H.R. 2126, Better Buildings Act of 2014

February 20, 2014

As ordered reported by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on January 28, 2014

H.R. 2126 would amend federal law aimed at improving the energy efficiency of commercial office buildings. The legislation would require the General Services Administration (GSA) to develop model leasing provisions to encourage energy efficiency in privately owned buildings with federal tenants. The bill also would establish a program similar to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program to promote energy efficiency in buildings leased to the federal government. Finally, the bill would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to prepare a report to the Congress on energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

Since the 1970s, many laws and policies have been enacted to reduce energy consumption. According to the GSA, most of the provisions of the bill are broadly consistent with existing law and practices. As a result, CBO does not expect that enacting H.R. 2126 would significantly affect agencies’ administrative costs or result in significant additional investments by the federal government in energy savings initiatives. Optimizing the use of energy conservation measures in buildings leased by the government could eventually reduce federal spending by lowering occupancy costs, but CBO does not expect agencies would realize any significant savings from such efforts during the next few years. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

H.R. 2126 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments. 

What Owners Need to Know About ... Rooftop Units: Repair or Replace?

By DAVID NEGREY, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee, Wis.
Fri, 2014-02-07 12:19
Key considerations in making an informed decision

Most light-commercial HVAC products are designed for a useful life of 15 to 20 years. During that time, however, the reliability and cost-effectiveness of operation often is dictated by factors beyond the manufacturer’s control. At the same time, newer, more efficient HVAC products often can reduce maintenance and utility costs. When it comes to deciding whether to repair or replace an older rooftop unit, it is important to consider a number of factors, including current condition, age, efficiency, maintenance/repair history, and associated utility costs. This article will discuss the process of making an informed decision.

Evaluate Current Condition

Overall condition provides valuable information about the quality of maintenance equipment has received. Enlist the services of a qualified technician to inspect items such as:

• The cabinetry—it should be intact and fastened properly to minimize air and weather leakage.

• Filters—they should be clean. Clogged or restricted filters markedly reduce a system’s efficiency, increasing internal negative air pressure and pulling dust, dirt, and debris into the unit’s air-circulation system.

• Indoor and outdoor coils—look for evidence of dirt, debris, and physical damage. Bent, damaged, or restricted fins on coils restrict airflow, reducing unit efficiency and increasing operating costs.

Tying an inspection to periodic maintenance or a repair call will save some expense. An inspection should include a complete review of heating and cooling operation, as well as an assessment of airflow, heating temperature rise, and cooling temperature drop to determine whether they are within the manufacturer’s specified ratings. Be present for the inspection, and ask the technician to review the findings, including recommendations and quotes for corrective actions, with you. File this information.

Review Repair and Operating History

Review all available information regarding system operation and upkeep, including utility expenses, as well as installation, maintenance, and repair records. If you do not have this information, contact your utility providers and service contractors, and let them know you are evaluating your equipment to determine whether to replace it. Usually, they help in such situations.

If you do not have a file on each piece of equipment, start one. In addition to the records you collect, be sure to include the manufacturer model and serial numbers, individual unit or site reference number, installation and operating instructions, warranty information, and factory- or contractor-backed service and maintenance agreements.

Assess the Information

Based on the information you have and the inspections you conducted, assess the condition of each unit. Consider the age and condition of the unit, as well as applicable warranties and service contracts. Has the equipment been well-maintained? What repairs will be needed in the short and long terms?

As you review the information you gathered, determine and confirm any manufacturer- and contractor-supported warranty coverage that remains.

Compare current and projected operating costs, as well as projected repair costs, with the operating costs of new high-efficiency equipment. Most manufacturers can aid this comparison by estimating operating costs based on unit efficiency and local utility costs. In many cases, if your equipment is aged, new high-efficiency equipment will provide significant utility savings that can be factored as “payback.” A firm quote from a contractor can help you estimate the costs associated with restoring a unit’s operating performance.

Lastly, as you make your decision to repair or replace, consider possible utility rebates for the installation of high-efficiency equipment. Your local utility can provide rebate information applicable to your area.

Also worth considering are potential savings from new-equipment warranties. Compare them with estimates of out-of-warranty repair costs. Extended-warranty and scheduled-maintenance programs offer additional savings.

Make a Decision

Select a reputable local contractor offering ongoing support. Define maintenance and monitoring requirements. Maintenance and monitoring should apply to all aspects of equipment, be performed regularly, involve accurate record keeping, and include basic system-performance measurements to ensure equipment remains in peak operating condition.

Keep accurate records. These will help you to estimate operating expenses and, in the event of a problem, guide repair work. And as your equipment ages, these records will prove useful as you again consider the question of repair or replace.


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Cogeneration Plants for On-site Energy Distribution

By SETH PEARCE, Southland Energy, Garden Grove, Calif.
Fri, 2014-02-07 13:33
Partnership between owner, vendor, engineer, installer, and O&M staff is crucial

The United States’ infrastructure for power transmission and distribution is aging and, in many places, has difficulty meeting the demands placed on it. Local utility companies produce power on a large scale at a distance from sources of usage, with as much as 25 percent of the energy lost during delivery. Using the same natural resources, cogeneration plants eliminate those losses and function in excess of three times more efficiently than local utility companies.

Cogeneration is the production of electricity using waste heat (as in steam) from an industrial process or the use of steam from electric-power generation as a source of heat. Typically, this process generates power at the point of usage and is co-located where waste heat can be utilized to the greatest (most efficient) extent possible. It has a proven energy efficiency exceeding 88 percent.

Cogeneration plants help to offset energy loss through distributed generation and support sustainability by removing load from our power infrastructure. They can be an important component of an energy-security or net-zero strategy and can help to control a facility’s power needs and protect investments from the utility grid.

Utilizing Technology Changes

A host of technologies used in on-site power generation at commercial, industrial, municipal, health-care, and educational properties exist and are well-established. These technologies, which include reciprocating engines, turbines, and fuel cells, are leading edge, but no longer bleeding edge, meaning the inevitable growing pains from their initial application have been experienced, with valuable lessons learned and improvements made. Vendors can and will support interested customers in learning, creating optimized solutions, and avoiding pitfalls.

The United States is enjoying increased availability of fuel, along with low natural-gas costs (see “Pipeline Changes Keep Natural-Gas Prices Falling,” Managing Your Facilities, January 2014). As a result, small cogeneration sites have the opportunity to be competitive against their large-scale utility counterparts. Also, decision makers are becoming increasingly aware of cogeneration, providing several opportunities to present business models that break the status quo of on-site power/waste-heat utilization. Incentives, rebates, and tax credits are available to customers willing to leverage them.

Overcoming Challenges

Along with benefits from cogeneration come certain risks. Cogeneration has been implemented at a number of sites with the best of intentions and planned outcomes only to become a stranded asset.

One particular challenge is fuel-cost risk. History has taught us that to model a cogeneration facility economically, we must assume fuel costs will vary directly and proportionally with power costs, which does not always happen. Collaboration with an experienced partner helps to reduce this risk through proper gauging of exposures, establishment of boundaries, and hedging as necessary.

Another considerable issue concerns experience. Evaluation and engineering is much more complex and nuanced for a single solution to energy, heating, and cooling needs than it is for separate solutions. To overcome this challenge, work with an engineering partner that can successfully lend its experience to the specific installation and operation requirements.

Lastly, many cogeneration systems and facilities have failed because of a management change or lack of understanding. The former introduces new parties who may not be fully aware of the requirements or the importance of a cogeneration facility, while cases of the latter never stood a chance. The right partnering mix brings together a committed customer, successful technology vendor, seasoned and insightful engineers, quality installers, and a dedicated operation and service team.

Key Considerations

In assessing the potential advantages of cogeneration, consider:

• Steps that have been taken for conservation of heat and power.

• The use and location of the facility.

• The square footage of the facility.

• The age of the facility.

• The base, peak, and mean electrical load.

• The consistency and minimum/maximum requirements of the thermal load.

• The average thermal load.

• The simultaneous-heating or cooling and electric-power hours per year.

• The minimum, maximum, and average cooling loads.

• The main hours of operation of the facility.

• The blended, pure-consumption, and demand kilowatt-hour cost.

• The electrical-rate structures/seasonal transition.

• The space available for a cogeneration plant, as well as the estimated interconnection distance.

• Any concerns about electrical reliability.

• The cost of natural gas/fuel.

• What the heat will be utilized for.

Because natural-gas prices are low and backup generation is critical, cogeneration is becoming more prominent. Effective implementation involving new technologies and the right partners ultimately will help to achieve energy goals, energy security, and affordable renewable technology.


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Nation's Mayors Place High Priority On Energy Efficiency And New Technology Use

January 22, 2014 7:05 PM

Mayors Unveil Survey of Energy Efficiency and Technologies in America's CitiesDuring 82nd Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Nearly 300 Cities Provide Data on Local Energy Initiatives

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Despite budget constraints, U.S. Mayors expect to significantly expand their investment in energy technologies over the next five years, according to a new survey of nearly 300 cities highlighting how cities are deploying new energy technologies to make their city operations and communities more energy efficient.

The survey, titled Energy Efficiency and Technologies in America's Cities, was unveiled during The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) 82nd Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. at a session with mayors and U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz at the Capital Hilton. The survey can be found at

"This survey shows again how mayors are leaders in energy innovation, deploying new technologies, pursuing new efficiency systems, reducing their communities' energy use and lowering costs for their taxpayers. Their best practices as well as the findings of this survey confirm that investing dollars in city energy efforts is a very good investment for the private sector and the nation," said USCM President Mesa AZ Mayor Scott Smith.

Done in conjunction with Philips, the survey also indicates that mayors plan to make energy-efficient lighting technology (LEDs as the primary example) a top priority over the next two years. LED/energy efficient lighting was also overwhelmingly rated as the "most promising" technology for reducing city energy use and carbon emissions, with more than four in five cities of those surveyed (82 percent) reporting.

"The impact of lighting on an urban environment cannot be underestimated. It is simply one of the most important steps that Mayors can take to make their cities feel safer and meet the sustainability goals of the 21st century city," said Bruno Biasiotta, president and CEO of Philips Lighting Americas. "When we partner with forward-thinking communities, making their city buildings more energy-efficient, their streets brighter and safer, and turn darkened structures into iconic symbols of their cities, we not only aid in cost savings, urban recovery, and civic pride, we provide truly meaningful innovations. Our survey results show that mayors recognize this and we can help them take action."

In addition to lighting, retrofitting public buildings also ranked as a top priority in improving the energy efficiency of city infrastructure. Significantly, mayors expect to use their own local resources, followed by partnerships with the private sector, as the sources of financing these technologies. And in terms of the actual deployment of new technologies, survey findings reveal that more than seven in ten mayors believe their local utilities are now their city's most important partner in doing so.

"Mayors remain optimistic about the energy technology marketplace, with two in three cities anticipating increased investment, whether it is for state-of-the-art lighting or solar energy systems. It is not only cities who have a stake in this success, but the U.S. economy when new industries prosper because of these homegrown efforts," said USCM Energy Committee Chair Gresham (OR) Mayor Shane Bemis.

Of note, survey results also indicate that with recent weather events and associated power outages, three in four cities have developed plans to keep vital city services operating during sustained outages, and within three years, nearly 90 percent of all cities surveyed expect to have such plans in place.

Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and Executive Director said, "This survey provides timely and useful information on how mayors are leading in ways that save taxpayers money, reduce dependency on foreign energy, curb harmful air emissions, and grow jobs, businesses and the economy. With this survey data, we are establishing a record of local success that continues to build over time. Our partnership with Philips – the Mayors' Lighting Partnership and this survey effort – is an example of how public-private collaborations can further mayoral leadership in this area."

About the survey. This report was prepared by The U.S. Conference of Mayors and sponsored by Philips. From November 25, 2013 through January 14, 2014, cities could complete the survey electronically, with 288 responses received by the deadline. By email, the Conference contacted nearly 1,400 mayors, most representing cities with a population of 30,000, requesting mayors to complete the survey. More than one in five mayors participated in the survey for a 21 percent response rate. We would like to thank all those who participated in the survey for their efforts and timely responses.

About the United States Conference of Mayors:
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are nearly 1400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Like us on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter at

SOURCE The U.S. Conference of Mayors

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