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No Building Left Behind: For TMBA, Tenant Education is Driving Next Wave of Energy Optimization

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To say that T. M. Bier & Associates (TMBA) was ahead of its time is not exactly accurate, according to Ted Bier, TMBA’s founder and president. It seems that the engineering practices and control systems that TMBA pioneered to lower the energy usage of office buildings have enjoyed steady demand ever since the mid-1970s.

However, with the nation’s ever growing green-minded workforce and the plus-size inventory of aging office buildings in New York’s tri-state area, it’s safe to say that the 36-year-old firm is entering a new age of growth as its control system offerings find new demand among building owners and operators, as well as their tenants.

“I would say that about a third of our Manhattan work is now for the tenants, who really care about what is going on in their space, whereas 10 years ago, the tenants were probably only 10 percent,” explains Bier, who says that the days when building owners could bury energy usage in the rent are long gone.

images“Today, tenants have to have individual meters, and they can see what they’re spending, and what we’ve learned is that their appetite for information is only growing — and quantifying is really important,” says Bier, whose privately held firm, industry watchers estimate, captures between $20 million and $30 million in annual revenues.

There’s little question that while many green best practices are today being incorporated into the design and construction of new buildings, new construction accounts for only a fraction of the country’s office building population at large.

“A typical building lasts for 70 years, and for those buildings that were built more than 10 years ago, chances are that they were not built to be energy efficient,” explains Bier, who says that independent providers of energy control systems like TMBA enjoy a size advantage over larger players such as Honeywell and Siemens AG.

“The larger players, based on their size, just cannot get down to addressing the individual characteristics of buildings in a specific market the way a company like ours can,” says Bier, who characterizes TMBA’s 80-member workforce as being largely made up of technology-focused engineering talent.

“I don’t know how to energy-optimize a company in Dallas or Atlanta, and I don’t have to. I just need to know my energy sources, and I need to know how to deal with Con Edison steam, which is the most expensive fuel in the continental United States,” says Bier.

Today, TMBA uses a variety of sensor technologies to help track energy use as well as air quality. In the past, buildings would control the amount of air inside a building according to a posted occupancy rate, and as a rule of thumb, office buildings are traditionally required to supply 20 cubic feet per minute of fresh air per person.

“There’s a basic law of physics which says that the power required to move air or water goes up exponentially with the amount being moved. So if you are moving twice as much air than what is actually needed, it is probably costing you four times the amount of energy,” explains Bier, who says that companies can today detect the correct air amount by using carbon dioxide sensors.

“Carbon dioxide is an excellent marker for revealing how many people are in a building, so we can now regulate according to the correct number of people, and the savings are huge,” says Bier.

Meanwhile, Bier says that wireless technologies are now helping the owners and tenants of older building to adopt control systems that were in the past prohibited due to structural issues related to installation.

“There are prewar apartment houses and office buildings in Manhattan that are landmarked buildings, where the owners or tenants have never permitted the running of wires, but we’re now able to put a thermostat on the wall, and give them an economic incentive that’s never been there,” says Bier.

Going forward, according to Bier, TMBA’s objective is to become a partner of the building owner or tenant and rather than sell them a control unit or technology — to design a system and approach that can help them over time to realize savings from energy usage.

Bier says: “The only people who could feel bad about our work is OPEC, because we’re helping the U.S. import less oil, and we are providing a better quality of life for our clients.”

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timthumb-150x150As we advance into the second half of 2013, there are growing indications that business sentiment is improving despite nagging unemployment numbers and a shortage of merger-minded CEOs.

Cindy Crotty, middle-market business watcher and head of KeyBank’s commercial banking segment, once more shared with Middle-Market Executive the findings of a KeyBank’s middle-market business sentiment survey, which reveals that merger-minded business leaders remain a minority in 2013. Download report here. 

 

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