C-PACE Programs are a new means by which states across the country are promoting energy efficiency in commercial office buildings. In New York State, EICNY is a non-profit local development corporation set up to oversee the C-PACE program for New York State. This program promotes the implementation of energy efficiency measures by providing a means of financing the initiatives over the useful life of the initiatives. In most cases that’s a fifteen or twenty year term.
HPS is the property manager for the historic Brisbane Building. The building was updated with new HVAC systems some 30 years ago. Two modules of the energy management system installed at that time recently failed and cost approximately $20,000 each to replace. There were 26 modules remaining in the building and only a matter of time before they started failing. We were considering the replacement cost of over $500K to restore 30-year-old technology. We knew there had to be a better way.
We sought out bids from three well-regarded Energy Service Companies (“ESCO”). We asked them to be as creative as possible in their responses. Two came in with proposals in the $2.5 million range. The third ESCO, The Trane Company, came back with a bid of $750,000. In addition, that bidder said they could provide financing through this new C-PACE program.
Trane’s low bid will replace the energy management system, taking care of the failing modules. In addition to this, all the HVAC units will be equipped with variable frequency drives. This will save a tremendous amount of energy by having the ventilation fans running on an as needed basis. Direct Digital Controls (“DDC”) will replace the pneumatic controls in place throughout the building. DDC controls are about 10 times more accurate than the existing pneumatic controls. This will result in more accurate temperature control around the building.
In addition to the energy management system and the HVAC upgrades, Trane will replace all the existing fluorescent lights in the building with new LED lights. The LED lights are far more efficient than the fluorescent bulbs, they last approximately 5 times longer and the quality of light is better. The energy efficiencies provided by these upgrades will cover a substantial amount of the monthly payments.
We knew this was the right way to approach the problems we were facing. The next challenge was to access the financing through the C-PACE program. It would prove to be a significant challenge.
When we decided to proceed with the Trane proposal, we found out that the C-PACE program, while approved by the state, wasn’t yet approved by the City of Buffalo. Each municipality around the state has to sign an agreement with EIC-PACE to participate. We immediately contacted our legislative representative as well as Mayor Brown to move this process along.
EIC-PACE, one of our owners, Peter Hunt, and HPS advocated strongly to get the agreement approved. The process took a lot of twists and turns. However, the approval finally came about six months later. There were some other delays along the way because we were the first entity approved for this program, but we never gave up.
The delays pushed us into the pandemic. It has become apparent that most covid infections result from airborne virus particles. Since we were primarily working on the Brisbane Building’s HVAC system, we asked ourselves how could we decrease or eliminate COVID particles from being circulated around the building? We came up with a couple of solutions. First, the outside air capacity of all the HVAC units will be more than doubled. This will allow air to be flushed through the building getting rid of virus particles that would otherwise be recirculated. Second, we’ll be adding Bi- polar Ionizer technology to each HVAC unit. This technology enlarges virus particles by charging them with positive and negative ions making them large enough to get caught in conventional filter media and eliminating them from the air being circulated.
We’re looking forward to work starting as soon as materials are on site. It’s been a very challenging process. However, the bottom line is that the program will significantly decrease the Brisbane Building’s carbon footprint by increasing energy efficiency. Unplanned expenses with energy management system components will be virtually eliminated. Lastly, COVID or any future virus particles will be reduced or eliminated from the air inside the building.