Body + Building: How Retrocommissioning Service Providers can be Personal Trainers for Commercial Buildings

Jan 29, 2015

Have you ever found yourself joining a gym only to find you’re clueless about how all that fancy equipment works? Or maybe after you’ve become a gym member, you’re not seeing results because you’re using the equipment incorrectly ― or using the wrong equipment all together?

If so, then you’re not alone. We all think joining a gym is going to lead to better health, but unless we are optimizing the experience, we may not get the results we want. The benefits of getting expertise are evident in so many areas: health, sports, education, job certifications ― all aspects of life. It’s also at the core of a good retrocommissioning service offered by utility-run energy efficiency programs.

A commercial building’s maintenance staff members are the ultimate experts at running their building systems. No one knows their systems better. But this does not mean the staff members are experts in optimally running their systems. Often the Building Automation System (BAS) gets so out of whack from quick-fix manual overrides, it needs a certified technician to reprogram its setpoints. Maintenance departments also commonly run on very lean budgets and are stretched thin from their daily responsibilities. So after responding all day to hot and cold calls, tenant requests, and safety procedures, there is no time to proactively hunt for energy savings opportunities. 

For utilities to really help their customers and spend program dollars effectively, providing quality “service providers” through a retrocommissioning program is key. Service providers are like personal trainers for maintenance staff. They see their client’s potential, develop an individualized plan, give the proper instruction, and make sure their client sticks to good form by verifying the work is being completed correctly. Service providers affiliated with utility-run energy efficiency programs must be highly respected consultants that can diagnose a wide variety of inefficiencies built in to the BAS’s programming. Part of a retrocommissioning offering’s success lies in having a top-notch service provider network that can readily serve the local market. Having this high level expertise is a key first step at building trust and rapport. The maintenance staff members need to confide in and collaborate with the service provider about their system. If this is missing, the staff will feel undermined or second-guessed about how they run their operation and the results will not meet expectations. The staff will continue to do what they know, and they may miss inexpensive and easy opportunities to increase building performance.

Once the investigation on the building’s BAS is underway, the service providers can then work out the inefficiencies in their customer’s unique system. The service providers give the staff the proper explanation of what went wrong, how to fix it, and reliable estimates of the energy savings potential. This building-specific care can increase the persistence of optimized adjustments, because the staff learns about the operational deficiencies, and the program oversees that the installations are done correctly. Additionally, since this service is program-sponsored, the program provides additional support to stay on schedule. As the results appear, whether it is from verified savings, improved tenant comfort, or less maintenance work, customer satisfaction remains high, which can lead to more program participation in the future.

Retrocommissioning offers need to be service-based to a degree that is useful to and respected by the facility staff in order to get the support and funding needed from building ownership. Many customers still need the knowledge and support to find and fix energy inefficiencies. Fulfill this need with expert advice on what to do and how to do it. Their building will be in great shape for it!