Energy Engineering & Design Inc.
For 10 years, David Ward installed and maintained HVAC systems in commercial buildings throughout Portland, Oregon, but he was often frustrated by how frequently design engineers overlooked his recommendations for design improvements.
“Working in the field, I knew when there was a better way to do something or else tell them that [the design] just couldn’t work,” he says. For instance, a project once called for a 24-inch duct to be installed in a ceiling with only 18 inches of space.
Ward realized the only way he would be able to make an impact on a project was if he became an engineer, so he decided to go back to school for a degree in mechanical engineering from Portland State University.
“It was a very challenging experience. I wasn’t young anymore and I had a family to support with not much money,” Ward says. “But I went through that entire traumatic experience just so I could challenge design engineers about what the problem was and improve what needed to be improved.”
In 2001, Ward, now a P.E. and LEED AP, started his own energy consulting firm called Energy Engineering & Design Inc. (EE&D), and today uses his hands-on experience to perform energy audits, building benchmarking and modeling, retro-commissioning and many other energy consulting services for commercial, industrial and government buildings across Massachusetts. These services save building owners money on energy costs, and can go towards earning a LEED certification.
“Energy conservation is kind of built into my DNA because as a service technician you’re responsible for making equipment operate efficiently. For me, that service technician mentality has just evolved to the level now where I make whole buildings operate efficiently.”
Yearly HVAC checkup
Ward says clients often don’t realize the extent to which their heating or cooling systems aren’t working.
“It’s amazing how poorly or inefficiently HVAC equipment can operate and still provide the correct temperature in a space,” he says.
On more than one occasion Ward has checked a building’s HVAC system and found that the outside air damper was broken. In winter this meant that the system had to work extra hard to keep the building warm. While in the summer, the same system struggled to make the building cool.
Instead of waiting for their energy bills to skyrocket when there is a problem, Ward says building owners should really check a building’s heating and cooling systems once a year.
“People already do that on a regular basis with boilers, but in reality the whole building needs that same exercise because valves, dampers, actuators and control set points wear out and get loose or out of calibration,” he says. “That’s what retro-commissioning is in its simplest form, going through all the equipment and getting it back to the way it should be.”
EE&D has performed this service for commercial buildings, VA hospitals, public libraries, military bases, laboratories and manufacturing plants. For the past three years, the company has worked with the energy manager in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to help the town develop and verify an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC), which would allow the town to pay for energy-saving projects out of savings, with limited to no up-front costs.
While many of the buildings EE&D works on are already LEED certified, Ward says his goal is to show people how easy it is to get additional energy efficiency and cost savings even after they receive the certification.
State-wide energy conservation
After optimizing HVAC systems to save energy, EE&D’s next step is to teach building owners and occupants how to keep their system running smoothly. “Because you can have a really good piece of equipment, but if the operator doesn’t know how to work it then it’s not going to be efficient,” Ward says.
“Energy conservation is kind of built into my DNA because as a service technician you’re responsible for making equipment operate efficiently.”
This emphasize on training was one of the reasons EE&D was asked to participate in the Massachusetts Accelerated Energy Program (AEP), a government program that promoted energy and water conservation across the state.
Launched in January 2012, AEP’s mission was to perform energy audits on every state-owned building, from universities and camp grounds to prisons and courthouses.
“With in excess of 5,000 buildings, this was a serious undertaking and generated a huge amount of data, like energy bills, energy conservation costs and savings numbers,” Ward says.
As a pre-approved vendor to do energy consulting for the state, EE&D helped the state upgrade its database and procurement policies to make sense of all this information. The company also streamlined the energy audit process by creating a single template for subcontractors and vendors to use in the field.
“We basically worked with the state’s energy and sustainability team to create the program that enabled this project to happen,” Ward says.
The AEP finished in 2015, but EE&D is still under contract to help the state fulfill a second objective. Along with saving Massachusetts money through energy conservation, the AEP was meant to create job opportunities for people to maintain and service the state’s new high performance buildings.
Ward is currently working at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts, as well as vocational high schools, to help these institutions develop a retro-commissioning and energy audit curriculum.
This latest work brings back memories for Ward about his time as an HVAC technician. He hopes this project will empower future building operators and janitors with skills that will make people take note of what they have to say.
“That has been a fundamental philosophy of my work ever since I started the company,” he says. “Design engineers and architects need to communicate with the maintenance and service staff on every project for two reasons: first, the designers will better understand the requirements of the building and second, the facility staff will better understand the design intent so they can operate the building better.”
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