Developing Sustainable Communities

As utility costs rise and concerns with climate change grow, it is apparent that conservation, increased efficiency, and innovation are necessary to address our energy problems. For many property owners and school administrators, long-term sustainable energy decisions have been pushed back due to the economic downturn. This seems counterintuitive, because improving energy efficiency in a building's systems creates tremendous savings in the long term. But many of these upgrades require a large upfront investment that presents a challenge for facility managers and school administrators on a tight budget. That is, until now.

Energy savings performance contracts make large-scale retrofits or the installation of renewable energy systems possible for any building or school, and these upgrades can yield thousands of dollars of savings. The way performance contracting works is simple: energy- and resource-efficient technology upgrades are paid using the guaranteed savings they will create over a set period. With the assistance of external incentives, the barrier of significant upfront costs is eliminated.

Performance contracts make sense in today's market where owners are holding on to their properties for longer periods of time and, as is the case for many public entities like public schools, city halls and courthouses, infrastructure is aging while budgets are decreasing. In the public sector, the model is already based on long-term planning. By considering a big- picture perspective of the life of a building and its systems, building owners and school administrators can leverage funding to make facility upgrades that include new HVAC systems, lighting, controls, and water efficiency measures. These improvements not only help a building perform more efficiently, they create huge savings, allowing limited budgets to be spent more strategically.

Funding and state incentives are also available to kick start efficiency projects around the state, which further eliminates risk. This, combined with the guarantees of the financial and operational performance of the energy measures, provides an effective solution for a limited budget while enhancing the environment and community.

Replacing big-ticket items is not the only thing a building owner can do to save money and reduce energy use. Ongoing monitoring of a building's systems can pinpoint inefficiencies and provide solutions in a proactive manner, which translates into further savings.

The good news is there are many effective ways to implement sustainable practices that won't break the bank, and that will create local jobs in sectors like construction that were badly hurt by the recession. In short, energy efficiency upgrades will ensure the long-term viability of your community.

Tom Konicke is the Business Unit Leader, Energy & Facility Services for McKinstry Oregon. He can be reached at 503-331- 2476 or email.

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