When local governments want to address energy and environmental issues, facilities are a natural place to start. “Buildings alone can be responsible for 50 percent of carbon emissions,” says Nate Boyd, energy project manager for Orlando, Fla.

A consultant looked at all of the city’s buildings and operations to determine where to target improvements. A nonprofit, Local Governments for Sustainability, also assisted in benchmarking its greenhouse gas emissions and related costs. Those reports put the city’s long-term goal to become fully sustainable by 2030 in perspective, as well as helped to build support and a plan for energy-efficient equipment replacements and more environmentally friendly buildings, says David Dunn, division manager for Fleet & Facilities Management.

With that in mind, Orlando decided it would start examining its 70,000-square-foot fleet facility by conducting an audit before making building and equipment changes. Knowing where to target improvements, however, doesn’t provide enough information or the ability for facility management staff to fine-tune operations, Boyd says. Consequently, the city installed an electrical submeter on the fleet facility so that it could accurately measure energy use in real-time, 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The city also deployed a Web-based native BACnet Energy Management System that allows staff to adjust the programed operations of all of its equipment and to perform real-time energy and efficiency calculations of buildings from a personal computer on the city's network or through a virtual private network (VPN). The tool also allows staff to troubleshoot equipment failures remotely, as well as provides data so that the city can develop better controls to maximize equipment use while reducing energy consumption in 26 of the city’s facilities.

With the right measurement tools, the BACnet system monitors and controls lighting, air conditioning, fans and heaters to operate in the fleet facility only when needed and turn them off when an area is unoccupied.

Meanwhile, because the energy audit revealed that the city could save energy by retrofitted existing lighting, it installed new LED fixtures. The LEDs have internal control systems that "talk" wirelessly between fixtures and communicate to the control system so that they can be adjusted based on operating schedules and spot lighting needs. "We did a significant amount of lighting retrofits to provide better light where it needs to be with more efficient lighting," Boyd says.

Boyd cautions that energy and environmental improvements at facility buildings should not be made at the expense of employee or equipment health. The city's BACnet system, for instance, doesn't just turn air conditioners on and off when it reaches certain temperatures. Rather, the system monitors air quality in the fleet facility and brings in ventilation when sensors indicate more fresh air is necessary for employee health. Additionally, the system monitors temperatures and humidity so that they're at appropriate levels to maximize equipment life.

"You don't build a building for energy-efficiency," Boyd says. "Buildings serve a function and purpose, and people need to be comfortable. The building needs to be conducive to a productive work environment, but using an efficient means to do so."

Even in fleet facilities where buildings are primarily used to house equipment, not employee offices, there are spaces that need air conditioning. "Even in Florida, we still need heat in garages in winter because cold is detrimental to the health of mechanics because it dries out their skin and can cause bloody knuckles,” Boyd adds. As a result, instead of using space heaters to warm mechanic bays, the city uses energy-efficient equipment like natural gas-fired infrared heaters that line up with the mechanic’s position when working to reach the mechanics, rather than heating a large area.

“With the right controls, we are able to fine-tune operations of the fleet facility so that we’re running optimally in terms of providing the right comfort for people working inside the building and preserving the lifespan of equipment,” Boyd says.