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Up in the Air – OCx and COVID-19


Energy efficiency. Greenhouse gas emissions. Indoor air. Outdoor air. Systems, metrics and benchmarks…Local Law 97 is complicated. New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act LL97 requires buildings of more than 25,000 square feet to meet the first set of mandated energy efficiency and emissions reduction goals by 2024, or face major incremental fines every year. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant reduction in energy use (about 13% in the first quarter of 2020) and GHG emissions (about 30% drop since the beginning of the year). But that won’t last.

Owners are focused on implementing immediate health and safety measures and taking steps to reopen commercial buildings to conduct business, but maybe not “business as usual.” Many face lowered revenue expectations, uncertain building occupancy levels, and huge investments in assets and operational measures– while rebuilding staff, procedures and business structure – and a hard-stop deadline to meet the code.

While refocusing on climate change for the built environment may seem like steering a ship away from an iceberg, it isn’t rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. One process, Ongoing Commissioning (OCx) as described in the BCxA Best Practices, is part of the answer for identifying the most pressing and cost-effective measures for reducing carbon footprint and maximizing efficiency.

How can ongoing, more transformative commissioning help meet LL97 deadlines?

The OCx process is not a technology-specific solution for facilities, but often incorporates processes such as Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx), including technology-specific Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD), Energy Management and Information systems (EMIS) and other performance tracking and analytics solutions. OCx is a process that is applied by a commissioning provider in collaboration with the building Owner, operators, and other stakeholders, while technology-centric tools aid the process.

“There is now a demand for increased indoor air quality (IAQ) and the incorporation of more outside air across all buildings,” Robert LoForte, president of Veritas Solutions Group reported to Forbes recently.

Similarly, Mark Pipher of FacilityConneX told Commercial Property Executive, “the uptick and unknown surrounding energy use and emissions during the reopening could make these deadlines difficult, if not impossible, to meet, unless all buildings—not just the highly complex ones—deploy analytics tools that can help them understand, identify and predict energy efficiencies.”

To make headway toward meeting LL97, owners and stakeholders will benefit from using the OCx process and related tools to plan for and, as possible, optimize building systems – not only HVAC, but also lighting, electric, plumbing and envelope/enclosure systems — and redesign building operation and maintenance procedures to take advantage of every opportunity to meet the health and safety needs of occupants.

This may be a New York City issue today, but is an increasingly national and global issue on the way.

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