To support our community, Ross & Baruzzini partnered with USGBC to provide in-kind energy audit services for a local congregation.
We have a long history of energy-conscious engineering, consulting, and design here at Ross & Baruzzini. A testament to that is our internal “Sustainability Team” – a multi-disciplinary committee that furthers internal green practices, spearheaded our St. Louis office’s solar array installation and encourages sustainability and energy-related thought leadership within the company.
In August 2014, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Missouri Gateway Chapter and Missouri Interfaith Power & Light solicited for energy audit providers to offer their services and provide energy audits to qualifying local congregations. Each congregation would receive a Level 1 audit according to the Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits (PCBEA), published by the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
At the time, Ross & Baruzzini’s Sustainability Committee was looking to partner with a non-profit organization to provide a pro-bono energy audit to support the community. This was the perfect opportunity for us to reach out and become involved with the local chapter of USGBC, connect with our community, and give back in a way that uses our skills and technical expertise.
Grace + Peace Fellowship
We were paired with Grace + Peace Fellowship, a Presbyterian church located at Delmar and Clara in the Loop just north of Forest Park. We met with Gordon Carlson, a deacon at the church who helped us every step of the way. We started by interviewing him about the facility and the church community.
The congregation has occupied the building since 1985 and uses it for worship services, Sunday school, and small group study sessions. Built in 1908, the building consists of a beautiful sanctuary, office area, small group and Sunday school rooms, and a basement that includes a large kitchen, a Fellowship hall for gatherings, and space used as a women’s temporary overnight shelter in the winter months. Long-term goals include a major renovation to improve the facility’s access, kitchen, and main electrical service.
The Ross & Baruzzini Team
The Ross & Baruzzini Sustainability Committee assembled a multi-discipline team of volunteers who surveyed mechanical systems and performed calculations related to mechanical system efficiencies, completed the utility analysis and benchmarking, surveyed lighting and electrical systems and completed lighting calculations, surveyed the envelope and provided architectural guidance, and completed thermal imaging survey work and financial resources research. The Director of Energy Services at Ross & Baruzzini, Ryan Walsh, provided oversight, technical expertise, and final quality control.
Our team started by completing a utility analysis. Grace + Peace Fellowship provided us with two years worth of utility data, which we scrutinized for billing discrepancies and normalized to account for weather. This allowed us to benchmark the building against similar buildings.
Benchmarking a building is the process of comparing energy usage per square foot between buildings. Building owners can easily track their energy usage online in the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, an online tool used to track and manage energy and water consumption. By tracking its energy usage online in the Portfolio Manager, Grace + Peace Fellowship was already heading in the right direction.
So why is Benchmarking important?
1. Benchmarking establishes metrics for annual energy management.
As the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Even if you make every effort to save energy, you can’t know the true effect of your efforts without tracking your building’s performance. Benchmarking provides objective, reliable data to measure a building’s energy performance and cost over multiple years. Each new year of data can be compared to the year before as a way to make sure the building performance doesn’t degrade over time.
2. Benchmarking can be used to determine the priority of improvement projects.
As facilities are improved with energy retrofits, building owners want to know what benefit they are gaining from the improvement. Benchmarking can help determine the success of any potential improvements to facilities. Future energy use after an improvement is completed must be measured against a facility’s “baseline” energy use that occurred before the improvement was made. The estimated post-improvement energy use compared to the baseline energy use allows a return on investment to be calculated, which can help owners decide which projects are worth the initial cost and the order in which they should be implemented.
3. Benchmarking can raise red flags for maintenance staff.
Monthly benchmarking can assist maintenance staff in troubleshooting their facility. For example, if one month’s water usage is significantly higher than the previous month’s, this may indicate there is a leak somewhere in the facility. Diligently paying attention to energy and water usage can raise red flags for problems that, if left as is, can cost a lot more than if they had been fixed.
What’s next? The building survey. All mechanical, electrical, and envelope systems were inspected to see what efficiency improvements could be made. Thermal infrared images were taken so we could assess the envelope integrity and diagnose moisture and infiltration issues. The survey resulted in a list of energy conservation measures (ECMs). We suggested that the congregation improve the building envelope insulation, reduce infiltration, improve HVAC system efficiencies, upgrade the interior lighting, and reduce domestic heating energy losses among other improvements. These ECMs will help the congregation save energy and reduce their annual utility costs. In total, the anticipated energy savings from implementing these changes is expected to be approximately 30% of their annual energy costs with a simple payback period of about 10 years.
In all of our energy audits, we strive to include helpful information about implementation and financing options available for the client. This was particularly true for Grace + Peace Fellowship as funds are always limited for non-profits and congregations. In addition, more information will be made available at the upcoming USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter workshop, “Green Your House of Worship,” to be held on February 22. The event will be an opportunity for congregations to learn more about benchmarking and energy-saving projects they can implement. If you’re interested, you can check it out here.
So where does one begin in the process of saving energy in their building? I encourage you to begin by benchmarking. Taking a proactive approach to energy management is key, and as I said before, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. To get started, join the 25×20 Benchmarking Campaign by pledging to benchmark your building. This campaign, coordinated by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter, aims to reduce building energy consumption in the St. Louis region by 25% by the year 2020. Participants in the campaign learn how benchmarking is a crucial step to conserving energy, saving money, and lowering environmental impacts. To learn more about the 25×20 Benchmarking Campaign, see the list of participants, and take the pledge, visit here.
For more information about Grace + Peace Fellowship and the services they provide to the community, visit their website.
Special thanks go out to the team members involved in this project for their time and talent including Dan Phelan, Danny McGrail, Barry Reeb, Shane Healey, Kevin McCormick, and Ryan Walsh.
Annie Smith is a Mechanical Engineer at Ross & Baruzzini with experience in energy audits and mechanical design. Her project experience includes commercial office buildings, research laboratories, residence halls, athletic and recreation facilities, and healthcare facilities. Annie has expertise in the ASHRAE Procedures for Commercial Energy Audits, lifecycle cost and payback analyses, and Revit and BIM technologies. She is involved in the local St. Louis chapters of ASHRAE, USGBC, and AEE.