Troy Miller is an Education Focus Leader at LHB and a professional architect with over 20 years of experience. His experiences and knowledge have allowed him the opportunity to work on over 100 schools from coast to coast. In this post, Troy provides a partial summary of what he presented at the 2017 MASMS Regional Presenters Conference on his experience in saving schools money.
B3 and Beyond: Three Steps to Save Dollars by Troy Miller
LHB has long been a leader in sustainable design, but that is no longer enough. Without proper attention, the best designed building will not perform its best. Educated building owners are looking for design firms that are thinking beyond sustainable design and incorporating best practices to continue lowering their operational costs. LHB is constantly evolving our practice to help building owners create cost effective spaces that are also places people want to be.
Working with our Operations Specialists and WELL Accredited Professional staff, we are assisting school districts across Minnesota and Wisconsin in new and creative ways. Over the last 24 months, our team created the Three-Step Workshop to help building owners find opportunities to save money that are within their control. LHB worked with 14 districts to help them save an anticipated $2,000,000 in annual expenses. These dollars found their way back to the classrooms to directly help teachers and students. So, what are the Three-Steps?
- Understand utility rate structures: Each utility is different and their rate structures include many variables that allow you to manage your monthly costs. We help school district facility and finance teams understand those variables and how to analyze their data. In reviewing one district’s energy bill (five buildings), we found opportunities to save over $10,000 monthly without any changes to operations, buildings, or systems.
- Manage the operations of building/systems and staffing: For over 50 years, LHB has been designing buildings and tracking performance. We have learned that even with system commissioning, the most inefficient a building should ever be is the day an owner takes possession. Like any new technology, the facility’s staff have a learning curve to overcome, no matter how knowledgeable they are. There are automation system schedules to develop, methods to track a building’s reaction to daily and seasonal changes to create, and expectations of occupant comfort to meet. There are hundreds of opportunities to continuously improve a building’s performance once the operations team understands their role and responsibility in the process.
- Plan for future building/systems maintenance and improvement: There will always be opportunities to improve a building’s performance. And there will always be the constant need to maintain facilities. However, the order in which investments are made will have a long-term impact on the potential savings and on the comfort of the buildings’ occupants. LHB works with facility owners and operators to help prioritize these investments and gain support from other decision makers and stakeholders to support these needs.
Above is a depiction of B3’s benchmarking interface showing a real project and cost increases from baseline. LHB worked with the client to uncover the underlying reasons for the increase and decrease energy costs below its original baseline.
There are many tools available to assist districts with tracking building performance, but the most cost effective is the State of Minnesota’s “Buildings, Benchmarks, & Beyond” (B3) Program. The State of Minnesota provides free use of B3 to Minnesota School Districts and to Wisconsin School Districts for a small annual fee. Districts can access and use B3 on their own. LHB has helped districts with the B3 system as well. The information provided through B3 is a crucial first step to getting started. To see the basic information that B3 can provide, visit: http://lhb.b3benchmarking.com/
Authored by Troy Miller, June 1, 2017