Modern Energy Management

Weber State University: The Untapped Potential of Energy Management

August 26, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Modern Energy Management
Weber State University: The Untapped Potential of Energy Management
Chapters
Modern Energy Management
Weber State University: The Untapped Potential of Energy Management
Aug 26, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Nate Nilles, Amber Artrip, Justin Owen
In this episode, Justin Owen, Energy Manager at Weber State University discusses the untapped potential of energy management. He explains how Weber State started their modern energy programs and walks us through some of the projects he's most proud of.
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to the Modern Energy Management podcast! This podcast is a place for sustainability, energy, and facility innovators to tell their stories and share energy best practices that go beyond the meter. We believe that modern energy managers are individuals who use technology and best practices to harness the power of building data to improve resource efficiency, enhance employee well being, increase productivity, lower operational costs, and to create a culture of sustainability at their organization. 

In this episode, Justin Owen, Energy Manager at Weber State University discusses the untapped potential of energy management. He explains how Weber State started their modern energy programs and walks us through some of the projects he's most proud of. 

Do you have an energy, sustainability, facilities story you would like to share with us? Contact marketing@luciddg.com, we'd love to have you share your story on our show!



Speaker 1:
0:00
Hello everyone and welcome to the modern energy management podcast. This podcast is a place for sustainability, energy and facility innovators to tell their stories and share energy best practices that go beyond the meter. We believe that a modern energy manager is someone who uses, um, technology and best practices to harness the power of building data to improve resource efficiency, enhance employee wellbeing, increased productivity, lower operational costs, and create a culture of sustainability at their organization. My name is amber [inaudible] and I'm the producer of this show and I'm pleased to be joined by my colleague and cohost Nate Nellis. Nate, why don't you introduce yourself to the audience.
Speaker 2:
0:46
Thanks amber. First of all, I just wanted to say thank you for starting this podcast. I haven't seen anything out there like this and I didn't think it's going to be really exciting for a lot of people. Listen to people's stories, uh, about this topic. I know I've been involved in the energy management industry now for over 17 years, which kind of blows my mind and, and very passionate about energy efficiency and sustainability. And when I look back, there's a lot of things that I think were very frustrating early in that we were watching how quickly technology had evolved in our personal lives. Yet when I looked at all the building technology I was involved in selling, it was very slow to adapt and that created a real gap for a lot of the professionals we were dealing with to really drive efficiency and be successful. And when we fast forward, I think the last five years have been really exciting and building technology is finally modern and that makes being a part of this podcast. Interesting. And, and we'd love to start rolling into the stories.
Speaker 1:
1:48
Awesome. Thank you nee. And this is our very first episode and we are so thrilled to have Justin Owen, who is the energy manager at Weaver State University. Um, and one of our customers as our very first podcast guests. Welcome to the show, Justin. Thank you for having me.
Speaker 2:
2:06
So Justin, tell us a little bit about yourself. I know the audience would love that, but a, you know, you can go in any direction you want, but thinking, you know, how you got into the energy management space, roles and responsibilities that we were state, but let us let us into your life a little bit. What can you share?
Speaker 3:
2:23
Um, I think the first thing I'd shares that I'm, I'm multi-disciplinary nerd. Uh, and that was one of the challenges for me is as I went through college and graduate school, how was I going to decide, you know, being interested in so many things as I was, what exactly did I want to work on? So I, I got an undergraduate degree in geography from, we were state, I'm an alum with the campus I work at now. Um, and I really struggled what I wanted to do next in my career and I was actually lucky enough to get a, a student internship with the sustainability office here at weaver state. Um, and as soon as I started in that program, I realized this was something I could really dig into. I pursued my graduate education after that. Um, so I got a masters in environmental science as well as a master of public affairs.
Speaker 3:
3:14
Um, and that, that kind of leads me to w one of my first thoughts about energy management is this interdisciplinary nature of what I do on a daily basis. Um, my education prepared me somewhat for that. And then I, I've learned a lot on the job as well. So my current responsibilities and roles that we were stayed, I manage our energy efficiency team, which is a group of individuals that are constantly doing retrofits and upgrades, primarily the lighting systems, but um, uh, HVAC as well. Um, and I also manage our building automation team, which is, you know, for those that are familiar with, I, I assume this audience will be pretty familiar with, with building automation in general, Rick Johnson controls campus. I have three controls programmers that are constantly working to, to improve our campuses efficiency.
Speaker 2:
4:04
So Justin, you said something very interesting there. You know, I know that, uh, you had mentioned that you did all of this training. Obviously you went through a lot of graduate degrees and there's what you learn in school. But then you mentioned this shift to on the job really kind of changed your mindset around, you know, what was required to be successful. Do you think that has changed at all or, or do you think that everyone is kind of have that rude awakening of here's what you learned in school and, and, and now go do it and it's Kinda like, you know, your secondary education.
Speaker 3:
4:36
Oh, I, I think it's absolutely the case that anybody who works in this industry is going to come across things that they've never even dealt with before. For me, I think a rude awakening is a good way to describe it. Um, I came into this position, you know, my predecessor had had built our program and, and I'll talk later, I think a little bit about specifics on what we're doing here on campus. Um, but, but you know, I came in with a, with a good understanding of, of systems modeling. You know, I've done some coding. I had a good idea of how utility rates work. So I very much came in from the policy and the science side of things. I've got a strong background then in atmospheric science for example. Well that doesn't have a lot to do with what I do on a daily basis.
Speaker 3:
5:20
So on the job I've had to learn how an air handler works, how a Vav works, how a pump works. So I, I guess to sum it up is, is as an energy manager, you're, you're constantly bridging this gap between, okay, how do I manage the day to day workload of my group? How do I incorporate human behavior and human decision making into energy management? How do I manage all of the data that I'm dealing with? How does the utility rate structure affect what I'm going to do? Because that can vary from county to county. Um, at least in my experience. And then there's this whole other world of engineering and design where you have to understand, for example, how um, uh, water's going to flow through your pipes, how your energy heat exchangers work. Um, some of the things are very counterintuitive, for example, on a, on a water to water heat exchange or your efficiencies actually better with a smaller DT.
Speaker 3:
6:13
And that was something that I had to learn and understand. Um, one thing that I'm constantly trying to pound into my technicians heads is the affinity laws where your energy use has a cubic relationship with the speed of the motor. Right? And that's something that, um, can be hard to get across. But it's also one thing that I really enjoy about this kind of work. Um, so coincidentally last night I was driving with our university president. Um, we had a presentation before the state legislature and we were talking about this very problem. You know, we have all of these academic programs across the country and some of them are, you know, mechanical engineering with a sustainable energy emphasis, but they still only incorporate maybe 60, 70% of what I do on a daily basis. So we're, we're in talks right now to, to create, and I'm not sure what we would even call it, an an energy management and an engineering bachelor's degree that encompasses all of these different areas. Because I think this isn't only limited to the, to the energy space, but so many of the jobs that are available right now require you to jump quickly between different trades and different, different disciplines.
Speaker 2:
7:32
That part is really interesting, but don't you think, um, it's just a factor of where we are today and you know, we think about modern technology and maybe that worked, you know, 10, 15, 20 years ago, curriculum may not has changed, but now if you look at a lot of the tools and a lot of the datasets and things that you have access to, I would think that that shift is happening now just because really it, it has evolved so much so quickly.
Speaker 3:
7:59
I'd absolutely agree with that. And I look at how technology is moving and the led market, for example, every six months or so I go back and I reevaluate efficiency of the fixtures that we're using because things are always changing. Um, so it's, it's a very dynamic marketplace for sure.
Speaker 2:
8:18
So one of the other things you touched on there that I thought was interesting, you talked about having some of the building automation folks on site. And an a comment that comes up on a lot of people that I've been talking to is that there's been a real struggle getting people away from operation to optimizations, right? That they have all of these people that are doing day to day operations work, but it's really the shift to get people focused on optimizations, which is a gap, right? Which I think is using those tools. But have you guys found that as well? Absolutely. I think it's both a question of mindset and mission, which is part of why
Speaker 3:
8:56
we established a separate energy team here at Weaver State University. Uh, and a good chunk of those salaries are actually paid for by our energy savings. So it, that creates this natural change in mindset from, Oh, let's take a chiller plant for example. I wanna make sure the pumps are running and I want to make sure I'm getting enough flows. I'm going to turn two pumps on at 100% and the third one on it, 50% to Oh, okay, let's actually look at the flow curve of what we're getting a and optimize. Again going back to the affinity laws and say, okay, maybe with two pumps at 75% we can get the flow that we need. Maybe we'll have to go out and clean a cooling coil somewhere. Right? There's, there's some constraint on the system. But that mindset, um, it's definitely difficult to change and it's one of the obstacles we deal with on a daily basis.
Speaker 2:
9:49
Always a balance sheet, never enough people, right? I'm always trying to get more on our end.
Speaker 3:
9:53
Oh wait, we are significantly understaffed that we were staying. There's, there's no question about them.
Speaker 2:
9:58
You know, this is probably a good transition into, um, you know, what it was like in this story or journey if you will, at weaver state when you joined and kind of how they were going about their daily activities. You know, before you adopted more of a modern energy management, you know, system or best practices. And I know for a lot of the people that were in front of and talking to, they're doing a lot of stuff manually. It really is amazing how many different touch points they have with different systems and a lot of manual work, great spreadsheets, different tools. And I would love to kind of dive in and hear a little bit more about your guys' story and your journey from kind of the beginning to where we're at today.
Speaker 3:
10:42
Yes. So, um, I think I'll, I'll start with kind of the administrative and the sustainability side of things and then talk a little more about the, the operational side of things. So for us, um, our president in 2007 who is actually now a state senator here in Utah, um, she signed a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050. Right. This was a thing that a lot of universities were doing at the time. Um, several universities in Utah signed on 2050 was a pretty typical goal. Um, now interestingly, there actually a lot of, um, opposition, I wouldn't say opposition, um, hesitation. Uh, our, our, our campus culture is pretty risk averse with decisions like this. And the, and the reason for that really is because nobody really knew what that meant, what that entailed, what did it mean as far as capital expenses, a university investment and so forth.
Speaker 3:
11:37
So at the time our, our administration looked to facilities and said, basically, how are you going to do this? Okay. Um, and so at the time it was a real interesting problem because there's, and well, I'll be honest, I think there's a lot of standard industry practice and thinking [inaudible] that needs to change. Um, well I think at that point, right? You're all slapping high fives, getting super excited that, oh, it's a high level. They created a goal. But then everyone got back in the room and had those looks across the table of like, oh great, now how are we going? Exactly? How do we do this? So we're a campus of about 3 million square feet. At the time we had about 17,000 students. Now we have about 26,000. And so my predecessor looked at the campus and I was a student hourly at the time and said, okay, what are we going to change?
Speaker 3:
12:33
How are we going to get off fossil fuels? Right? Because there's a number of ways, number of ways that you can look at this question of carbon neutrality and solutions to it. And one way is to just buy offsets. Right? Um, but we decided that we wanted to completely eliminate to Everett, well to every extent possible the combustion of fossil fuels on our campus. And so he came up with the financial model. He came up with the infrastructure plans. They really boil down two to four points. One is maximizing efficiency too, who is electrifying the entire campus. Um, so we, we are, we do have a steam distribution system that we are quickly getting off of right now. About 30% of our campus has been electrified as no longer connected to steam. We use ground source, um, water-cooled VRF, heat pumps and stead. Um, the third piece is, is sourcing that energy renewably and the fourth piece is reinvestment of savings.
Speaker 3:
13:27
So one of the things that we were state did very early on with set aside a $5 million revolving loan fund. It's an internal energy funding mechanism. Um, $5 million of the university cash reserves that would normally be invested in very low return, um, kind of like a money market account. Basically the Public Investment Fund here in Utah. And so we looked at that and, and keep in mind, this was during the great recession, right? We're right in the heart. Two thousands, 2000, eight, 2007, 2008. And so we said, hey, administration, financial people, you're getting one to 2% return on your investments. What if we took that money instead, invested it in energy projects, essentially borrowed money for from ourselves, paid that debt off using energy savings and gave you a 3% interest payment. Okay, now there's a lot of work that goes into that. There was a three, a, a baselining process.
Speaker 3:
14:27
We use 2007 to 2009 to do our baseline. In 2010, we started calculating our energy savings. Um, our first year was about $300,000 in the energy savings. Now the other piece of this is we did have an, uh, an energy services company come do a level three audit or I believe it was a level two investment grade audit of our campus. And we also made the decision that we thought we had the expertise in house to do those projects. Um, and, and that's resulted in insignificant savings on, on the, on the capital investment in the labor side. Instead of having a contractor come in, do a lighting retrofit, I have an electrician that works for me and we do it internally. Um, so right now, like I mentioned, we started out kind of small. We had about $300,000 in savings on about a 4 million or $4 million utility budget.
Speaker 3:
15:18
We've now increased that to just shy of 2 million on a four and a half million dollar energy budget. And there's maybe at some point in the future we can have a whole discussion about how, how the financing works. Um, but it's been really interesting as we've transitioned our campus infrastructure, for example, one of the things we do that's a little more creative is we shut down our central steam plant in the summer. We watch our lows every night. Once it gets above about 50 degrees consecutively in the, in the, in the 10 day forecast, we shut our seeing system down. Now what does that mean? Okay. That means we don't have reheat at our VAVs anymore. So we had to come up with a way and it's, it's actually a pretty simple programming question. Instead of using the reheat thousand of Vav boxes, we increase return air to keep the energy inside the building.
Speaker 3:
16:08
Now that's on our vav systems or our new, our new buildings. Buildings don't require that. Um, it also required that we go in and evaluate, okay, if we turn the steam off, we don't have heat for our swimming pool. We don't have heat for our hot water. What are we going to do for that? So it incorporated, you know, some hybrid heat pump water heaters in certain locations and auxiliary boilers in others. But that steam plant costs $2,000 a day to run. Wow. That's been during the summer. Um, and so there, there's significant savings there. Now the, the thing that you don't think about is, okay, in a business as usual scenario, I'm running my steam system. I'm sending heat out to all of these buildings in July, you know, and you talk and get up to 110 degrees. That heat, even if my cooling coils on the, on my VAVs aren't opening, that seat is still seeping into the system, right?
Speaker 3:
17:07
There's inefficiencies, there's problems. There's, there's, there's steam tunnels that there are 110 degrees that heat's going to go somewhere. Uh, and so we found that we were actually exhausting a lot of that he through our chiller system. So we had redundant energy use and, and [inaudible] if I'm being frank, a typical HVAC design encourages redundant energy use because in your air handler, you've got your cooling coil and then you reheat, right? Vav reheat. That's the, that's the intent of the design. So we wanted to get away from that as much as possible. Um, when we started this program, our campus demand was about 8.1 megawatts during the summer. We've lowered that to four and a half. Wow. Cut It in half, cut it in half through it. Now it's, it's not only this steam thing that I'm talking about is optimizing startup. It's looking at building scheduling.
Speaker 3:
18:01
It's installing VFDs because again, those affinity laws are a big deal. Now there's a lot that goes into design of our new construction and our newer buildings are very, very different. Uh, for example, in our new science lab, instead of having large fans, we actually have fan walls. So we have 1220, I'm not sure on the horsepower off the top of my head, but we have 12 smaller fans instead of two large fans. That increases, increases our reliability because if we lose one, it's not nearly as big of a deal. And it also decreases the energy required for the same CFM requirements. So there's a lot of interesting things like that. And the other big thing we're doing with regards to fans, since I'm on the topic, one of the really interesting things and something that we have to drive home. If you're designing an air handler to move energy through the building, not just for ventilation but for heating and cooling, your heating cfm is going to be about, and this is just a rule of thumb, it's going to be about five times what is required for ventilation.
Speaker 3:
19:03
So you upsize the fan for that. For cooling, it's going to be about 10 times what you require for ventilation. So we had this thought, can we separate heating and cooling from ventilation? And the answer to that is yes. So now when we're designing a building, we use an energy recovery ventilator. We size it only for the CFM that is needed for the space. Okay? 100% exhaust, a hundred percent supply, no return air. But you have a a, either a core or a wheel that's doing energy recovery and your efficiency on that can be 85 90% depending on on what you're picking up. But what that does is drastically downsizes the fan energy that you need for the building. For example, our library had 240 horsepower of supply and return fans before we retrofitted it and now it has 20, so we've seen more than a 90% reduction.
Speaker 3:
19:57
I'm on that ventilation piece now that the heating and cooling piece, we're moving to water-cooled VRF as I mentioned, and it's, it's very interesting. One of the other problems, like I shouldn't call it a problem. One of the other challenges I see in energy management in general is system boundaries. If, if an engineer were to look at my library, my library, we were states library, I spent a lot of time in there as a student. It can be yours, it's mine. Sure. Um, if you were to look for example at the electrical profile of that building before and after the retrofit, it looks about the same. And so someone might, one might say, hey, you're not saving energy. Your peak is still 250 kilowatts. And I, I, and I, I've had this discussion with engineers. I say, okay, you're only looking at the building, you're not considering the campus system.
Speaker 3:
20:54
What have I done by electrifying this building? I've decoupled it from steam. So the, the 8,000 pounds, did we do peak demand or however much that building needed? Is it required anymore? And I also don't need a chiller because my heat pumps can operate anywhere from 45 degrees to 95 degrees, waterside temperature and they can do so reasonably efficiently. So one of the big things that we do here at weaver state is instead of just considering energy savings from a project or a building is we do at campus wide. And that's a big part of my job is calculating those energy savings and looking at it in a, in a holistic fashion. Um, on that note, um, I'm sorry, did you have a question?
Speaker 2:
21:43
Yeah, I was going to jump in just in, in, in regards to, you talked about the relationship. How have you found that relationship, right? When you look at things differently, change management can be really tough and we'll have a lot of people
Speaker 3:
21:55
well from different, you know, universities, enterprise campuses listening to this podcast. How
Speaker 2:
22:01
open were they to your ideas when they looked at that and what's the relationship like between you and the facilities team on some of those engineers?
Speaker 3:
22:10
Oh, so, so the relationship between facilities and the engineers, that's what you're asking. Uh, it can be difficult. Um, now, uh, we are, you know, we're a public institution so we have to follow all of our state procurement rules. We don't always know which engineers we're going to get. Um, that said, typically what happens is, is we have a conversation and we talk about our, our OPR and our standards for design. And I would say 90% of the time the engineers get it after we have a conversation that there's always some challenges on, um, operation of the ERV for example, as is a good example of that. [inaudible] but there are a couple, and I'm not going to name names, but there are a couple engineering firms here in Utah that, that are very much on board so much that the principles of the engineering firm who don't typically do projects, we'll design projects for us because they understand the magnitude of what we're doing here on campus.
Speaker 2:
23:10
No, that's great. Yeah, and we can't, we can't name them. They need to be sponsors for the podcast, right, amber,
Speaker 3:
23:15
right? That's right.
Speaker 2:
23:18
No, we're going neutral. We're going to net neutral here. So I really love this story. Just kind of an a recap, right? You guys had a really creative way to look at financing and rate of return in a different way for the university to go after that. And when you know you've deployed those projects, you've had success when you went and did that was the entire team on board. And I, and I guess the question that I'm thinking is for other people in a similar situation,
Speaker 3:
23:44
did you have something unique, your teams that allowed you to go do that? Or do you think that most organizations in a similar capacity, you have the talent in house to go execute something similar? They just need to again look at things through a little bit different Lens. So some of the things I'm going to say now contradict what I, what I hear a lot in the industry and kind of conventional thinking. I, I, I, I do think that we have a good team here at weaver state. Um, I, I don't know that we're any better than any other university in terms of talent and abilities. Um, so my, my first point in answer to your question is, is a program like this does need a champion, right? And through transitions and administration, we're now on our third president, um, through this sustainability journey. Um, you need that champion to maintain whatever model it is you've heard of.
Speaker 3:
24:43
Now, like I said, I do believe we have a talented team here at weaver state. I don't think there's anything that sets us apart in terms of, of staffing, um, other than we've had people that are willing to really take this on. What I do think is critical for the success of our program is the financial model. Okay. So now last night I covered these topics in a two minute slide. I've taught a four hour workshop on, on what I'm about to say. So we have our revolving loan fund. We have a way to get capital and invest in energy projects. Okay. The other piece of that, it has two components. One is how do, how does your accounting staff budget for utilities? Right. Um, the other piece is how do you calculate savings? And these, these are very closely linked. So we made an agreement with our administration on how to increase the utility budget over time because as we all know, energy expenditure can vary wildly from year to year.
Speaker 3:
25:52
Um, for example, this, this past year I estimate we had about $50,000 worth of water main breaks, 12 feet underneath our campus. That's just the utility costs now. No, not through the budget right there. Right. So it's a difficult question. So we, we came to this agreement that there are really four things that affect utility costs for an institution. And when I say institution, any public firm company, um, what have you, the first it kind of obvious utility rates, they increase over time. Um, so what are the important things for us is to have a close working relationship with our electric natural gas, water utilities. So we understand what to expect with regards to rates. Um, the second is increased in square footage. As the university gets bigger, we consume more energy. That's pretty intuitive. Um, the third one is also intuitive, whether we can have a, we actually in Utah we had a pretty cold spring this year and that steam shutdown I was talking about didn't actually happen until early June, whereas in the past, sometimes we've done it in mid April.
Speaker 3:
26:59
Right. The fourth one is changes in space function for us. That is typically a classroom changing into a laboratory or a com or a computer lab. So those are the four things that we regard as having a significant impact on, uh, what the utility budget, or sorry, those are the four things that we regard as having impact on utility costs. So the discussion was okay, who assumes the risk for those four things? And the agreement we came to is that our accounting staff would increase our utility budget across all the utilities for increases in square footage and increases in rates. The energy program would bear the risk of weather change of weather variation and changes in space. So what this has done has made the energy savings discussion much simpler. So for example, last week I sat down with our, um, our, our controller, our CFO, and I'll all of his seniors, Jeff and I walked them through the rationale for how I compare our current energy bills to our business as usual scenario on, on our baseline.
Speaker 3:
28:20
And I calculate and recreate what our bills would have been and what they were. I do a subtraction and that's our energy savings. Correct. Um, by taking weather variation out of the picture. Now, whether normalization is a very hot topic with energy energy engineers, and there's, there's a good reason for that in that weather normalization can increase your savings, right? If you have an especially cold winter, you can say, hey, we would have spent this much. The problem is that if your accounting team has not accounted for that in their budgeting process, they, you might go in and say, Hey, I say $500,000 this year, and the accountants look at the budget, or I'm sorry, the balance. The accountants look at the balance and there's only $400,000 there. Then you've created an account or a credibility problem. So one of the things back to back to your question Nate, that has made our program successful is when I go and ask for those energy savings to pay off the debt that I've got on the revolving loan, my goal is to not say, oh, I saved this much more because we had a blizzard and then it was this much hot, this, this.
Speaker 3:
29:31
We had a really hot July, so I saved all this extra money. Now my goal is to ask for what's left in the account. That way when the CFO at it, and I say I p and this was an actual request, I said, I want 1.9 $8 million and he looks at his utility account and sure enough there's 1.9 $8 million in there. And that's a simple question of whether or not those funds can be transferred.
Speaker 2:
29:58
No, that's great because then you can start to really drive into additional investment. And maybe just going back and I'd love a snapshot. I will ask you which project you're most proud of, but I know we went through a bunch of those there, but, but going back maybe really quick and in more of the journey. So you're doing all of these projects, but there's obviously a lot of calculations and a lot of different systems that you guys are working with. Where you guys in a similar journey where you were doing a lot of manual work and needing to focus more on productivity savings or, you know, how has modern technology helped you guys, you know, do your job?
Speaker 3:
30:38
So one of the first things we did was, um, look at utilities, uh, metering across our, our campus. So we understood what buildings were doing, what that was one of our big pushes early on. You know, we, we are a Johnson controls campus, that's our BMS. And so at first we were digging in and looking okay, our fans on our fans off. And as we got more sophisticated, we got into, you know, building level sub-metering so I can have utility submeters for our arts and humanities building for our performance performing arts center. And that allows us not only to improve our buildings scheduling and make sure that, you know, we're, first of all, we're, we're satisfying our, our customers, right? Our first and foremost priority is to provide a superior learning environment for our students. If I'm not doing that, then nothing matters with regards to sustainability and energy, right?
Speaker 3:
31:29
Our mission as a university is to provide a learning opportunity for our students. Um, but as long as I'm doing that, there are piles and piles of energy projects that modern and more sophisticated techniques have allowed us to identify in our buildings. Um, for example, um, uh, I've noticed that for example, an air handlers and scheduled properly, I can go into our, I, I look at our building metering infrastructure, I verify that the building is consuming more energy than I would expect it to. I go into our building management system, I put a schedule on the air handler. Um, [inaudible] the ROI on something like that is, is incredible. You know, I can save $2,000 a year by doing 10 minutes of work and that's thanks to the, this more modern, um, software and infrastructure that we have.
Speaker 2:
32:20
Awesome. Yeah, I think it's really, you know, when I look at their productivity savings, a lot of people deploying the technology now, uh, you know, they're able to really make a huge shift, right? Where we work with some folks that are spending 90%. If you can believe that. Crazy other time collecting data and running an analysis and moving through it. But
Speaker 3:
32:40
when you can reshift that to more value added activities like you guys are doing on campus, I think it's a big, big win. So transitioning then you talked about all a lot of um, opportunities and projects that you worked on. Is there one that you personally are most proud of in your time that we were, say for me personally, I'm going to have to think about this for a second. Um, as a campus there's been several in particular that we've been very proud of. Um, we were very early adopters of led lighting in our basketball arena as far as we know, we were the first NCAA Division One basketball arena. Our arena seats about 12,000 people. I knew we were going to sneak in how great your basketball team was into this podcast. I am a die hard Utah Jazz Fan, but I always root for Damian Lillard unless he's playing against the jazz.
Speaker 3:
33:33
Hey, Portland guy. I love it. Right. All right. All right. Um, so I, I'm quite proud of that. However, I personally didn't have very much to do with it. Um, projects that I've personally been involved in. Um, our ground source deployments, phase one and phase two, um, our Linquist hall building. So, um, our social science building was about 110,000 square feet. Um, and it was due for renovation. There's an old steam building and it's at the bottom of campus. Our campus is built in the foothills of the Wasatch mountains. So there's actually about 16 or not 16, 600 feet of pressure head between the top and bottom of campus, which present present 600 feet of pressure head between the top and bottom of campus, which presented an interesting challenge with regards to a chilled water system. So we went to this building and we knew it was, was due for renovation.
Speaker 3:
34:24
It's secure to a generous donation from, uh, one of our largest benefactors for the university. And we had secured legislative funding as well. Um, so one of the interesting things that we did in that building with regards to sustainability is we left a lot of the structural steel and concrete intact, which resulted in a significant cost savings of about $5 million to the capital development budget. But it was also nice from a sustainability perspective because if you're talking about the life cycle of, of these materials, we didn't have to do transportation and a rough end of end of life or manufacturer for all of the steel which, which uh, in, in regards to the overall impact of the construction project was a very good thing. Yeah. And on the GHG side to rent. Absolutely. Um, so the, the interesting thing about this building and, and why it's been such a good one or one that I'm particularly proud of, um, being at the bottom of campus with all of that pressure, we had to come up with an interesting or creative way to allow it to exchange energy with the rest of campus, but also operate on its own if, if we needed to.
Speaker 3:
35:34
So we installed a ground source field as 110 wells, they're 400 feet deep and we also installed a heat exchanger to address those pressure issues. So this building is generally isolated from the rest of campus. Um, it operated the entire season, the heating season without calling for any, for any energy from the rest of campus. And it's e y is about 25. So we often talk about this term carbon neutral capable. It's what we call a building after it's been electrified. This is our first large scale academic. Actually that's not true. Um, this is our first academic building that has gotten 100% of its heating BTUs from the earth, no natural gas involved. And so what that that means is if I can produce enough electricity on our own to offset that building's impact, I can honestly say this is a carbon neutral building. So the other project in tandem, so that building is operating and it's doing great.
Speaker 3:
36:39
Um, the other project we're doing with in tandem with that is a solar covered parking array that will provide all of that building's electrical electrical needs and that, that'll be done at the end of next summer. So that's a long answer to your question, but this project with the ground source and a 500 kilowatt solar array, um, is one of the things I'm most proud of because I've had a lot to do with, with the engineering and the design on that. No, it's great. I think it's interesting. And plus when you know, part of this podcast, right? When you're passionate about it and it yields that kind of success, I think those are the kind of stories that our listeners are going to want to hear about. Absolutely. Speaking of passion, I t I can go on and on about a lot of these things, but this is another thing that I've been thinking about a lot lately.
Speaker 3:
37:28
Um, if, how do I phrase this? So there is a tendency, and I, and I've already mentioned this, but there is often a tendency to look at projects or buildings in a vacuum, right? And so if I were to look at this solar array that I was just talking about 500 kilowatts, it's actually long span steel. So this parking lot will be completely covered, um, and watertight, which is great for our occupants, right? It's great for our students. But if I were to look only at that solar rates, it's cost is about one point $7 million and the ROI, if I factor in, you know, um, reduced maintenance on the parking lot, that kind of thing. The ROI is probably around 15 to 20 years. But because we're leveraging all of the energy savings across campus, I will have that debt paid off a year after the project. And I think that's something that's very important as, as we're really looking at transitioning our building stock. And I regard this as, as a worldwide problem, right? Um, we need to electrify all of our buildings and as, as I look at, we're doing projects, we're calculating ROI, where do those savings go and what, what are they doing? How are we leveraging that? That's something that I think has made weaver state unique and ensured the success of our program.
Speaker 2:
38:47
Yeah, I agree. I think it's really interesting that your, you know, making such an effort to reinvest those dollars, which I think is, is critical. Right? And, and not everyone puts themselves in that position, but I think that, uh, allows you guys to progress faster than some of the other folks, uh, out there. So maybe we'll throw a challenge out there to other people in similar positions.
Speaker 1:
39:07
Yeah, I think a big, a big part of kind of why we're doing this podcast just in came out of our conversations at AEE West this year and you, you know, you kind of spoke to it just then, but I'd love for you to elaborate a little bit more on, um, the untapped potential of energy management, which was a big theme of your talk. And I think the things that you're doing at weaver state are, you know, obviously very innovative, but I'd love for you to talk a little bit more about the state of energy management and what more we could be doing.
Speaker 3:
39:39
That's a big question. This is a big podcast. Just apparently it is the untapped potential of energy management. And so I've, I've already talked a little bit about fans and the downsizing of fans that you can do with electrification. I, and this is, this is a personal opinion. Um, I think that as an industry, and I'm speaking across all construction and facilities managers, we're, we're a little hesitant to electrify. And I think that is a huge untapped potential. Uh, as I look at, you know, at the Wasatch front for example, um, there's a big misconception and this is more speaking of the population at large as, as I talked to, um, legislators and, and, uh, other facilities professionals and the general public. Um, when I say ground source, people often mistake that with geothermal energy. Now it's, it can be considered geothermal energy, but it's not like we were state sitting on a hot spring and we're tapping into all of this free energy underneath the ground.
Speaker 3:
40:48
This kind of technology works anywhere. One of the interesting things, this question comes across a lot because our campus is actually on the Wasatch fault, right? Um, tectonic fault. And so one of the questions I get off a lot of the time is, well, how long are those pipes supposed to last? Well, they're warrantied, they're warrantied for 60 years. Right? And so, um, I have this conversation frequently this can be done at the residential level. This can be done for any people centric building. And I think that's one of the greatest untapped potentials we have. I, I, um, again, I, I won't name names, but I spoke to a certain organization that has a very large meeting venue, um, in the Wasatch front area. MMM. And listeners may be able to guess who that was. They're going to Google. It's the very large event space. Had 26 air handlers just for the main auditorium that are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Speaker 3:
41:58
There is still low hanging fruit throughout our building stock, right? Not just in HVAC. There's stuff in lighting, there's stuff in mechanical, there's stuff all across, um, the spectrum. And so one of the challenges I think that exists for energy managers and energy professionals is how do we prioritize, how do we focus on the most important? Because I think there's a reality out there that 20% of my work gets 90% of the savings. And so if I can focus on that 20%, I can get the bulk of my results. And it's very, very easy to get lost in the details on this kind of stuff. You know, if I have 120 fan coils, VRF fan coils in a building, I could go in and I could optimize the startup for every one of those and look at all the little condensate pumps and see what's going on.
Speaker 3:
42:52
Or I can optimize and design, make it so occupant, behave eager, doesn't matter quite as much. Um, downsize my fans significantly and then source that energy renewal. That's great advice. Justin. We like to end these interviews by giving you an opportunity to close it out with any additional words of wisdom for our listeners. Yeah, so I think I'd go back to the finance piece. Um, so last night I actually presented to some, some legislators that are interested in in clean air. We have an, we have an air quality problem here along the Wasatch front. And I, I view what I've talked about as a solution to people centric buildings, which are about 30% of our air quality problem. And he asked me, so what, what makes we restate different, right? What, what, what makes, why are you succeeding where others maybe aren't succeeding quite as much?
Speaker 3:
43:46
And of course, I had to be very careful in how I phrase the answers to that question. Um, number one goes back to the financing piece where we're talking about savings and they're matching what are actually in the account. And I know a lot of people disagree with me on this. Um, and again, there's reason for that. And if we could convince our, our, um, administration to increase utility budget for, uh, whether, you know, do it month to month or something that might work, but the simplicity and the credibility of having those dollars left in the account are what makes our energy program tick. Um, the second piece that I mentioned, um, as I've seen at other institutions revolving loan funds that are some set up in a very similar low fashion to ours, but they're not large enough, you know, and they might be $200,000 or $400,000.
Speaker 3:
44:39
Now I've never actually driven our revolving loan fund to 5 million. I've never gotten that far in debt. The farthest I've gone is about four. Um, but the scale of that investment is also of critical importance because if you only have enough capital to pay for two lighting projects and your return on investment, you know, your payback is in the six year range, you're going to have to wait six years before you do your next project. And so that's, that's the other piece that I think is especially critical if your scale is not there. And what that requires is having all of your financial stakeholders and decision makers. You know, we were state, we're a reasonably large university, we have 1500 full time employees, right? There are a lot of stakeholders that had to be in the room literally in the room at those initial discussions or this never would have gotten off the ground. Okay.
Speaker 1:
45:32
Wonderful. Justin, thank you so much for joining us on this podcast. It's always a pleasure talking with you and hearing about all the great work you're doing at weaver state, so thanks for being our very first podcast guest.
Speaker 3:
45:46
Oh, I appreciate it. It's always great to talk to you.
Speaker 1:
45:49
Thank you. And thank you, Nate, um, for co-hosting with me and um, to all of the listeners out there, if you have a modern energy management story that you would like to share with us on the podcast, please contact us@marketingatluciddg.com and we would love to share your story. Until then, we will see you next week on the modern energy management podcast. Thanks for joining. [inaudible].
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