Informed Choice is the Smart Choice

Imagine you walk into a grocery store looking to buy something healthy. You search for the nutritional label on a box of crackers. But there’s no label. You can’t figure out how many calories or grams of fat or sugar there are in the crackers.  You are frustrated, you don’t know which options are healthier, but you have to eat.

The next day, you plan to buy a new car. Your current car isn’t running well and it’s time for a replacement. You go to your local car lot with a price range in mind. You can tell the make and model of the cars in your price range, but there are no stickers telling you what the miles per gallon (MPG) of the cars are, or what the average fuel costs are. The salesman isn’t of any help; he either cannot or will not tell you the fuel efficiency of the vehicles you are interested in. Instead, he talks to you about the bells and whistles the car has – GPS system, seat warmers, satellite radio, etc. Exasperated, you end up leaving the lot – but you know at some point you have to buy a car.

Sound unlikely? It is when you buy a car or purchase food items. But, it happens every day when you decide to lease a space for your business or rent a place to live. You can ask for energy data, but in most cities – including Kansas City – the owner or manager of the space isn’t required to provide it. You might be able to lease a space in the perfect location with the amenities you crave, get the hippest apartment in town, but you could get a bad surprise – high energy costs.

That might not be a concern to some folks – just like some people don’t care about fuel economy or healthy eating. But in those other situations, at least you KNOW that your car is inefficient or donuts are fattening. It is up to you whether that is important to you.

With buildings, you are making a purchase without all the pertinent data. And the absence of that knowledge might hit you where it hurts- your pocketbook.

That’s why requiring benchmarking and reporting of large spaces is important. It allows for consumers to make an informed decision. Location may in fact be the most important factor in real estate (or maybe even the first three factors), but what if you find two buildings in the same general location that you are interested in? If one was much more energy efficient, wouldn’t that factor in your decision? The more efficient building will mean you will have lower energy bills. That will help your business’ bottom line.

Great work KC! (but a lot of work still to be done)

Kansas City has received a lot of positive press recently about energy efficiency and sustainability efforts: The proposed Jonathan Arnold development at 2nd and Delaware that will utilize 70 to 80% less energy than a comparable building. The announcement from KCP&L that they will install 1,000 electric charging stations in the

Dennis Murphey, with the City of Kansas City, chats with Tom Corso with MC Realty and Ashok Gupta with the NRDC at the recent KCP&L news conference announcing 1,000 new charging stations.

Dennis Murphey, with the City of Kansas City, chats with Tom Corso with MC Realty and Ashok Gupta with the NRDC at the recent KCP&L news conference announcing 1,000 new charging stations.

metro area. And KCP&L wasn’t done; it announced that it would cease burning coal at three of its power plants.

These are all great and important stories, but a sobering report recently released by the NRDC shows that we as a community need to do much more in order to minimize the impact of climate change.

The report, entitled “Climate and Health in Missouri” paints an alarming future for Missouri if changes are not made quickly. The report shows:

  1. Extreme Heat and Heat Waves will lead to Increased Illness and Death – Projections show that extreme heat events will become the norm.  Look for days over 90 degrees to jump substantially.  That in turn is projected to add to an additional 9,000 heat-related summertime deaths across St. Louis and Kansas City through the end of the century
  2. Climate Change will Worsen Air Pollution – Kansas City already has to deal with ozone alert days and could reach non-attainment standards by the EPA.  That will only worsen if carbon emissions are not lowered.  Look for higher asthma rates and health problems in the next century if pollutants are not contained.  The study states that if Missouri were to reduce its particles and smog, it could save 1,200 lives and prevent 310 hospitalizations from 2020-2030.  It would also lessen carbon pollution to limit longer-term climate change
  3. Hate allergies? Climate Change will just make it worse – Higher carbon and temperatures affect the growing season and range of plants.  The bottom line is that more pollen will be produced over a longer period time.  Ragweed in particular is cited as becoming more problematic
  4. Extreme Storms and Flooding will become More Commonplace – Kansas City has often suffered from flooding – the 1951 Great Flood and the 1993 Great Flood are the most extreme examples. Expect those type of events to become more commonplace.  The report states that extreme rainfall has become 53 percent more frequent in Missouri over the past 60 years.  Average precipitation in the state has increased by 2.4 inches in the past century.
  5. Insect-Borne Illnesses will Spread – Look for both West Nile Disease and Lyme Disease to become more prevalent in Missouri as both mosquitos and ticks will proliferate in the state.
  6. The Young, Elderly and Low-Income Populations will Especially Be Hit Hard – Climate Change will affect everyone, but will have an even greater impact on those most vulnerable.  Hotter summers are especially hard on those who can’t afford air conditioning, or those who are very young or old.

The sobering report notes that these projections are not cast in stone; there is still time to make tangible changes to our energy use to head off these scenarios.

So while it is great to celebrate the great work that is happening in Kansas City, we should be reminded that we all need to do much more to head off the deleterious effects of climate change. The City Energy Project is just one mechanism to do so.

Guest Blog: Energy Star for Commercial Buildings

Energy Star for Commercial Buildings

by Robert Harris, PE, LEED®AP BD+C

Can Earning the Energy Star for Commercial Buildings Help My Business?

Just about everyone has seen the familiar blue Energy Star label on appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, computers, printers, and televisions.  According to EPA, “Energy Star is the single most trusted environmental label in the United States. It’s the nation’s symbol for superior energy performance. In fact, more than 85 percent of Americans recognize the Energy Star when they see it.” Now, did you know you could earn the Energy Star label for your commercial buildings?

I can earn the Energy Star for my Commercial Building?

Why, yes! The United States Environmental Protection Agency has free online tools to help building owners and their consultants benchmark energy use, improve energy performance, and earn recognition for energy efficient buildings. The first Energy Star commercial building earned its label in 1999. Now, Energy Star certified buildings can be found in all 50 states. The certification program is based on actual utility bill data and building characteristics, verified by licensed designed professionals, and checked by EPA, so there is little chance of greenwash. I’ll say it again… Actual Data!

How do I earn the Energy Star for my Commercial Building?

Start by entering utility bill data and building information into Portfolio Manager, EPA’s free online tool. Once the data is entered, the tool will calculate a score between 1 and 100. Buildings that have a score of 75 or higher are eligible to apply for the Energy Star. In order to earn the Energy Star label, the data entered into Portfolio Manager must be verified by a licensed design professional, including a visit to the building.

Why should I earn the Energy Star for my Commercial Building?

Energy Star buildings save energy, save money, and help protect the environment by generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions than typical buildings. No matter where it is seen, the Energy Star label is a well-known mark of top performance in energy efficiency. It’s very recognizable by your employees and customers, and can build relatively inexpensive goodwill with the public. Research has shown that most people prefer to work or do business with companies that they perceive as being environmentally responsible. Energy efficiency isn’t just a first step to being green. It’s a smart business decision that can have a high return on investment, and can bolster your competitive advantage.

How much does earning the Energy Star label cost?

Unlike other green building recognition programs, there are no registration or certification fees involved in earning the Energy Star label for Commercial Buildings, and EPA makes the online tools available for free. Costs include the labor to gather and enter the utility bill and building information into Portfolio Manager, and the cost to hire a licensed design professional to visit the site and verify the data that was entered. If you have a large building portfolio with sites located throughout the country, the travel expenses can be one of the higher costs. According to the EPA the certification costs can be ½ to 1 cent per square foot, and this is consistent with our experience for large format retail store verification. Certifying smaller buildings will have higher costs per square foot. Some state and local government entities may offer incentives that can help to offset the costs of the licensed professional verification.

How do I get started?

Visit for more information on EPA’s Energy Star program for commercial buildings. Or contact if you would like to learn more about licensed professional verification for your commercial building.

Speed Energy Efficiency Roundtable & Networking

20150121 Event PhotoThis week the Kansas City Energy Project, partnered with the USGBC Central Plains and the KC Chamber, hosted a unique event in Kansas City – Speed Energy Efficiency Roundtables. Held in the Board Room at Union Station to a backdrop of Happy Hour food and drink, 100 attendees were able to learn more about 15 different energy efficiency topics.

The evening began with 4 rounds of 15 minutes each. Attendees were able to hop between tables, hear presentations and engage in dialogue with a subject matter expert. Imagine ‘speed dating’ with energy efficiency topics.  That was followed by an open format Happy Hour with attendees networking with each other and speaking with the energy efficiency topic representatives they hadn’t had a chance to meet. The event, schedule to run from 4-6pm, lasted well past 7pm as attendees were thoroughly enjoying their conversations. The event would not have been possible without the 12 companies who helped sponsor the event and host a roundtable discussion.

  • Earning the ENERGY STAR Label for Commercial Buildings – Larson Binkley
  • Strategic Energy Management Planning: Leveraging Utility Rebates & Resources for Comprehensive Solutions – KCP&L
  • Increase Efficiency with Smart Buildings – TRANE
  • LED Lighting-Kelvin, Lumens, CRI, Binning, LM-79? Watts Up With That? – Optimum Energy Solutions
  • Benefits of energy efficient doors & low-hanging energy efficient upgrades – Door Security Solutions Mid Continent
  • LED Lighting – Titan LED
  • Achieving Energy Performance through Operator Competency – Outcome Construction Services
  • Energy Benchmarking – AEI Consultants
  • Practical Magic: How to Implement an Energy Program – U.S. Engineering Company
  • Leveraging Wireless Control Solutions to Save Energy in Existing Spaces – MWE Inc.
  • Chilled Water Optimization – Siemens
  • Low/No Cost Building Performance Solutions: From a Building Operators Perspective – MC Realty Group

We also had three exhibiters providing information to the attendees:

  • ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager – EPA Region 7
  • Workplace Charging – Metropolitan Energy Center
  • PACE Financing – Missouri Clean Energy District

If you would like to know more about any of these topics, send us a note.   We can introduce you to the right contact. And from the very positive feedback we are receiving – this is definitely an event we’ll host again!

Thank you to all of the attendees who came out and helped make it such a great event.

KC Star Article – Right Choices Aren’t Always Clear

The Kansas City Star posted a great article by James A Fussell – “Want to be eco-friendly? Right choices aren’t always clear-cut”.   Check it out at

The article included information from Warren Adams-Leavitt (Executive Director of the Metropolitan Energy Center), Tom Jacobs (Director of Environmental Programs for Mid-America Regional Council), and Kristin Riott (Executive Director of Bridging the Gap). Three of the Kansas City’s best energy and environment advocates.   While the article only touched briefly on energy – LED is an easy choice to make – the conclusion of the article applies perfectly to energy efficiency.

Tom Jacobs – “Everybody says what does it matter if I recycle another piece of paper, or leave the lights turned on, or if I turn the sprinkler on if it’s raining?

“And it turns out if everybody’s choices reflected just a little bit more concern for the environment, that would really add up. It does matter in a very substantial way.”

The University of California at Berkeley has a great visual example of exactly how your choice of turning off the lights can add up in a substantial way. Check out their Energy Dashboard

What local stories can you share about the cumulative impact of small energy efficiency changes?

New ACEEE Report Shows Energy Performance Improvements Can Improve More Than Just Efficiency


A recently released report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) asserts there are multiple benefits of energy improvements.  Those improvements include business’ operational procedures, technology mixes, and maintenance requirements.

The study, authored by Christopher Russell, cites evidence that the inclusion of non-energy benefits can improve the return on investment (ROI) by 50%.

In addition, the report calls for the following:

  • Make the full range of energy efficiency benefits more transparent to business investment decision makers.
  • Stimulate the market for energy efficiency solutions by improving business-sector understanding  of- and thus demand for – energy efficiency and its benefits.
  • Expand the body of knowledge that can be used to promote energy efficiency to business facilities.
  • Refine the cost-benefit evaluation of economic and societal benefits resulting from energy efficiency programs.
  • Improve the determination of energy efficiency rebates and incentives offered by utilities and similar program authorities.
  • Highlight evolving methodologies for defining, measuring, documenting, and reporting benefits over and above energy savings.

Russell argues that the current data available from utilities to create statistically reliable information about the multiple benefits of energy efficiency is insufficient. However, he does believe such information gathering is feasible. The key is collaboration among the numerous organizations involved to ensure accurate information is collected.

Guest Blog – Low Delta-T Syndrome

Low Delta-T Syndrome.  These are the dreaded words one hears when discussing the performance of a chilled water system.  A chiller operating with low delta-T causes both increased operating costs and the potential of not meeting its load requirements.  [A note here, this same discussion is valid for condensing hot water boilers as requirements not to exceed a design return water temperature to maintain efficiency is required.]

Chillers are designed for a specific flow rate at a design delta-T (differential temperature between the supply and return water temperatures).  A lower than design delta-T can affect the ability of the chiller to load and meet the chilled water supply temperature setpoint which, in turn, could cause comfort issues in the space.  Additionally once the flow through the system exceeds the chiller design an additional chiller will be brought on line to handle the building’s need for water and not it’s need for cooling.  Unfortunately, running chillers to maintain the flow in the building can cause the building’s capacity to produce sufficient chilled water for the load to be decreased   Besides affecting the load capacity of the chiller running additional chillers and pumps to maintain this flow will increase the energy costs.

Why does this happen?

First, overflow can occur at the control valve simply due to poor valve authority.  When a control valve with a valve authority of less than 40% (where 100% is ideal) the modulating valve will produce more flow than required.  Once the valve starts modulating closed as the control loop is satisfied the flow will reduce too much.  Therefore a two-position flow will begin to occur (see Fig 1).


Fig 1

A control valve with a poor valve authority results in a net overflow at part load conditions.  Once a load is brought to setpoint after occupancy, unless there is a large change load, it will typically be running in a part load condition.

Pressure independent control valves can solve this problem by eliminating the effects of poor valve authority.  A pressure independent control valve is a control valve that supplies a specific flow for each value of the control signal regardless of the pressure variations across the control valve.  In other words, a pressure independent control valve is a valve that operates as if its valve authority is 100%, even though it obviously isn’t when calculated.

The result is shown in Figure 2.


Fig. 2

The instability of the flow through the control valve has been eliminated.

Next, let’s address the coil performance.  Many issues can address the performance of the coil including, but not limited to physical damage, dirt, and coil sizing vs. load.

The key is to identify the point upon which additional flow to the coil does not yield additional heat transfer.  By allowing flow beyond this point the coil water differential temperature will begin to decrease.  The result (in a chilled water system) will be to allow a higher than design return water temperature to flow back to the system.  The system differential temperature will be decreased and, once again, energy costs will rise due to inefficient loading of the chiller system while pumping this additional water through the building.

So, why doesn’t the control system recognize this overflow?  Simply put it can, provided sufficient points are connected and monitored.  These would include a BTU Meter and trending this data to view the performance of the coil versus flow.

For more information and solutions on how to fix low delta-T syndrome please visit

Bob Walker, LEED Green Associate

Regional Application Consultant-Midwest

BELIMO Americas

(586) 945-1198