Going Green: Tech or Retrofits?
From the Spring 2022 issue of CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine, Volume 26, Issue Number 3
What is the Best Approach to the Greening of our Residential Properties?
Change Is In the Air
Change is in the air – literally. Whether it's driven by new environmental mandates, the energy costs and financial impact of condo residents living and working from home almost full-time, or a personal concern for the carbon footprint of our multi-residential buildings, now is the time to explore new and innovative solutions that will pave the most direct path towards achieving Canada's goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Indeed, there are many ways to approach the greening of our residential properties and portfolios, but what works best? And what are the pros and cons? Let's begin by comparing two of the major potential options for moving forward, both from a cost and impact point of view.
Testing the Limits of Retrofits Property management teams often think of equipment upgrades as the first line of defense against rising energy costs and for moving more quickly towards net-zero emissions. And while there are certainly moments when outdated equipment needs to be replaced–such as outdated lighting– some major retrofit projects can often be expensive, wasteful, and disruptive.
As a best practice, evaluating the need to replace aging equipment should be an integral part of a comprehensive assessment of your building's energy performance. In this way, assessing building equipment Going Green: Tech or Retrofits? What is the Best Approach to the Greening of our Residential Properties? Net Zero 2050 Brad Pilgrim CEO, Parity becomes part of a process which, in turn, supports a well-informed strategy that meets the immediate and long-term energy efficiency goals of your property.
"Replacing equipment is not a magic bullet," states Mike Mulqueen, SVP of Sales and Business Development at Parity. "Some retrofit opportunities are obvious and should be pursued to capture initial energy savings but there is a risk of wasting the opportunity if proper attention is not paid to ensuring the savings persist with proper operation of the equipment. Gaps in performance are inevitable, but without a close eye on even state-of-theart equipment, you're going to waste time and money and end up dissatisfied with your capital investments," he cautions.
"At the end of the day, optimizing energy efficiency and reducing harmful emissions is more of a nuanced conversation than 'Do we or don't we take on significant retrofits and equipment upgrades'," explains Mulqueen, "If property owners or building managers have not enlisted the expertise of a qualified engineering team or adopted a way to track and process the enormous amount of data a building produces–essentially the real story your property is telling you–then there's no accurate or logical way to develop a strategic approach to reducing energy waste and eliminating CO2 emissions from your building."
Leveraging Tech and Unlimited Data Compared to capital-intensive retrofits, smart technology offers us a different way forward, both from a cost and operational efficiency point of view. And while it's not necessarily an either/or proposition, understanding the energy performance data related to your building or portfolio of buildings will accomplish two things:
1. Help with the initial fine-tuning and ongoing constant commissioning of equipment to minimize energy waste, CO2 emissions, and operational costs, and;
2. Provide additional critical insights into a building's heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC) system–and how that system can be automated to achieve efficiencies, while simultaneously increasing the building's energy performance and decreasing its carbon footprint–often with little to no upfront cost to the building.
"We're not the first to recognize the transformative impact that smart technology has on energy consumption," says Mulqueen, "but, the multi-unit residential sector stands to make significant environmental and financial gains by adopting technology that can both learn the energy use patterns of a building, and adjust the individual equipment performance of a building's HVAC system in real time."
The greatest impact, Mulqueen emphasizes, happens when data is gathered and interpreted correctly, to provide clear direction to a property management team and their Board of Directors for exactly where and how to reduce CO2 emissions short-term and long-term, system wide without compromising resident comfort or impeding operational efficiency.
Change Is Good
The undeniably noticeable change is how the introduction of advanced, cloudbased HVAC control technology has revolutionized the optimization and maintenance of HVAC equipment, resulting in improved opportunities for environmental stewardship – without increased capital investment costs. In fact, according to the 2017 ACEEE Report, Smart Buildings: Using Smart Technology to Save Energy in Existing Buildings, "a smart building with integrated systems can realize 30–50 per cent savings in existing buildings that are otherwise inefficient."
"Building system data, effective energy management technology, and engaged, smart partners are a powerful combination for building owners and operators," says Mulqueen. "The best news is that smart technology can be easily installed alongside existing building systems, and can be paid for by the very same energy savings the technology delivers."
The fact is, real and ideal change will come when technology and building systems work together, in tandem, hand in hand. In this way, building systems and equipment can be consistently maximized to ensure optimal performance and greener outcomes right now and for our sustainable future.
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