March 22, 2011
My late grandmother—a World War II U.S. Marine Corps veteran—always had a Plan B. When things didn’t go quite the way she wanted them to, she’d move onto Plan B, equally as detailed as Plan A, but not necessarily her first-choice option.
It may have been her Great Depression upbringing, based on the scarcity of goods during the time, that led her to have a back-up plan. The United States is again facing a scarcity of goods—this time energy and natural resources—partly because of our selfish demand for resources, and partly because there just aren’t enough natural resources to go around. This scarcity is causing an energy crisis.
The Obama Administration has done its due diligence for energy efficiency. Almost immediately after he entered office, President Obama announced that the Dept. of Energy, under the leadership of Steven Chu, would receive billions of dollars to support energy efficiency, renewable energy, and Smart Grid projects. The change in politics and public sentiment, however, may slow some of these programs and stop others.
But why are we—just now—passing all these laws and releasing all these federal funds? Can standards organizations ramp up their energy-efficiency codes and push the envelope even further? Why do I receive press releases from energy efficiency and sustainable organizations every time something goes “green”? When will building owners understand that it’s the capital cost, in tandem with the lifecycle cost, that determines the overall cost of a building system? All of these should be de facto.
Engineers have known for a long time that energy efficiency is the key to a sustainable, efficient structure. However, in some cases engineers do only what the client requests. Rather than using Plan A—leading our buildings and owners toward more efficiency—Plan B has gone into effect. Engineers need to be proactive rather than reactive, and apply their smarts and software beyond designing systems to helping owners understand the short-, mid-, and long-term benefits of better buildings. (This topic is covered in an on-demand webcast available at www.csemag.com/webcasts.)
It’s not just design engineers anymore. The new construction recession has put a lot more pressure on owners to invest in existing buildings. Thus, the fields of retrocommissioning, continuous commissioning, and energy management services have exploded in the United States.
A scarcity of natural resources, current circumstances in the Middle East, national political and economic uncertainty, and a burgeoning energy-efficiency market offer us all a great opportunity to help building owners understand that lifecycle cost and energy costs are part of owning a building, and that energy conservation or a minimization of resources promise a great return on investment.
Go for it.
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