long-term outcomes.
A variety of low-cost operational and control strategies are widely used to help reduce
lab HVAC energy. Here are just a few:
• Night setback. Reduce thermostat
setpoints and/or shut off equipment during
• Schedule or control ventilation rates.
Cut back ventilation rates when the lab is unoccupied, or use occupancy sensors to control
• Discharge air reset. Rather than supply
cold 55 F air, reset the discharge air temperature to reduce reheat requirements.
• Static pressure reset. For variable-volume supply and exhaust systems, dynamically reset the fan static pressure, rather than
maintain a high, constant pressure year round,
to save fan energy.
1. Executive sponsorship. Experts in change
management understand that getting support
from executive management is a cornerstone of
long-term success. A sponsor that sends a clear
message that energy savings is important can
energize and empower the project team.
2. Involve key stakeholders. Research
indicates when stakeholders are more engaged,
chances of project success improve. It’s tempting and expedient for contractors to implement operational changes without consulting
lab staff, but doing so misses the opportunity
to secure their support and raise awareness.
3. Pilot projects. Operational changes
are often relatively easy to implement and
cost little. Collaborating with facilities staff to
pilot the changes provides an opportunity for
training, helps identify and overcome potential
pitfalls and helps get buy-in from lab staff
ultimately responsible for maintaining the
systems over the long term. People naturally
feel a sense of ownership and pride when the
project they helped implement succeeds. This
can help encourage commitment to energy
efficiency long after the project is installed.
To those experienced with implementing
lab efficiency projects, this may all seem like
project management 101. But too often expediency gets in the way of common sense. Talk
to the lab staff? Make sure facilities and maintenance are on-board? Of course. But with a
deadline looming these are often the first to go.
Don’t let it happen. Put these on your project
checklist so they aren’t swept aside.
Mark Mullins has over 20 years of experience developing energy-efficiency projects
for a wide range of customers. Mullins areas
of expertise include lab energy efficiency,
HVAC controls, project management, energy
analysis and strategic planning.
Cutting lab energy use through operation and behavioral
rather than relying on “conserve energy”
messages that leave how it’s done to the
It was also found important to use
multiple strategies that educate, enable
and engage or motivate occupants, rather than a single approach like posters.
One of the most effective strategies was
having local-level advocates engage with
occupants. Finding the right advocate
takes time and personal outreach, but
improves the chances of having a sus-
Finally, measuring change and actual
energy savings is necessary. It can help
motivate people to take further action
and show the ROI of behavior change
campaigns. The PNNL project team
developed a tracking tool to document
actions and established standard savings
estimates to use when measurements
weren’t feasible, but getting BSCs to
document changes was challenging.
Simpler ways of tracking changes will be
Kathleen Judd is a Senior Research
Scientist and Team Lead of Building Performance at Pacific Northwest National
Laboratory. Her research interests are in
using institutional and behavioral change
principles to drive sustainability performance at the building and organizational