While working on my first assignment as the Marketing Co-op for Fairbanks Energy Services, I overheard someone in the office talking about how a poorly functioning Rooftop Unit (RTU) could cause office workers to get sleepy. Essentially, air changes per hour and how well air handling units (AHUs) or RTUs are controlled impact a building’s efficiency – and operations. I seized that idea and worked with an engineer to fill it in, kicking off the first of many projects that expanded what I know about how business and energy efficiency intersect.
In the last twelve years I have owned, run or worked for businesses (mostly bars and restaurants) all over the country. Currently, I am a student in the D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. After all of my experiences, I am most likely going into commercial real estate sales after finishing my degree. This couldn’t have been a more perfect co-op experience to inform that future.
6 things I learned about efficiency projects:
Mechanical systems should always be evaluated
Understanding HVAC systems is crucial to owning any building especially an industrial one. I was familiar with the energy savings of LED lighting coming into this job, but I learned a lot more about the potential of HVAC system upgrades for saving energy.
Better airflow and RTU/AHU controls = lower energy bills
Air changes per hour is something I had never heard of and I have a whole new appreciation for buildings beyond their architecture. Striking the right balance of air changes per hour (based on sector), airflow, cooling demand and control system can lower a building’s utility bill by 20-40%+, while maintaining enough air changes to meet code and CO2 requirements.
Efficiency projects pay for themselves [quickly]
It’s shocking that these projects not only improve sustainability but pay for themselves in less than two years (on average). I had no idea how inefficient some buildings are and how much energy (and $$$) can be saved by changing out lighting fixtures or optimizing your BMS.
A fistful of knowledge about data centers
I also learned a ton of facts about data centers. I have a few coding classes under my belt but knew practically nothing about how the cloud functions – not to mention the entire industry of colocation facilities and enterprise data centers. Moving forward I understand where servers are stored and how those spaces function.
A lot of systems can benefit from efficiency projects
In the end I became familiar with mechanical systems, power lines, power grids, RTUs, fan motors and so much more. Operating commercial and industrial buildings demands complex system integration, so understanding how to efficiently run the many involved parts can mean higher savings and lower costs.
Choose your efficiency project partners wisely
Relationships are everything when building a reputation around integrity. The relationships FES has cross several industries. I was able to watch interactions between project managers, contractors and clients. Knowing people is the most important part. From negotiating with distributors on behalf of clients to working with utilities on maximizing incentives, this company really knows everyone they work with.
Reflections as a business student
This was triple the learning experience I expected. Of the many projects I was a part of, one that stands out was a case study I helped to draft where the client felt we were truly a part of their team over the course of building efficiency solutions. This is the way to do business, and the type of trust that Fairbanks Energy Services provides and builds is truly inspiring.
I know lots of people who don’t like how the people they work for do things. My experience showed me that’s not always true. Working here really makes me want to own a business with the same integrity and commitment to quality, not just in work, but also in people.