This was a particularly rewarding project because Drury Southwest has their own internal engineering staff – very knowledgeable, and very environmentally aware – who wanted to get involved. The fact that Microgrid would not only do the audit work but also offer informal training to their own engineers along the way really appealed to Drury Southwest.
Tim Schulz, Microgrid Energy Project Engineer, took part in the Texas trip. He said Microgrid worked with the Energy Manager for Drury Southwest and three other engineers. The engineers told Tim that “a major reason they were assigned to the project was to learn what types of measures could be made to save energy and how to implement similar measures throughout all Drury properties. We told them which measurements were important, and why, and where the best places are to look for energy efficiency measures. They were very knowledgeable about their buildings and we all had fun working together.”
Tim pointed out that “one of the unique challenges for hotels is that almost every room requires different conditioning, comfort and energy requirements, because each guest likes different conditions. This means that apportioning energy use to different categories can sometimes be tricky,” he said.
“Also, many of the suggested efficiency measures have to be made with guest comfort and convenience in mind. In hot places – such as San Antonio and Houston – keeping the building cool accounts for a large portion of the energy needs. However, the high temperatures and more direct sun can also be taken advantage of through measures such as solar thermal heating of domestic water, especially advantageous where demand for hot water is constant…such as a hotel. In fact, Drury Plaza on the Riverwalk in San Antonio is already doing this.”
Drury Southwest’s long term energy goal is to reduce their energy consumption by 10% across all of their properties. “Based on what we saw in each [audit],” Tim said, “this is a very realistic and attainable goal.”
Usually, the more information a client has about long-term financial effects, the more confident they are that taking measures to improve energy efficiency is the wise thing to do. Telling people that energy efficiency is both ecologically friendly and economically savvy is good. But showing people – as audits do – is even better.
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* Quick review: An ASHRAE audit is an audit conducted according to the standards set out by the American Society of Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineers. (Yes, there is one of those.) A Level II audit provides more detailed energy calculations and a more detailed financial analysis of proposed changes; the latter especially help the building owner to understand the full picture of costs and benefits involved in taking – or not taking – each suggested measure.