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Your energy efficiency project is going to fail

I hate to say it, but that huge energy efficiency project you're about to do in your buildings is probably going to fail. And even worse than that, you're never going to know that it did.

The most common energy efficiency projects you see today are things like downsizing your boiler heating system to make it more efficient, or putting in better, more energy efficient windows, or improving your roof. To keep the heat inside the building more effectively, all of these things on the surface sound completely obvious that they would reduce your energy usage.

But in practicality, if you don't actually run your building precisely to deliver the right amount of heating or cooling, even if you make the building more energy efficient, you're still going to run way too much energy.

A good analogy is this - imagine you're trying to fill a tub with water that has a bunch of holes in it and you want to use less water. The obvious idea is, let's patch all the holes in the tub, and let's make the tub smaller so we can use less water. Now imagine you're trying to fill that same tub with a giant hose you can barely control, and you're doing it blindfolded.

It doesn't matter if the tub is smaller, if you can't see how much water is going into the tub and you can't control the hose, you're not going to save any water at the end of the day.

This is exactly how buildings work. If you make huge changes to your building, And you're still using an archaic 1970s control, it doesn't matter how energy efficient your windows are, your roof is, or how much you downsize the boiler - you're still going to run vastly too much heat or too much cooling.

The other side is that the vendor who's actually doing these types of projects has no incentive to demonstrate the results after the project and make sure they're successful. They've already collected their money and disappeared.

So how do we guarantee that our energy efficiency project will actually be successful?

Well, first you need to have some kind of smart control and monitoring system in place to make sure you're precisely controlling the energy you're actually putting into the building after the project.

And second, you need to hold your vendor accountable by making sure they agree to baseline metrics before, and results after, that are measurable and verifiable with money on the line to deliver the results. If you don't hit those thresholds, there should be money in escrow that doesn't end up going to them.

If you put the right incentives into place before the project, and you have a system that's actively making sure your building is running correctly during and after the project, you can almost ensure that that investment in your building will be a really good one.