By Sam van Berkel, MASc, PEng
Originally published in Building Blocks magazine May 2014
As sustainability becomes an increasingly important issue, the value derived from efficient utility consumption should not be underestimated. The way utilities are managed in multi-residential buildings presents an absolute goldmine of savings opportunities by eliminating waste and inefficiency. For example, a building may have done a water retrofit three or four years ago (installing new toilets and showerheads), but consumption has nevertheless crept up. This gradual increase is often an indication of water leakage, but is difficult to detect from monthly utility bills. Hourly utility monitoring can help spot even small increases in consumption and flag inefficiencies, which can then be verified by performing a water audit. Such inefficiencies, along with the City of Toronto’s scheduled 8% water rate increase next year imply that the most effective way to minimize the financial impact of water costs is to focus on conservation. Similar opportunities exist with gas and electricity monitoring.
“There are huge financial savings to be had by monitoring your utilities carefully,” says Adam Krehm, Co-Owner and Manager of O’Shanter Development Co. “For every dollar that we can take off the operating costs of this building, almost 20 dollars are added to the value of the real-estate. From the EnergyBrain system, we can tell the kinds of operational problems we’re having. We can look at the before and after results, and monitor things very carefully in real-time. Having that kind of a handle on one’s operations is probably worth 20-25% of the annual fuel bill…it’s a large sum of money.”
These utility cost savings were most recently captured by one of Watershed Technologies’ apartment building on Lawrence Avenue East, where annual savings of $12 600 provided a quick payback, increasing the building’s profitability and real-estate value in less than one year’s time. Additional efficiency investments are now being considered for natural gas and electricity, where similar savings can be realized with the same analytic tools as used for water conservation. In addition to reducing the utility cost of existing portfolio buildings, these benefits can also be realized in the context of new acquisitions, where a key consideration is the building’s water and energy use patterns. If excessive waste and inefficiencies are identified from an external audit and monitoring, this presents a significant opportunity because utility cost-efficiencies can be improved quickly, and the project payback period is often less than one year. This immediately adds property value and equity for a new acquisition.
“There’s huge leverage in having these kinds of savings,” says Mr. Krehm. “Using EnergyBrain will reduce your operating inefficiencies, you will have the ability to evaluate various retrofit strategies that can be used on a wider scale within your portfolio, and you will add huge value to the real-estate portfolio where it’s being used. I would venture to say that if you come from no utility monitoring to the effective use of EnergyBrain, you would easily add 20% to the value of your portfolio. If there is a commitment and a belief in this system, a building manager who uses EnergyBrain can have a grasp of utility consumption that he could only dream of.”
All things considered, investing in efficient utility consumption is a great way to achieve the triple bottom line of economic prosperity, environmental performance and social responsibility. A proactive mindset and utility monitoring goes a long way to capturing these gains, and ensuring optimum building performance for years into the future.
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