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The SOL VISTA Building Audit: Custom Data & Results

September 12, 2018

SOL VISTA's building efficiency team executes a customized process for every property it inspects. In part 1 of this series, we described the base assessment that takes place for every customer. Below, we go in-depth to exhibit findings from several recently-completed audits.

Results from four ASHRAE building audits SOL VISTA performed in summer 2018 each show custom recommendations on how to improve performance and efficiency. While every building is unique and requires different Energy Conservation Measures, or ECMs, some trends appear depending on building age, infrastructure, ENERGY STAR® ratings, location, and history.

SOL VISTA Building Audit: Using Custom Results

These buildings varied especially in their ENERGY STAR scores, but the recommended ECMs combined to provide nearly $25,000 in savings for minor upgrades to almost $550,000 for more expensive efforts. Overall, the assessments show that regardless of a building's age or current performance, close attention to detail can make significant differences in improving operations and reducing costs.

Utility Data and On-Site Evaluation

The first step for any assessment should be detailed analysis of 2-3-years of utility bills. SOL VISTA then has the unique ability to benchmark its assessment properties against its entire database of Skywalk® customers to show which properties have above average utility use and costs. This analysis also helps guide SOL VISTA's engineers towards specific issues to dig into during the onsite visit to help streamline operations and save utility costs.

For the four recent audits, the property with the highest ENERGY STAR rating received a score of 56 – above average, but still leaving lots of room for improvement on the scale of 1 to 100. The lowest score was for a building that was built nearly a century ago, meaning its basic infrastructure could have a negative effect on efficiency. Though this property underwent a major renovation in 2009 and is in a city that has required building benchmarking for years, its ENERGY STAR rating is an 8.

No-Cost Improvements

During on-site visits at two hotels, it was noted that employees hadn't yet picked up a basic habit that can considerably impact utility bills: turning off the lights. The building audit team regularly observes lighting in meeting spaces and back-of-house areas that is left on when areas are not in use. This is a simple, no-cost training measure that managers can put in place immediately, and with successful implementation will lower energy consumption right away.

This and other no-cost ECMs such as changing thermostat set points and better allocating bill pay costs to tenants could save these properties thousands of dollars per year.

Low-Cost Improvements

Many low-cost options for all four hotels revolved around water flow and temperature control, including low-flow water equipment replacements and adding new pipe insulation.

Low-cost improvements have potential to save one property more than $4,000 per year. Estimated costs are under $3,000, so the projects would pay for themselves in under a year.

SOL VISTA Building Audit: Using Custom Results

For another hotel in the Midwest, SOL VISTA's audit team estimates that no-cost and low-cost ECMs would lead to a $10,000 reduction in annual utility spend and that savings would cover the cost of the projects in just over 1 year.

One west coast property could receive an estimated $9,000 in savings annually, from projects that would pay for themselves in just over one year. These low-cost options included small upgrades to air handling units, cooling tower motors, and pool operations.

Capital-Intensive Improvements

Capital-intensive upgrades can be more complex, so SOL VISTA's recommendations come with financial calculations, including estimated payback, return on investment, and net present value.

Capital-intensive upgrades such as full LED lighting replacements could save one property nearly $27,000 per year, while other options include solar power upgrades – if some roof space logistics can be addressed.

The building assessment for another property showed that higher cost measures could offer over $160,000 in annual savings and have a net present value of nearly $800,000. It's estimated that these improvements could reduce utility spend by up to 20% and the project costs would pay back from savings in just 4 years. Many of the upgrade recommendations were for equipment upgrades and repairs, including for the condensate system, cooling tower, roof exhaust, hot water pump motors, and a guestroom HVAC automation system.

In a third hotel, SOL VISTA's team found eight capital-intensive investments ranging from property-wide lighting and water fixture upgrades to major system repairs. These projects would result in savings of over $110,000 per year, with a net present value over $340,000.

The Takeaway

Overall, the assessments showed that each property had the potential to lower utility costs, regardless of building age, location, or ENERGY STAR score.

One hotel, renovated in the past 5 years, could cut utility expenses by over $116,000 per year--a reduction of 12%. While another hotel could reduce annual utility expenses by over $175,000 despite undergoing renovations less than 10 years ago. A third hotel has potential to reduce its yearly utility costs by more than $115,000, or 13%, despite having the highest ENERGY STAR score of these buildings.

A last piece of advice is to be weary of cheap or free energy audits. These audits usually end up sitting on the shelf or in a desk because they're either too generic in their recommendations or not enough time was spent to fully understand the feasibility of recommendations. Investing in a good building audit will provide immediate utility cost savings and a strong list of follow-up energy and water efficiency measures.

SOL VISTA's team has audited thousands of buildings and implemented hundreds of projects and is consistently working with the newest technologies. This allows our team to provide you with an individual roadmap to maximize energy and water efficiency at your property.

Skywalk®, SOL VISTA's proprietary SaaS platform, empowers commercial building owners and managers to improve the performance and profitability of their buildings.

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