Boiler rooms are “oubliettes,” which is a French word for “places of forgetting,” as Malagant describes to Guinevere in the 1995 Connery-Gere classic, “First Knight.” And if you think that reference is dated, check out these pics to prove that some boiler rooms are, quite possibly, from the Middle Ages.
There is good news. Thanks to BEPS, there’s fresh opportunity for property managers to play Sir Lancelot and stage a daring rescue. But instead of the reward being a fictional royal family member, it’s a lot of money, happier residents, and a win for the planet.
Building Energy Performance Standards, or BEPS for short, are proliferating across the country. DC was an early adopter, and most managers of large buildings there are well acquainted with benchmarking and the intricacies of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool. With the end of DC’s first compliance cycle coming into focus, there’s a rush to improve energy efficiency or face penalties of up to $10 per square foot.
This past year, Montgomery County and the State of Maryland both passed separate but complementary BEPS laws. This legislation has been met with predictable groans and complaints in public information sessions and condo board meetings across the State. Most building owners, managers, and condo boards are looking at these laws and thinking, “Shoot, this is going to be complicated and expensive.”
Complicated? Perhaps, but you can always hire competent professionals to solve problems if you give them a good strategy.
Expensive? That depends. If you think about BEPS strictly in terms of compliance, you’ll miss the broader opportunity.
Energy efficiency isn’t a technical or a financial challenge; it’s a people challenge. BEPS can be the catalyst that brings together all of us working in the built environment to start paying attention to our sadly forgotten boiler rooms and to start thinking about them as an opportunity for value-added improvements.
There’s a particularly big opportunity to improve HVAC efficiency. HVAC is typically the largest user of energy in any building and the largest source of energy waste. Add to this energy prices that have, in some cases, more than doubled from a year ago, and we’re talking big bucks. Beyond simple energy cost savings, energy efficiency yields several more benefits, including lower maintenance costs, improved mechanical reliability, decreased liability, increased staff productivity, higher asset values, and happier and healthier residents. Simply put, addressing HVAC energy waste creates tremendous value for building owners, residents, and our broader society.
Unless your property was very recently constructed to LEED platinum standard, you have room to improve. And unless you’re building looks like the ones in my boiler room hall of shame, you’ll likely clear the first BEPS hurdles quite easily by making some targeted investments in minor equipment upgrades and new controls technology so you can make the best use of the mechanical equipment you already have.
So, instead of hearing the word “BEPS” and thinking, “Shoot, this is going to be complicated and expensive,” instead, consider thinking, “Awesome, I get to give smart people the resources to create financial, social, and environmental value.” Win-win-win.
Adam Landsman, CEM