Top 12 Strategies to Maximize Cost Savings

Innovative expense-slashing solutions drive operational efficiency


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3) Start Small as Funding Allows
If a lighting retrofit isn’t financially feasible and you’re not planning to renovate soon, consider gradual replacements instead. North State Communications, a local telecommunications company in High Point, NC, kicked off this initiative about 15 years ago by replacing failing magnetic fluorescent ballasts with electronic versions. When the T12 phase-out began, the team then moved on to T8s and their associated ballasts, says Doug Wagoner, property maintenance supervisor.

“In all incandescent fixtures, we have moved to fluorescent or LEDs with the result of equal or improved lighting from an old fixture and reduced power consumption without a capital expenditure,” Wagoner adds. “In every place we have remodeled or upfitted, we moved toward electronic ballasts and/or LEDs. The same energy conscience mindset has carried over to HVAC and the building envelope.”

Case Study #1

Getting Buy-In
Frito-Lay Headquarters

Objective: To develop a more sustainable print strategy and reduce printer supply from one printer per two associates to one printer per 10 associates. The office saw an opportunity to cut CO2 emissions and consumption of paper and supplies by 40-50%, a substantial decrease from its annual consumption of 300,000 pounds of paper and release of 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Solution: The facilities team instituted a centralized print management program to place the surviving printers in optimal locations. They set concrete savings goals for toner, printer lease expense, paper and power consumption, and carbon footprint with an overall financial savings goal of $450,000.

Savings: Over 100 network printers were repurposed into area network printers and more than 1,300 personal and obsolete printers were removed. Frito-Lay Headquarters reclaimed $30,000 in obsolete toner, reduced their annual toner spend by $920,000, and avoided emitting 450,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. Expenses to support the total print program dropped from $2.5 million to just under $1.6 million – triple their target savings.

If necessary, first target areas that waste the most energy to carve out savings, such as rarely occupied stairwells and hallways where lights stay at full brightness all day. Hines, a real estate firm, opted for dimming and sound-activated fixtures in the two stairwells of their 54-story Houston high-rise. Appearing on every other floor, each fixture contains two 25-watt lamps that previously stayed at full brightness around the clock. The lamps now dim to 15% when no activity is detected.

4) Get Creative with Cooling
Summer months bring a wealth of opportunities to slash energy expenses, and their value only intensifies as the temperature rises. For example, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center saved a staggering 1 megawatt and eliminated 20 pumps by switching from a primary-secondary-tertiary chilled water pumping system to a variable primary system.

NAI REOC San Antonio in Corpus Christi, TX, instead chose a variable speed drive installation that should pay for itself in just four or five months and generate about $24,000 in savings annually, says property manager Larry Virts.

“Several years ago, we replaced a 24-year-old, 1,000-ton, two-cell cooling tower with two variable speed fans,” Virts explains. “The drives were reused for two of the eight new fans, and we propose to install variable speed drives on the remaining six fans at a cost of about $10,000.”

The makeup supply for the cooling tower at Haywood Community College’s Creative Arts Building in Charlotte, NC, will soon benefit from reclaimed water drawn from a rainwater catchment system. The 20,000-gallon cistern will parcel out water to toilets and other non-potable purposes as needed, saving the 41,600-square-foot building approximately 460,000 gallons of water per year and reducing water and sewer bills by an estimated 90%.

Installation is complete, and the college begins to start functional testing soon. The LEED Platinum building also incorporates other water conservation measures, including extra low flow toilets and faucets, which will help the college avoid local penalties for growing water consumption.

The payback on the project is a little less than six years, while the building’s expected lifetime is at least 50, notes Derk R. Beutler, principal for the Charlotte, NC, office of Elm Engineering, the consulting engineer on Haywood’s project. A similar system costs roughly $35,000 to $45,000.

“For buildings with high water consumption, especially those with cooling towers, the payback is relatively fast,” Beutler advises. “Some states restrict the use of rainwater collection solely to agriculture, so it is wise to verify local or state regulations before considering a rainwater system.”

5) Communicate with Your Utility
Warm days can result in unexpected peak demand charges, cautions Jeff Christens, service steam fitter and energy management systems manager for Green Bay Area Public Schools. The local utility, Wisconsin Public Service, agreed to read all of the school district’s meters on the 15th of every month to save time and hassle for all involved.

However, as spring transitioned into summer, the Green Bay facilities team discovered that they could incur thousands of dollars in charges for turning on the air conditioning even a day or two early.

Case Study #2

Team Building
Lakewood, CA

Objective: To coordinate maintenance and funding to preserve city facilities.

Solution: Created a Facility Preservation Committee involving key staff members from the departments of Public Works and Recreation & Community Facilities. A subcommittee of supervisors, FMs, and field personnel meets monthly with the goal of thoroughly inspecting each facility annually, and they also review and create work orders, recommend capital projects, and conduct site walks. The committee presents infrastructure and capital equipment expenditure priorities to the city manager as a single unit.

Savings: “In this age of limited tax dollars for facility equipment and projects, there is no fighting between departments who operate and maintain city facilities for budget funding,” notes June Anderson, senior project manager for Lakewood’s Public Works Department. “The Facility Preservation Committee allows staff to nourish relationships between departments and divisions to establish common goals that benefit the residents of Lakewood.”

“The one thing that was a problem to get people on board with was when we turned the chillers off,” Christens says. “If you have one warm day in early spring, they want the air on, but if we keep it off for that one day we might be able to save $6,000 at Preble High School just by not turning that chiller on before the 15-minute window when the utility company reads the meter.”

During summer, the cooling season was in effect, allowing the crew to schedule precooling with their DDC control system. This minimized summertime air conditioning spending, especially when the team could consolidate summer school classes into as few buildings as possible.

In your discussions with the utility, include the voltage to your building, advises Larry Vickers, regional vice president of Tarantino Properties, a full-service real estate company.

“Ensure the voltage to your building as supplied by the utility company is as close to 460V as possible, which could slash your bill by 30% plus or minus 10%,” Vickers says. “Typically the building voltage is significantly higher, causing a ton of waste for no apparent reason.”

6) Adjust Air to Occupancy
Dial back fresh air intake and climate conditioning during times when your building is nowhere near capacity. The international law firm King & Spalding sliced nearly 40% out of their Atlanta headquarters’ off-hours energy spend by installing a supplemental HVAC unit for the IT helpdesk, which must be staffed 24/7 to provide support for other offices worldwide.

Because IT was located in an enclosed area, King & Spalding’s facilities department linked the new HVAC unit to five easily installed ductless mini split units, which are mounted directly into the ceiling grid by removing one 2- by 2-foot tile apiece. The main supplemental unit was integrated with the building automation system, which turns it off during normal business hours when the main chillers or boilers are on and switches back to the off-hours equipment at the end of the normal business day.

For occupancy adjustments that only occur sporadically, use controls that allow scheduling. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center implemented this idea in their operating room when it was not in use, reducing the air changes per hour from 15-20 down to eight between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Green Bay’s schools use this tactic for spaces like gyms.

“The only time the gym is at full capacity is a couple hours a week when they have a game in there,” Kitzman explains. “Now we typically adjust it down to about 10% except when we have activities in the gym.”

Case Study #3

Cost Management
Rio Tinto

Objective: To reduce unnecessary expenses.

Solution: Staff also discovered that the cleaning company wasn’t cleaning employees’ desks if the desks weren’t cleared first, resulting in payment for services that weren’t used. Rio Tinto now requires employees to place a service request when they want their desks to be cleaned. The cleaning company is paid based on the actual use of the service.

Savings: Unknown, but cleaning desks on an individual basis eliminated considerable waste. Tenants also responded positively to a new high-quality coffee service that they pay for even though free coffee is still available.


Limiting outdoor air demand can also help stretch dollars, Christens explains. “Bring in the minimum outside air when it’s needed instead of bringing in outside air for full occupancy in every area of the building,” Christens adds. “In Preble High School, if we brought in the minimum air on design conditions, we’d have outside air for over 12,000 people in the building – but full occupancy is only 2,000.”

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