There’s no doubt that energy conservation in commercial buildings (or any building for that matter) is important. Reducing operating costs are important for valuations, freeing capital up for other projects or simply reducing the carbon footprint of your building, or portfolio of buildings. There are many different ECMs (energy conservation measures) available to companies to help achieve these goals, and almost always the decision to use certain measures comes down to “I have to be at 3 years or less for the simple payback”. While financial metrics are important, I believe that this focus often obscures the soft benefits to the building’s occupants and workers.
A noise study was recently completed where a corporate kitchen’s noise levels were measured before and after the installation of variable speed controls on both the hood exhaust and supply fans. Traditionally kitchen exhaust fans run at 100% speed for constant periods of time. With the addition of a variable speed system, like Melink Intelli-Hood, fan speeds are reduced to slower speeds when cooking isn’t at its maximum. From an energy savings perspective there are two buckets of operational cost reductions, fan energy and conditioned air. The chart below shows that when the kitchen fans are operating at 100% speeds the decibel level is just short of what a fire alarm sounds like when activated. With the addition of the variable speed controls, the site realized much lower average fan speeds, as well as a reduction in kitchen noise levels to just below conversational speech, or a reduction of 11 decibels.
The financial metrics for this project met all approval hurdles and the site is very happy. For a moment, think about the Chef and his staff. Their work environment has now become much more quiet. They can hear each other better when they’re coordinating and preparing meals for several hundred employees each day. Shouting and miscommunication is greatly reduced, and their environment is more pleasant. This particular improvement would be hard to show on an income statement…or would it?
As one example, within Seniors Housing, Dining Services is consistently near, or at, the top in employee turnover percentages. The current industry turnover rate is 36.91%, (McKnight’s Senior Living, Salaries and Benefits Report 2017-2018) with Certified Nurses Aids coming in a close second at 34%. It will cost a facility approximately $2,500 in recruiting and training to backfill a single new employee. Compound that amount with multiple hires each year and it gets expensive very quickly. If along with reducing energy costs a site can also create a better work environment for its full time employees (FTE), then perhaps that large expense can begin to be reduced and more employees will remain on the payroll instead of seeking other places to work.