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Planning Team

Photo of three men standing together reviewing a large print document. The men have bright orange and yellow construction vests and hard hats.
A data center manager reviews blueprints with
an IT project manager and data center
coordinator during construction of a Federal
facility.

Planning is the time to bring renewable energy expertise to the table, including a strong renewable energy planning team that will be part of the project though completion. It is important to have a team in place with the skills required to advocate for renewable energy and the agency's best interests throughout the project.

The planning team set the goals and objectives for the project as well as criteria for design team selection and should be convened at the outset of a project and bring together a range of stakeholders and disciplines. Ideally, the entire team should embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy usage. However, team members often have other priorities, and traditional agency stakeholders may lack enough knowledge about renewable energy issues to understand the implications of various early decisions.

Project Energy Lead

High-performance building owners have found that attaining aggressive energy goals requires an informed and active owner. Thus, an agency is far more likely to succeed at energy efficiency and renewable energy goals if an experienced lead is on hand focused on the energy aspects of the project.

The skills required for the project energy lead vary depending on the project scope and the renewable resources under consideration. Generally, this energy lead is an engineer independent of the design firm and renewable energy contractors. This person should function as the building owner's advocate on energy issues. Typically the Project Energy Lead should not be the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) specialist for the project, but should work in close coordination with that person.

The project energy lead should possess the following (either alone or as a team):

  • Extensive experience with renewable energy and energy efficiency technology implementation.
  • Full understanding of Federal energy requirements.
  • Familiarity with and expertise in all technologies under consideration.
  • Experience with energy modeling, including incorporating renewable energy technologies into the models.
  • In-depth knowledge of renewable energy policies and incentives, including interconnection and net metering regulations, tariffs, financing options, and available incentives affecting the project.

Once in place, the project energy lead is responsible for keeping the agency's renewable energy needs and goals on track as the project progresses. The energy lead is responsible for:

  • Ensuring renewable energy screenings occur.
  • Reviewing requests for proposals (RFPs).
  • Reviewing designs.
  • Representing the agency on both the design review team and the commissioning team.

It is important that the project energy lead be an independent entity and has only the agency's interests at stake on the project. This ensures that the agency can make informed decisions about renewable energy throughout the evolution of the project. Until integrating renewable energy becomes a building industry standard, there may be situations where either a lack of knowledge, expertise, or commitment on the part of design team may lead to renewable energy being dropped from the project.

The energy lead should be able to review information from the design team to determine if pivotal decision points on renewable energy, such as availability and life-cycle cost effectiveness, are developed appropriately. The energy lead is also invaluable in ensuring proper specifications are included upfront and that winning bidders have sufficient energy efficiency and renewable energy expertise to meet design goals.

An integrated design process has some cost premiums in upfront planning. Adding renewable energy into the process, including a designated project energy lead and renewable energy screening costs, affects the initial planning and design budget. Allocating additional funds for renewable energy screening, planning, and staffing upfront is critical to ensure renewable energy is cost effective and well integrated into the overall project. Funds spent early in the planning process result in cost savings later through less expensive solutions to energy requirements, downsizing related equipment, and reducing long-term operational costs.

Identifying funds for adding specific renewable energy should be done during this phase of pre-project planning and repeated throughout the project as needs.