Brady Blog- Trends and Talk

Looking for a security integrator? Questions to consider before signing on the dotted line.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When it comes time to look for a service provider for your building do you know what questions to ask to ensure you select a professional you will want to partner with for years to come? The success (or failure) of your security system could lie in the selection of your provider. Asking the right questions will ensure that your building’s security is the first priority.

Where is the company located? A good rule of thumb is to select a provider with a local office within 100 miles of your facility to ensure that they will be able to respond when needed for service. How many service technicians are within 100 miles of your facility? This will give you a good idea of the resources available to meet your needs as a service customer.

How long have they been in business? Choosing a security service provider can be a commitment for years to come so you will want to select a company that is a stable and established business. Choosing a provider with a history of success will ensure that the provider you select will be there for you in the future.

How many of the provider’s technicians are experienced on your current system or the system you are about to install? Are their technicians certified to work on your type of system? Did they receive training directly from the manufacturer or was it through work experience? You want to be sure that the provider you are selecting has the proper training to install, repair, and understand the equipment in your building. You will also want to ask how long they have been representing their current line of security products. Experience installing and servicing specific systems will benefit you as a customer in the long run. 

Is the company a commercial security provider? If you are a commercial client requiring a coordinated approach with one or more systems this is an important question to ask. You want to be confident that the provider you select has the specialized experience and training to work with complex systems with more aspects that need coordination.

How did you hear about the company? Is this a provider that responded to a RFP or were they referred by another business in your industry? Can they provide references from clients of with similar needs? An experienced, professional provider will be able to give you a list of clients with similar environments and needs willing to provide feedback on the quality of products and services. Talking with other customers will give you an idea of the company’s core values and competencies and give you a good indication of what to expect. Ask the tough questions on the quality of work, customer service, and support to gain insight into how the company really operates. 

Including these questions as part of your qualification process will ensure that your building’s security is the first priority and help you select your security provider.

Understanding the EarthWise design philosophy to improve building performance

Thursday, March 10, 2016

One of the goals of many building owners is to have an efficient and well run building that contributes to the overall business mission. They are concerned with life costs and system performance of one of the largest capital assets, the building’s HVAC system.

The Benefits of an EarthWise Design Approach

EarthWise systems are sustainable systems that deliver measureable, superior performance at a lower operating cost. An EarthWise system performs at the highest levels of energy efficiency, reduces emissions of all types to the lowest possible level, and has a documented, sustainable performance.

EarthWise system design allows an owner to utilize today’s efficient equipment designed to operate seamlessly within the HVAC system. The increased efficiency of refrigeration systems allows an owner to optimize air and water flows and lower pump and energy fan use. By optimizing the system flow owners can reduce the size of fans, piping, pumps and ductwork resulting in a lowered first cost for the project.

In addition to adding the obvious, more efficient, equipment like Trane’s CenTraVac chiller, owners can utilize new products like CDQ (Cool Dry Quiet), plenum fans, thermal storage, wireless zone systems and parallel fan powered VAV boxes.

The addition of new flexible, prepackaged control systems with intuitive interfaces allow owners to increase sustainability of the system by using proven, optimized control sequences. Interactive dashboards remove the mystery from system operation and allow building managers to document building performance and energy savings.

Exciting things are happening in the world of system design. Learn more about Trane’s EarthWise Ice-enhanced Chiller Plant or Trane’s EarthWise Variable Air Systems.

Confused about Performance Contracting?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Confused about Performance Contracting? Don't let common myths mislead you about the real benefits of implementing a Performance Contract. While a Performance Contract will result in significant energy savings without additional appropriation of tax dollars, it is a construction project. Choosing an experienced professional can make your project implementation successful. Energy Savings

“Performance contracting sounds too good to be true”

Performance Contracting (PC), when executed by a reputable firm will save money and significantly enhance the indoor environmental quality of your facilities. PC is the only contracting vehicle available that can be guaranteed to deliver both energy efficiency and badly needed mechanical infrastructure with no additional county appropriations, bond issuance, or county tax increase required.

“We don’t have any funds for projects like this”

Each governmental unit in North Carolina is allowed to borrow the funds directly from a finance institution as enabled by NC G.S.: 142-64. This is a major advantage of PC; no additional state, local appropriations or private dollars are required. The Energy Services Company (ESCO) you choose  will assist in arranging the project’s financing that will be paid back with the guaranteed energy savings realized from the new systems and equipment. The Performance Contract and the finance agreement terms are customized to meet your needs and finance terms usually range from 10 to 15 years.

“We can’t afford to risk losing any money”

The customer is the real winner since a performance contract guarantees the amount of the project’s energy savings. The ESCO will write a check for any energy savings shortfalls as defined in the contract.

“We don’t know how to get started”

Energy Service Companies can assist in getting organized for the RFP process. You may also contact the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Utility Savings Initiative for additional assistance.

“What we really need is some new, modern, efficient equipment”

New, efficient equipment is one of the main benefits provided by PC. Any new equipment that is provided as part of the project is paid for over time with the guaranteed energy savings, not additional state or county appropriations. Often this is equipment that the customer could not afford to purchase due to lack of capital funds.

“Our maintenance staff can do all this work. We don’t need to hire an outside contractor and borrow the money”

Most in-house staffs don’t have the time or money to properly implement a comprehensive energy efficiency systems retrofit. Additionally, delaying the decision to implement a Performance Contract almost always costs more than any construction savings that might be realized by executing an in-house program. The cost of project delay is usually much higher than the cost of financing. None of the wasted energy dollars spent during a project delay can be recovered once they are spent.

“Energy service companies do not keep their promises”

Selecting an experienced professional is an important aspect of a PC. Their associates will spend hundreds of hours preparing estimates and proposals that are based on sound engineering and industry best practices. In the unlikely event that the annual guaranteed energy savings are not achieved, the ESCO will write a check for the difference per the terms of the contract.

“Energy service companies keep too much of the savings”

Some energy savings contracts consist of very basic “behavior modification” training and other methods. These programs claim to be “risk free” as fees are not paid to the vendor unless savings are achieved. These vendors then keep up to 40% of their calculated savings and the customers are locked in to a contract for up to four years. This can cost the customer hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars! Under a Performance Contract, the customer keeps 100% of the savings which are used to invest in the new equipment provided under the Performance Contract.

“Does the State of North Carolina support the PC process?”

Over the past several sessions, the North Carolina legislature has shown its strong support for PC by raising the cap on loans for state government Performance Contracts from zero to $50 million to $100 million and then to the current $500 million limit. Today’s PC is better and more refined than those contracts from several years ago. The PC process has undergone significant improvements and delivers real tangible and verifiable savings to state and local governmental units across North Carolina. All PC requires a performance guarantee and can only be delivered by NC Pre-Certified Energy Service Companies (ESCOs). Not only are the public Performance Contracts in NC guaranteed, these guarantees must be backed by financial instruments that are “investment grade” and all Performance Contracts are approved by the North Carolina Local Government Commission.

Incorporating building heating requirements into your company’s contingency plan

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Unexpected system downtime is always a possibility in any business, so it’s best to have a contingency plan in place. While your building’s cooling needs are an important part of contingency planning, your heating requirements should not be overlooked.

PowerMaster BoilerA contingency plan prepares you to recognize the possibility of unexpected downtime and allows you to plan for the necessary resources needed to minimize the impact it has on your building and business.

When developing a contingency plan, it’s important to focus on three key questions; What are the possible emergencies that will occur? How are you going to respond? What can you do to prepare for it?

What are the possible emergencies that will occur? While creating a contingency plan you will document potential causes of system downtime, and analyze the financial impact it can have on your building and your business. How much will it cost your business to close for the day? What is the impact of a boiler or burner failure on your business?

During this process you will not only review each scenario, but you will evaluate potential solutions to help reduce the chances of it occurring. If you have issues meeting your facility’s full steam load with your current equipment you may barely be able to maintain the conditions needed to support your day-to-day operations in your facility. Are your existing boilers and burners in need of frequent repair? The contingency planning process may uncover opportunities for energy efficiency upgrades to your equipment. Burner upgrades often allow facilities to operate more efficiently using less energy and postponing costly boiler plant expansions. The redundancy resulting from these improvements could become an important part of your contingency plan.

How are you going to respond? Once you have documented the possible causes of downtime it’s important to prioritize the most critical building loads, highest financial implications, and processes essential for your business’ operations. If one of your boilers goes down in the middle of February, how will you need to respond to keep your business operating as normal? What are the critical parts of your business that cannot experience downtime? What does this mean to your steam plant capacity?  

At this point in the planning process you want to consider the options available to you when your building’s processes are forced to stop. Will you need to rent equipment? Boilers, water softeners, feed water systems, heat exchangers, and economizers may be necessary and should be accounted for in your contingency plan.

What can you do to prepare? While preparing your contingency plan you will address failures and the impact of your solutions on your facility. In your plan you will want to include equipment location, ease of equipment placement, client perception, and safety issues. You will also need to consider the logistical aspects of installing the temporary system including connections to your existing system, electrical necessities, and structural loads. 

Once your plan has been put into place and communicated you will want to schedule a reminder to do a contingency plan review. Your contingency plan should be reviewed anytime equipment is added or removed. You should also schedule a review anytime your building use or set up changes in response to business needs and demands.

Including your heating requirements in your contingency plan will ensure that you are ready to support every component of your HVAC system. Is it time to review your contingency plan to ensure you have proper coverage in case of boiler or burner failure? 

How To Calculate The Return On Investment For Your Security System

Monday, November 02, 2015

As you plan for future security system improvements showing the return on investment (ROI) is one of the most important tools you have to show the need for system improvements. The return on investment calculation will compare the net benefits of a project to total project costs.

The benefits to a new system can be obvious- the improved safety for building occupants and improved security for company assets. But how do you show that the investment can improve the company’s profitability? Showing the relationship between investment and profitability can make the difference between getting approved for funds or continuing with your current system.

To prepare a ROI case for your security project the first step is to collect data to show the costs and benefits for the proposed system. Before you can start this process you must first define the project. Start by stating the problem that will be solved and solution provided by the upgrades. This will help you establish the value of the project and allow it to be prioritized against other company projects.

What are the costs of the project? Make sure to capture all costs for the project including implementation and training. Your total cost of ownership for the system includes not only the cost to buy the system, but the cost to install and day-to-day costs run the system.

It often helps to use an itemized list to show all items related to video surveillance, access control, cabling and installation, training and inspections. Reviewing in this detail is also an important part of the RFP review process.

Next explain the cost of not doing the project. What happens in the organization if you do not implement the upgrades? If your proposed solution includes automation of tasks what would it cost if you had to do each task by hand. If the solution helps mitigate risk to the business what does it cost if this risk is not addressed?

After collecting all of the costs it is time to focus on the benefits. Benefits of a security system upgrade can be direct or indirect. Direct benefits could include a reallocation in personnel needed to monitor facilities or a manufacturing process. How would these benefits grow over a period of time? What could the company save from reducing the number of line supervisors from one at every station to one for every four stations? Now what would the benefit to the company be after two years of managing production in this way?

Indirect benefits are a little harder to put on paper but should not be overlooked. What is the cost to the company to have a full time administrator manage the access control badges and system? What is the cost of a delay if that person is not able to respond to a request in a timely manner? The benefits to productivity are what you are quantifying here.

Once you have compiled all of the cost and benefit information it is time to calculate the return on investment. Providing a summary of your conclusions with the related calculations will help make the business case for your proposed security system investment.