energy auditor performing energy audit engineering

How to Hire an Energy Auditor

Whether you want to cut energy costs or simply identify the biggest energy drains within your building or property, an energy audit can provide you with vital information that will allow you to become more energy-efficient. By hiring the right energy auditor, you will get an actionable report that can provide both short and long-term results: the perfect combination for improving your building's energy usage.

What Will an Energy Auditor Do?

At REX, energy auditors are engineers: highly-trained individuals who are ready to come in and help determine how your building uses energy and how it can use energy more efficiently. An engineer specializing in energy audits will:

Inspect your property and determine where and how you are using energy. The engineer will look at occupancy rates and efficiency throughout your facility. They don't just want to find energy drains; they want to see how the facility as a whole uses energy.

Present best practices that fit the needs of your business. A good energy auditor doesn't simply issue generic recommendations. Instead, they'll discuss the specifics of your building and your business, then offer best practice recommendations that will genuinely work for you.

Compile reports to discuss potential costs and savings. Implementing energy-saving plans may cost your business money up front, and a good energy auditor knows that you need to balance those costs with the potential savings. Not only will they discuss the potential cost of energy-saving changes with you up front, they'll present you with a solid picture of what savings you can expect, both short-term and long-term.

MEP and structural engineersFinding the Best Energy Auditor for Your Building

When you hire an energy auditor, you want the best: someone who will bring genuine value to your business. As you prepare to hire an auditor, take these key steps:

Contact the Engineering Firm

You may want to prepare a request for quotation to help you better understand the potential costs of an energy audit for your building. Before choosing an energy auditor, ask key questions like:

  • How much experience do you have in the industry? How long have you been working as an energy auditor?
  • Have you worked with businesses like mine in the past?
  • Can I talk with past customers to learn more about your business?
  • What will you charge for an energy audit of my business?
  • What services are included in your audit?
  • What certifications do you have? Each energy auditor may have different certifications. You want an energy auditor with professional certifications, like Professional Engineer, ASHRAE Building Energy Assessment Professional, AEE Existing/Certified Building Commissioning Professionals, or AEE Certified Energy Manager.
  • Who will actually oversee the audit? When you look at resumes and other information, you want to be sure that you're looking at the people who will work directly with your building, not just the people working behind the scenes.

Asking the right questions can help you build a better understanding of the energy auditors available in your area--including which one will be a better fit for your property.

How To Evaluate An Engineering Firm

By asking the right questions, you can narrow down the firms you're considering and get a better idea of who you want to partner with. Take a look at the auditors who have offered you the best answers to your initial contact, then look for these key factors.

What characteristics does the auditor display? You want an auditor who is helpful, action oriented, and familiar with the latest technologies. You do not, however, want an auditor who will immediately jump in and start trying to sell you products that you don't need or pushing you in a specific direction regardless of whether it will work for your business. You will probably prefer working with an auditor who will handle project implementation as well as performing the audit, but you don't want them to push those services on you, either.

What characteristics do their references describe? If you were comfortable in your discussions with the auditor and felt that they displayed the characteristics you were looking for, talk with their references. How do their references describe them? Do past clients believe that they have the characteristics and resources you need? Be sure to ask about how long it took to complete projects, how easy it was to communicate with the auditor, and whether the auditor retained the professional persona you experienced in your initial communications throughout their interactions.

What do others say about them? Take a look at online reviews, especially if you're unable to contact references directly. Online reviews can give you a solid look at how the engineer you're considering will handle your energy audit. Make sure you don't just look at the average stars; instead, take the time to read through what both satisfied and dissatisfied clients have to say to help give you a better picture of what the firm you've chosen can accomplish.

Energy Audit Services at REX Engineering

REX Engineering provides energy auditing services for a variety of markets. Our energy consulting team assist owners and architects through sustainable design to achieve energy conservation goals. Our objective is to design operationally-efficient facilities, with the least environmental impact, to achieve financial, sustainability, and LEED performance goals.

Our professional energy consulting team integrates a professional team of MEP consultants and licensed – LEED accredited engineers. Our energy auditors have extensive experience helping decision makers with insights about how to reach energy saving goals and plan capital investments before construction even begins. 


urban sustainability population density

Urban Sustainability: Engineering Solutions To The Increase In Los Angeles Population Density

Los Angeles, California is currently dealing with a rapid increase in population density. The last Census Bureau findings determined that LA is the most densely populous urban area in the United States. It has nearly 7,000 people per square mile. This puts it well ahead of all other major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Population density refers to both the number of people living in each unit of areas well as the city's degree of compactness. This is measured by the ratio of people and buildings to available land. While high population density strains existing resources and creates multiple issues for a city, it also presents historic opportunities for engineers to engage in creative problem solving and innovation. If used as a model in other communities, these innovative measures will benefit not just the LA area, but urban areas throughout the world.

There are several key issues surrounding the increase in Los Angeles' population density, which engineers are combating by embracing new perspectives, technology, and green building techniques.

Housing

Increased population density is leading to housing shortages. One report states that Los Angeles has a gap of nearly 600,000 units needed to accommodate the needs of low-income renters.  Many areas in California aren't approving housing quickly enough to account for the increasing population. In the past, single-family homes were the traditional, standard model for housing. There is also a lack of land available to build single family homes for every family.

Forward-thinking engineers are prioritizing projects to focus on multifamily residential properties. These can house two or more families due to more efficient and intelligent design features, making better use of a space that may have been used for a smaller number in the past.

Smart home technology is also a developing trend that's increasing housing quality. Houses with automated systems that lessen the difficulty of routine household tasks such as cleaning and monitoring energy usage are increasing the livability of all kinds of houses. They're increasing the comfort and usefulness of these houses as well. Building more of these more efficient homes allows people to make better use of a smaller amount of space, helping to alleviate the strains of higher population density.

The development of multifamily, environmentally friendly housing featuring smart technology will help give more people affordable housing and lessen the carbon footprint of that new housing on the environment.

Infrastructure

As populations grow and cities expand to accommodate their new residents, it tests the ability of the city's existing infrastructure to function effectively. A sudden rise in population density may occur faster than cities can update their vital systems such as roadways, power grids, sewers, water, and waste management. When cities fail to adapt these systems it can cause the infrastructure to degrade quickly over a long term period of time. Once infrastructure begins to degrade, it becomes less effective and can have disastrous consequences if not improved or updated.

Sustaining urban infrastructure is one area where engineers need to get creative. One possible solution is building amenities in close proximity to each other. Less driving from one area to another to access these areas will mean less wear and tear on the highways and other roadways. It also leads to less pollution and carbon emissions.

The "Yes, In My Backyard" (or YIMBY) movement is backed by people who promote housing developments in their cities as opposed to the more restrictive "Not In My Backyard" (or NIMBY) movements of old.  YIMBY efforts are encouraging the development of more houses. While this can increase density, it also lessens the chances of urban sprawl or the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas. Creating less new infrastructure means less infrastructure the cities will have to maintain and improve.

Transportation

More people living in an urban means more people needing transportation. This leads to more cars on the roadways and higher carbon emissions. The latest scientific reports show that increased carbon emissions can have disastrous impacts on the environment. It can also lead to more automobile accidents. When engineers can find creative ways to have fewer cars on the road, it has a positive impact on both the environment and community.

Improving public transportation through a focus on "green engineering" is a critical component of any plan to address overarching population density impacts on transportation. That means promoting building infrastructure such as EV parking and bike storage; creating roads that are pedestrian and bike friendly will take some of those drivers off the roads. It means having structural engineers examining existing highways and determining how to add additional high occupancy vehicle lanes to encourage carpooling.

As electric vehicles become more popular and commonplace with the onset of "green engineering," engineers have opportunities to get even more creative in the placement and frequency of electric vehicle charging stations. As this sustainable technology becomes more prevalent, drivers will need more options to charge them.

Public Health

More people in a given area means more health concerns. From a wellness perspective, more dense populations can lead to a population that is less fit and less likely to stay active, as they are shuttled from their home to their office in a car while commuting through dense traffic for hours each day.

Engineers are looking into building spaces - both public and semi-private - where the community encourages its residents to stay fit and active. This could manifest itself as more sidewalks, trails, or general walking areas made available within the community. It could also mean incorporating more gyms in multi-family residences and shopping centers.

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Engineers incorporating green building practices in LA stand to help their urban communities dealing with population density issues as well as the environment. There are multiple potential benefits available with regard to housing shortages, impacts to critical infrastructure, transportation, and public health concerns.

These solutions are all interrelated as well. For example, more people using sidewalks to get to and from where they need to go means fewer cars on the road. That means fewer carbon emissions as well as improved physical fitness for the person walking.

Using the skill, ingenuity, and forethought of engineers to harness the power of green engineering can go a long way towards lessening the impact of Los Angeles's high population density. In time this can make the city cleaner, safer, and easier to live in for more of its citizens.  


LEED certification and green building

LEED Certification Overview & Benefits

Green construction projects emphasize a balance between high-performance and low environmental impact. Although there are many metrics and performance indicators which establish a project's various sustainable attributes, certifying that a project meets a specific standard is the establishes a project's level of "greenness." Architects, owners, engineers, developers, and contractors across the world are embracing materials, technologies, and design practices which reduce both the long-term human and environmental costs of a building. While new regulations and social pressure are a factor, many decision-makers are motivated by the strategic advantage of green construction - especially LEED certification - provides. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it is the most widely used green building rating system by engineers in the world.

The LEED Certification system provides a globally recognized framework for creating healthy, efficient, and sustainable buildings. There are different rating systems that address the unique concerns of different building types and markets. Certification status is awarded based on LEED prerequisites, LEED credits, and LEED points. Prerequisites set the minimum requirements that all buildings need to meet in order to achieve LEED certification. Fulfilling the requirements of prerequisites will not earn points, however, credits do contribute to points. Pursuing credits sets your building apart and delivers more benefits. The more points your building earns, the greater the reward. Rewards range from healthier spaces to buildings that save money and resources, and of course more prestige and recognition.

LEED Credits and Project Certification Levels

A project's LEED performance score determines the level of certification achieved. Credits may be earned in the following LEED categories:

  • Location and Transportation -  Buildings that are located near amenities such as restaurants and parks and encourage compact development and alternative transportation are highly valued.
  • Sustainable Sites - This category is concerned with the environment surrounding the building, including the natural ecosystem and the relationships between neighboring buildings. Integrating the site with local ecosystems and fostering biodiversity are key objectives.
  • Water Efficiency - Efficiency is defined as prioritizing conservation as well as the thoughtful consumption of water indoors, outdoors, and in specialized uses.
  • Energy and Atmosphere - A reduction in energy use, energy-efficient design strategies and incorporation of renewable and alternative energy sources are rewarded in all LEED systems.
  • Materials and Resources - This credit category focuses on the impact of extracting, processing, transporting, maintaining, and disposing of building materials. The goal is to promote a cleaner life cycle and increase performance. 
  • Innovation - LEED recognizes advances in building features and practices, rewarding new technologies and new applications of the latest environmental research.
  • Regional Priority - Each region has distinct priorities identified by the LEED International Roundtable and the USGBC that addresses local issues.

  • Indoor Environmental Quality- Environmental quality applies to indoor air, thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort. The health of building occupants is a major concern in this category.

LEED certification levels are awarded by points earned:

  • 40-49 is Certified
  • 50-59 is Silver
  • 60-79 is Gold
  • 80-100 is Platinum

 LEED Certification Benefits

Every construction project has a budget, and building owners are constantly looking for ways to reduce expenses and maximize their investment. Following LEED certification guidelines presents many opportunities for owners to see short and long-term financial gains.

Once construction is complete and the building is in use, the utility-efficient systems will conserve energy and water, ensuring waste is at a minimum. With fewer resources consumed, the operating costs will be significantly reduced. Residential and commercial owners will both profit from the higher occupancy rates and higher rents characteristic of green buildings. Occupants and visitors of green buildings receive health benefits not found in non-environmentally friendly buildings. The latest World Green Building Trends report published by industry leader Dodge Data and Analytics shares the experience of a headquarters in El Salvador where there was a 68% reduction in respiratory problems and staff sick days were almost cut in half. These quality-of-life enhancements are seen consistently across the world.

LEED certification is another source of value as they assure the building’s quality. The rigorous assessments ensure that the building measures up to the expectations of building owners as well as the community around them. LEED certified projects have a higher point of sale value due to their efficiency, longevity, and socially conscious positioning.   

The Future Of Green Construction

Concern for the environment is rising, impacting all facets of the construction industry. World Green Building Trends reveals increased sensitivity to sustainability and greater emphasis on creating buildings that promote health. It analyzed results from 87 countries and found that within the next three years, eco-friendly construction methods will jump from 27% to 47% across all project types. In the US market, the green construction trend is expected to continue. Completely "green" projects are projected to increase significantly from 32% to 45%, especially with new commercial construction projects. Building owners were significantly invested in the future of environmentally friendly development; 57% reported that the majority of their projects will be green by 2021. The Dodge report clearly shows that green rating systems will play a significant role in the construction industry, rising in importance with each year. Understanding and employing LEED certification standards is essential for architects, engineers, building owners, and everyone else involved in building development.