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Why Energy Management isn’t for ‘Cowardly Dinosaurs'

May 27, 2020

Tim Danz of The California Center on Why Energy Management isn’t for ‘Cowardly Dinosaurs

Focusing on sustainability and energy efficiency, the Modern Energy Management podcast invites innovators to discuss energy best practices that go beyond the meter. In this episode, we spoke with Tim Danz of The California Center about the opportunities and challenges in managing landmark high-rise buildings. Danz was recently selected to win the 2020 Smart Energy Decisions Innovation Award as a result of his energy management accomplishments at the iconic San Francisco skyscraper known as “345 Cal.”

What Sets 345 Cal Apart

As a LEED Gold certified, EnergyStar rated building, and recipient of the 2015 BOMA Innovative Earth award, 345 Cal is already recognized as one of the most sustainably operated skyscrapers in San Francisco. From an energy management perspective, one might imagine that it would be difficult to find additional efficiencies – especially given that most of the energy consumed is not determined by building management, but rather, by occupants. What is more, this mixed-use high-rise has the unique challenge of accommodating 35 stories of commercial space in addition to retail space and a 5-star hotel. Luckily for 345 Cal, a culture of excellence promoted by the buildings’ ownership and a long-term focus on energy management enable Danz to continuously explore new ideas and technologies that can help improve operations.

345 Cal Wins The 2020 Smart Energy Decisions Innovation Award

The California Center was awarded the 2020 Smart Energy Decisions Innovation Award for a multi-phase project designed to achieve deeper energy reductions by empowering tenants to participate in the energy management process. At a high level, this award-winning project has disrupted the commercial leasing space by sharing individual energy consumption data with the buildings’ tenants.

Why 345 Cal Focused On Tenants To Secure Additional Efficiencies

In mixed-use commercial buildings, occupants dramatically impact the amount of energy that is consumed; however, in most cases, few incentives exist to encourage efficient behavior. Danz explains that in a traditional commercial high-rise lease agreement, tenants pay a pro rate share of the utility costs for the entire rentable square footage. Under this paradigm, there is a lack of transparency and accountability – meaning that energy hogs benefit while sustainable tenants pay more than their fair share. According to Danz, tenants have no incentive to improve because, “they are not paying for what they eat.”

It is against this backdrop that Danz and his team initiated the three-phase project aimed at improving energy efficiency through occupant engagement.

Phase 1: Advanced Metering

The first project phase began in 2015 and involved the installation of advanced revenue-grade submetering to provide floor-by-floor and systems-level data regarding building operations. The granularity of data captured provides the 345 Cal management team the ability to attribute actual energy consumption to individual tenants. The interval data captured by the metering system additionally provides Danz’s team with greater insight into the health and operations of building systems while equipping tenants with a better picture of how and when they can reduce their own footprints.

Phase 2: Fiber-optic Transmission Infrastructure

Phase two, completed in 2017, involved laying a vertical fiber-optic network in order to improve the speed and reliability of data transmission, including real-time interval data from the newly installed meter. The fiber-optic infrastructure is a foundational technology that Danz and his team plan to leverage for many energy saving projects.

Phase 3: Direct Billing Enabled By Building Insights

In the third and final phase, which was completed in 2019, Danz and his team implemented Building Insights, a cloud-based Energy Management Information System, in order to centralize 345 Cal’s metering and utility data and to provide a platform for easily sharing the data with relevant stakeholders. Collectively, these projects have enabled 345 Cal to disrupt the traditional commercial lease by replacing pro rata billing with direct billing for the utilities consumed. Danz strongly believes that this increase in transparency will serve as a catalyst for the behavioral change necessary for tenants to reduce both costs and emissions. Danz also notes that the project will arm sustainably oriented tenants with the information necessary to track and report on ESG and other corporate goals. As more and more tenants look for sustainable leasing options, this will serve to keep 345 Cal competitive in the long run.

Four Factors For Success In Managing Energy in High-Rise Buildings

In speaking with Danz about his proven ability to progressively improve performance at 345 Cal, four factors stick out.

1. Know Your Tower

You need to know your tower in order to improve it. Danz often repeats the age-old adage that you cannot improve what you don’t measure. To this point, Danz states that when planning over the long-term to address the life cycle of building assets, you need to do regular “health checks” to know where things stand.

2. Collaborate With Others

Danz humbly states that, “I have never done anything with a positive result on my own.” From the day-to-day management of 345 Cal to exploring areas for improvement, Danz recognizes that you need to work collaboratively and leverage the knowledge and experience of others to get things done.

3. Embrace Technology

New technologies are the friend not the enemy. From the installation of advanced lighting controls with daylight harvesting to the tenant focused Smart Energy Decisions Innovation project, Danz states that, “technology is at the core of pretty much everything we have accomplished at [345 Cal].” By embracing new ideas and technology you can plan for continuous improvement.

4. Never Stop Exploring

Don’t be a “cowardly dinosaur.” To improve performance, Danz explains that you simply cannot afford to be stagnant because in this day and age the status quo is tantamount to moving backwards. When you stop exploring new ideas and technologies you are unlikely to improve and, even worse, you will run the risk of becoming extinct. Accordingly, Danz recommends adopting a student of the game mentality and never leaving a stone unturned.

Avoid Becoming a “Cowardly Dinosaur” With Building Insights

As Danz shares, effectively accessing and sharing your building data is critically important to tenant engagement and effective energy management. In addition to multiple utility accounts, commercial buildings also have a varying degree of data available from a wide range of assets and building management systems. Seamlessly integrating data from all your building systems is where we come in. Building Insights is a comprehensive software platform that centralized all of your utility and building systems data, automates performance modeling, and allows you to remotely understand and act on real-time performance data to continuously improve operational efficiency and reduce costs. Want to see how Building Insights can help your facility management team monitor your portfolio remotely? Contact us today!