Money Well Spent

As buildings become smarter and more efficient, projects are becoming more complex and require multiple skill sets to achieve sustainability. Often, energy upgrades require multiple retrofits customized specifically for a particular property in order to drive a true return on investment. But this puts owners and operators in a tough spot – with increased complexity comes increased work and greater risk. How can you be sure you’re getting the most out of your investment?

Many building portfolio owners save energy in buildings by replacing individual equipment and components with more efficient products. In this way, owners can achieve significant savings. Yet figuring out how to do that in a large commercial building or across a broad portfolio can be daunting. And if there are large costs involved, maximizing that return is going to be top priority.

For many building owners, energy planning and management is a complication – another factor to juggle when dividing limited capital and resources between pressing concerns like overall management, code compliance, and other upgrades and renovations. And if buildings are situated across multiple locations, the task becomes even more complex. An additional part of the problem is technical: owners don’t know what’s possible in their buildings.

However, identifying potential candidates for energy efficiency retrofits poses significant challenges. Building professionals, developers, owners, facility managers, insurers, lenders and regulators are all struggling to get the information they need to support their building decisions. To systematically evaluate and update existing building portfolios, the building industry needs a scalable process to assess building performance quickly, cost effectively, accurately and efficiently.

Using Crowdsourcing to Find a Match

How can owners comprehensively develop solutions that will transition their buildings from liabilities into high-performance assets?  How should they time these improvements across multiple buildings while balancing other business and real estate concerns?

For existing building energy retrofits, developing a streamlined and cost-effective energy modeling process is critical. The process should provide building owners with accurate and timely information at a reasonable cost to allow them to make informed decisions about implementing energy efficiency improvements. Usually, only limited resources are available for investing in energy efficiency, making it important to rank alternatives in terms of return on investment to build the case for immediate and future investments in efficiency.

Despite an increasing number of national and regional building directives to promote better performing buildings, the current methods of performing energy assessments are expensive and laborious, at times costing hundreds of thousands of dollars without a guarantee of when you’ll see return. The types of assessments that achieve the greatest savings are those based on whole building energy analysis.

These include data collection of existing conditions, energy model creation, calibration and energy efficiency measures. These assessments generally require a high level of technical expertise and sometimes the assessments are inaccurate due to a lack of data, time or budget.

Crowdsourcing – distributed problem solving – is now able to assist. By distributing tasks to a large group of people, you are able to mine collective intelligence, assess quality and process work in parallel. The concept can now be used with streamlining energy retrofits. By outsourcing the work to experts within their respective fields, building owners and managers can equip themselves with all the tools they need and, better yet, ensure they are as prepared as possible.

Via crowdsourcing, building owners can tap into certified energy efficiency professionals that specialize in all aspects of energy retrofits. This on-demand labor can be quickly assembled to immediately review existing conditions and respond to questions like: how low can building energy use go? What reduction goals are both bold and achievable? What’s the best way to phase improvements across many buildings?  How do I prioritize?

A project or request posted online is instantaneously viewed by specialists who are looking exclusively for these kinds of opportunities. The process is easy to manage and can help owners instantly achieve in-house expertise on new ways to approach and manage deep energy efficiency strategies across their portfolio, receive informed portfolio energy goals based on energy and financial analysis, empower owners to engage energy service providers to deliver greater energy and cost savings, and access a peer network for guidance in important efforts such as occupant engagement, green leasing, branding, tenant attraction and retention. All this at the click of a button; the experts will come to you.

With this readily available resource, building owners are able to set themselves apart as industry leaders in building energy management. What’s more, they can do so on the cheap.

The Most Bang for Your Buck

It is essential to provide a project description that is as thorough and as clear as possible. Save yourself money and time by providing all of the information you can and posting it in a logical, clearly defined way.

Include existing room or building dimensions, sketches or images of ideas, thoughts on materials, etc. With crowdsourcing, project descriptions are one of the few cases where less is not more. The more detail you can give the talent pool, the better the final result. Give them something they can sink their teeth into: What are you currently spending on HVAC energy? What would you like to spend? How much cooling capacity do you currently have, and what kind of demand charges do you currently pay? Let the experts crunch the numbers to increase your bottom line.

When reviewing the proposals received, keep in mind the proposal amount is only part of the proposal. Yes, you’d like to save yourself some money, but at the same time you also want to save yourself from any disappointments. There’s nothing worse than investing $100,000 in energy efficiency retrofits only to find out you won’t recoup that money for 10 years, well after the new equipment’s life cycle is complete.

When it comes to cyber-delegating tasks, you want to know as much as possible about the person you’re engaging with. It is vital to research your potential hire carefully and thoroughly. Former client testimonials and reviews carry a lot of weight when assessing a consultant’s potential. Their profiles and portfolios are also useful in determining whether they would be a good match. Those who are placing the most time and thought into creating their profiles are likely to put more time and thought into their work.

Livingstone Mukasa is the founder and CEO of Archability, a crowdsourcing website that matches architectural, design, and efficiency projects with a global talent pool of skilled professionals.  For more information, go to, visit the Twitter page @archability, or email [email protected].

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