Decarbonization isn’t just a benefit for the planet; it’s a benefit for any building manager looking to help increase efficiency, streamline operations, and bring down costs.
If you’re unsure what decarbonization means, you’re not alone. Simply put, building decarbonization is the process of reducing the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that your facility releases into the atmosphere. The EPA separates GHG emissions into three basic types. There are Scope 1 emissions which result from direct emissions at your facility. Scope 2 emissions are those generated by indirect emissions, like utilities that produce the energy you purchase from the electrical grid. Last are Scope 3 emissions which result from the activities of suppliers and vendors, or that arise from other aspects of your value chain.
Whatever your decarbonization ambitions are, whether grand or modest, here are some useful strategies you can employ to bring your Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions under control.
1. Energy Audits
Audits are a great way to get a sense for the potential size and scope of your decarbonization program. An assessment of your building’s energy usage will help you establish a baseline to work from, as well as help you identify potential areas for improvement. An audit consists of a high-level review of building operations starting with a thorough building walkthrough supplemented by interviews with company engineers, building managers, and other key stakeholders.
2. Preventive Maintenance
Where building systems are concerned, a little care can go a very long way, particularly when it comes to preventing unplanned expenses in the form of labor costs, higher energy bills, regulatory fines, and business and productivity losses. Regular preventive maintenance helps you stay on top of your system performance and can be done on a timetable of your choosing. An active program will not only help reduce unexpected downtime, it will help prolong the life of your equipment.
3. Control Upgrades
Advances in technology have allowed controls to become the centerpieces of many building decarbonization efforts, providing innovative ways to drive efficiency through better building management. Consider incorporating some of the latest building productivity tools including remote management, troubleshooting, energy management, and data analysis tools – most of which can be accessed from virtually any location via a personal computer, tablet, or smartphone with a web browser.
Heat electrification simply means utilizing HVAC equipment powered by electricity instead of fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, or oil. Electrification usually involves one of four basic HVAC technologies: heat pumps, which use electricity to heat or cool from a single unit, hybrid HVAC systems which combine gas and electric heating, switching between the two depending on outdoor conditions, heat recovery where waste heat is recovered from other systems and reused to heat a building, and/or thermal energy storage, which stores and dispatches waste heat like a battery to deliver heating and cooling.
5. Lighting Upgrades
Switching to newer LEDs is one way to transition to an energy-saving lighting system. Integrating lighting with HVAC controls is a way to take your lighting to the next level of efficiency, driving additional energy savings while leveraging your system to collect valuable business data. Whatever type of solution you choose, you’ll find that today’s lighting technologies will not only help you meet your energy retrofit objectives, but they will also expand the possibilities of what your building lighting can do.
6. Refrigerant Selection
The refrigerants we need to run HVAC systems and keep our buildings comfortable can emit large amounts of harmful GHGs. Converting to next generation, low-GWP refrigerants is a great way to slow your building’s emissions. That said, refrigerant conversion and management is a complex undertaking. If you think a refrigerant conversion might be right for you, make sure to conduct a thorough assessment of your equipment and make any necessary retrofits before working you’re your OEM service team to recharge with a new environmentally friendly refrigerant. If a conversion isn’t an option for your equipment, it’s important to ensure any new equipment utilizes lower GWP refrigerants.
Get your energy right and the rest of your operations will follow. Generating clean energy on-site can boost environmental sustainability and operational resiliency at the same time. Today there are more solutions that ever to help you meet your environmental sustainability goals, whether you’re interested in a photovoltaic solar, wind, geothermal, or biogas/biomass solution to power your buildings. When researching an energy improvement solution, look for a technology that will not only help you meet your capacity requirements, but that will also be optimal for your geography. Check also with your local utilities — you might be surprised by incentives they offer!