STEP ON THE GAS! Accelerate Your Distribution Center Energy Efficient Retrofits By Picking Great Partners

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I was recently visiting with a large major multi-national, multi-site corporation and discussing their progress in capturing energy reduction results across their enterprise’s more than 80 distribution centers. They shared with me the significant progress that they have made across their organization in lighting initiatives to drastically reduce their operating expenses utilizing best in class distribution center lighting technologies. They likewise had made progress inside their facilities in material handling equipment, shelving layouts, work flow designs and time saving technologies to expedite the touches inside the distribution center. As our conversation turned to HVAC system improvements, there was a noticeable pause. “Office HVAC system improvements and specifically cooling energy improvements inside the office have been a major focus area for years,” they shared.

The industry in total has made progress there, working on upgrades from low efficiency, older equipment to higher efficiency systems for offices. Big commercial HVAC manufacturers have continued to improve systems. “What about HVAC improvements in the distribution center?,” I asked. “Do you have a plan to address heating and ventilation opportunities in the DC?,” I inquired. Another pause.

As I have travelled the U.S. and Canada, I have been witness to this same type of pause more than 80% of the time. The good news is that there still remains a fantastic opportunity for facilities leaders to make a massive impact on energy reduction savings for their organizations in their big box distribution centers and industrial manufacturing facilities.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), located in Richland, Washington, is one among ten U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories managed by DOE’s Office of Science. Their research strengthens the U.S. foundation for innovation. They develop solutions for U.S. DOE, for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Nuclear Security Administration, as well as other government agencies, universities and industries.

In January of 2015, the following information was provided by PNNL, detailing the progress across the various functional building system sets and the energy savings accomplishments.

I shared this graph during my meeting with the large multi-national and relayed to the facility and energy leader that they were not alone. Many of their peers are in the same boat. Not a lot of progress in heating systems is documented. You can see from the PNNL chart that progress in lighting, building materials, roofing, insulation has been successful across the U.S.. The heating system line, however, is stalled and warrants attention.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has embraced this challenge and has developed of forum to inspire continuing improvement in energy use reduction.

“The Better Buildings Challenge supports commercial and industrial building owners by providing technical assistance and proven solutions to energy efficiency. The program also provides a forum for matching Partners and Allies to enhance collaboration and problem solving in energy efficiency. Both Partners and Allies are publically recognized for their leadership and innovation in energy efficiency.” (Source – U.S. DOE) https://www4.eere.energy.gov/challenge/about
Significant improvements to heating systems as I’ve identified have been stalled for some time. There are reasons for the slow pace of change in this area. Some of them are detailed below.

  • Low baseline equipment cost
  • Misaligned incentives for building owners and tenants
  • Reactionary equipment replacement: Like for Like (using same low efficient technology)
  • Limited objective field data on best in class technology
  • Lack of central control & influence (heightened when you lease vs. own real estate)
  • Lack of standardization of systems and/or controls for meaningful measurement/progress

ACCELERATE Your Distribution Center Energy Efficient Retrofits
I want to share with you here the five key habits from energy efficiency leaders in the Better Buildings Challenge.
https://www4.eere.energy.gov/challenge/habits-of-leaders

  1. Know the goal (set quantifiable and ambitious goals at the highest level in the organization)
  2. Data matters (must be able to measure)
  3. Look beyond technology (combine technology advances with organizational commitments)
  4. It takes an energy champion – and a team aligned
  5. Learn, teach and evolve (seek out help from others – learn from successful projects)

Thank you for spending some time reviewing my thoughts on energy reduction acceleration plans in this final frontier of building energy efficiency. I hope that you are able to see a picture of your own success story as you digest some of the thoughts from the DOE, the PNNL and the Better Building Alliance. Let me know how we might assist you on your path towards progress. Visit our website and click on OWNER tab for more information regarding our support for building owners and managers. May God bless you with inspiration, insight and all the support you will require on your journey!

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