As building owners contemplate ways to save money and comply with federal regulations, Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) offer a proven avenue to reduced costs and enhanced efficiency, especially when those ESPCs are fine-tuned with the Building Commissioning (Cx) discipline.

ESPCs came into vogue on the heels of the energy crisis in the mid-70s, but faded to some degree as the crisis passed. However, in recent years, ESPCs have returned to the conversation as incentives for “green” buildings and rising energy costs have placed pressure on building owners to wring the most value out of their structures. In that process, building owners, lenders and the building community have become better versed in ESPCs, making then an integral part of a vast array of building projects (especially renovations.)

Energy MeterAs an engineering firm with expertise in commissioning, Paladin has become a go-to asset for both building owners and the Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) who partner to execute on an ESPC. The Cx discipline brings two key strengths to the equation: 1) it gets the multiple parties involved in a project onto the same page in terms of communications and expectations and 2) an emphasis on testing that provides objective data for the process by which Energy Control Measures (ECM) are approved and accepted as complete.

ESPCs are incentive-driven, meaning the ESCO not only doesn’t get paid if the systems they update don’t deliver on their savings potential, but also can end up covering the financial difference if there is a shortfall. With risks like this involved, good data and proper execution on the ESPC is of paramount importance to all involved.

When a Cx firm commissions a building, it accumulates a treasure trove of performance data on everything from air conditioning units to the air tightness of rooms and buildings, providing a baseline for decision making in the creation of an ESPC agreement and its eventual completion. We provide data that assures an owner that the systems in question are operating at the same or better level as they did before the ESCO got to work. ESCOs can then use our data to affirm the attainment of the goals laid out in the ESPC.

That trove of Cx information also includes detailed documentation (including drawings) of systems that allow owners to ensure their employees are equipped to identify, operate and maintain essential building equipment. In a word, commissioning just helps buildings work better.

So, whether you’re a building owner under pressure to improve the financial performance of your building or an energy service company looking for a partner to enhance your efforts with quality data and testing, a Commissioning firm is the next call you need to make.

By Dick Burks, PE (ELE, CHE), CCP, Paladin, Inc.

Dick Burks is a Certified Commissioning Professional who has helped advance the discipline while designing and commissioning countless building systems over more than four decades as a licensed Engineer.