Unlock the Value of Energy Audits: Selecting the Right Path
Selecting the appropriate level of an energy audit is the key to optimizing your building's performance and achieving cost-effective results. At Improvement Facilitation, we understand that your objectives and project goals drive the decision-making process. Let's explore how to make the most of your energy audit investment.
Aligning with Your Objectives: The first step in choosing the right energy audit level is to identify your specific objectives for the building. Consider:
- Are you covering the costs of utilities in your building and seeking to reduce operating costs?
- Are you seeking to reposition an asset for acquisition or enhance book value?
- What is your budget for improvement projects?
- Are you interested in identifying no-cost or low-cost energy-saving opportunities or long-term capital planning?
These questions are pivotal in determining the most suitable audit level for your needs. A tailored approach ensures you strike a balance between cost and value.
Simplified differences between ASHRAE energy audit levels 1, 2, and 3.
Preliminary Energy Analysis: It's important to note that the Preliminary Energy Use Analysis, is included as a foundational step in ALL energy audits. This involves comparing a building's energy consumption against similar buildings to assess its operational performance.
Level 1 Energy Audit: An initial assessment to identify potential energy-saving opportunities in a facility. It provides a list of recommended Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs). ECM Opportunities are described qualitatively, indicating their relative cost, savings potential. and priority. These include No-Cost Measures (typically operational or maintenance adjustments), Low-Cost Measures (requiring modest capital expenditure typically covered in current budgets), and Capital-Intensive Measures (requiring substantial capital investment but promise substantial long-term energy savings.)
Level 2 Energy Audit: This is a more comprehensive assessment with extra rigor applied to analysis. Auditors spend additional time on-site, collaborating with facility staff, reviewing drawings, and conducting a detailed building survey. The Level 2 report includes all Level 1 findings, breaking down consumption by end-use, occupancy patterns, historical billing data, and observations, and further presents a site-specific analysis of recommended ECMs frequently using monthly analysis rather than annualized estimation. The additional rigor provides a deeper understanding of expected implementation costs, expected energy savings, and economic metrics like Return on Investment (ROI).
Level 3 Energy Audit: Building on the Level 2 audit, a Level 3 audit takes a more detailed and precise approach. Recommendations from Level 2 are developed into actionable projects, reducing uncertainties and investment risks. Major ECM projects require vendor bids or cost estimates, and the analysis is frequently expanded through on-site measurements or modeling. Level 3 audits are not typically the starting point for customers, but rather reserved for contractual agreements like performance contracts, or required for transactions to enhance due diligence regarding project viability and value.
A (very) brief summary of the Los Angeles Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency Ordinance (EBEWE)
The Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency (EBEWE) Program in the City of Los Angeles was established through several ordinances, including Ordinance No. 184674, Ordinance No. 185198, Ordinance No. 185586, and Ordinance No. 186789. This program aims to reduce energy and water consumption in buildings, including existing ones, to lower overall energy and water usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Key provisions of the program include:
- Scope: The program applies to various types of buildings, including those owned by the City of Los Angeles, privately owned buildings, and those owned by local state agencies, depending on their size and use. Some exceptions apply, such as one- and two-family dwellings, residential hotels, and certain specialized structures.
- Benchmarking and Reporting: Building owners are required to submit annual benchmarking reports that include information on energy and water consumption. These reports are based on assessments conducted using the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager tool.
- Energy and Water Audits: Buildings subject to the program must undergo energy and water audits and retro-commissioning of their base building systems. These audits and retro-commissioning activities are designed to identify ways to optimize energy and water performance.
- Compliance Schedule: The compliance schedule varies based on the size and type of building, with different deadlines for benchmarking, audits, and retro-commissioning.
- Record Maintenance: Building owners are required to maintain records related to benchmarking, audits, and retro-commissioning for a period of five years. These records should include energy and water bills, reports, and forms from tenants and utilities.
- Noncompliance Fees: Failure to comply with the program can result in noncompliance fees, as specified in Section 98.0411 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code. In summary, the choice between ASHRAE energy audit levels depends on your specific objectives and the depth of analysis required. While Level 1 provides a preliminary overview, Level 2 offers a standard comprehensive audit, and Level 3 delves into precise project development and risk reduction. Each level serves a unique purpose in optimizing building energy efficiency and achieving cost savings.
- Fees: Building owners are required to pay various fees, including an annual disclosure compliance fee, audit and retro-commissioning compliance fee, and a building and safety development surcharge.
- Severability: The ordinance includes a severability clause, stating that if any provision is found invalid, it won't affect the remaining provisions, which can be implemented independently.
This ordinance was passed by the City Council of Los Angeles on December 13, 2016, and became effective on January 29, 2017. It provides a framework for improving energy and water efficiency in existing buildings throughout the city.
Cutting corners on an energy audit is not a wise investment. Opting for the lowest-cost bidder may meet minimum requirements but often yields inadequate results. Effective energy auditing demands a deep understanding of building systems and expertise in identifying viable energy projects, cost-effective opportunities, and strategies to maintain occupant safety and comfort.
Energy audits are a powerful tool for building owners and facility managers. They offer a roadmap to reduce operating expenses, lower utility bills, extend equipment life, decrease maintenance costs, maximize ROI, and avoid regulatory fines. Our expertise at Improvement Facilitation, founded 2008, enables us to guide you toward the right level of investigation that suits your needs and objectives.
As you embark on your energy audit journey, feel free to reach out to us with any questions. Our experienced and knowledgeable energy auditors are ready to assist you. Unlock the full potential of your building with the right energy audit. Contact us today!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!