It’s no surprise that energy efficiency is good for the bottom line—people, planet and profit—especially in an energy-dependent group such as the foodservice industry.

From a whole building perspective, an optimized building design can substantially reduce energy use—often for a modest initial cost with a short payback period—when it includes process load reduction, improved mechanical system efficiency and smart operational strategies.

Meanwhile, an integrated building design can lower operating and maintenance costs and improve indoor air quality, thermal comfort and access to daylight.

Refrigerant management is also key for this group. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other refrigerants contribute to the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Alternatives to CFC and HCFC refrigerants, such as HFC-410A, have lower refrigerant impacts, but may require higher levels of energy use. Some energy-efficient systems, like variable refrigerant flow (VRF), may increase the overall refrigerant impact because of the relatively higher amount of refrigerants their operation requires.

That’s why it’s important for designers and building owners to understand these tradeoffs and make an informed decision that will impact both their people and profits.

LEED for retail

In 2007, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Washington, D.C.-based owner of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for buildings, began piloting the LEED for Retail rating system with the goal of providing global retailers a tailored solution to running a sustainable business and storefront. Today, nearly 12,000 retail locations worldwide are participating in the LEED for Retail program, with almost 3,800 of these projects, or approximately one-third, in the foodservice, grocery store or restaurant sector.

Companies interested in implementing energy-efficient refrigerant systems should take the following steps:

Establish project goals. Prioritize strategies that align with the project’s context and the values of the project team, owner or organization.

Develop an integrated project team. Assemble an integrated team and include as many of the following energy professionals as feasible, in addition to the owner or owner’s representative—architect or building designer, mechanical engineer, structural engineer, energy modeler, equipment planner and commissioning agent.

Initiate a discovery phase. Project teams should perform research and analysis as the project progresses, refining the analysis, testing alternatives, comparing notes, generating ideas and evaluating costs. Perform a preliminary “simple box” energy modeling analysis before the completion of schematic design that explores how to reduce energy loads in the building, and accomplish related sustainability goals by questioning default assumptions.

Assess potential strategies. This may include but is not limited to site conditions, massing and orientation, lighting and renewable energy opportunities, basic envelope attributes, lighting levels, thermal comfort ranges and plug-and-process load needs.

Develop a preliminary energy model. Consider creating preliminary energy models to analyze building design configuration and heating and cooling load reduction strategies. The preliminary model uses information from the design to create a rough projection of energy usage in various scenarios.

Communicate with others on your team. Discuss how to incorporate a new energy efficiency project, and weave it into daily work. Provide training if necessary.

Determine energy cost savings. Compare the proposed model with the baseline model to determine the anticipated energy cost saving.

Energy efficiency has emerged as a critical economic issue and top priority for business owners. Energy efficient projects provide business owners the trickle-down effect—if equipment is running efficiently, a business and its people can run effectively.