Looking Ahead to 2014

I was pretty upbeat about 2013. The economy was able to navigate the potholes and various detours of a poorly maintained road to recovery. Businesses and communities started to reinvest in buildings and infrastructure. The energy supply is stable for the moment and decision makers are looking ahead to the future. I started 2013 with an optimistic attitude and I predict 2014 is going to be good as well.

Some trends have not changed much in the past twelve months, so it is well worth repeating my observations at the start of 2014. Energy still plays a significant role as we look ahead, both from an efficiency and resiliency point of view. Energy fuels and impedes business success. Traditional approaches for generating, distributing and consuming energy are changing on all fronts. Innovative energy solutions are being implemented up and down the supply chain; from utility scale renewable energy generation to radically low-energy buildings. Innovation is creating the next generation of great businesses, and innovative approaches to energy are fueling their success.

Twelve months ago I predicted that 2013 would be a year for performance, that it would “reflect our optimism for all the business opportunity we see across the country”. Looking back, we did a pretty good job coming out of the doldrums of the recession. I see 2014 as a continuation of the momentum started in 2013 as businesses continue to look ahead and plan for long term growth. Here are the trends I see continuing to be important in 2014.

He Who Generates the Energy, Profits from the Energy. The Renewables Industry has made huge strides in the past few years and is transforming many sectors of our economy. Solar and wind are maturing technologies. Technology is improving, systems are becoming more dependable, and costs are dropping dramatically. In many parts of the country solar is a smart investment.

Generating energy onsite has many advantages. Solar and wind are free resources for generating electricity that offsets electricity you otherwise pay for. Dollar for dollar, you come out ahead if you can generate electricity onsite. Many businesses are looking at rising future costs and investing their energy dollars in systems where costs are lower and more predictable.

Microturbines and cogeneration is proving to be another cost effective strategy for managing energy costs, even for small and midsized businesses. Resiliency; the ability to recover from a system disturbance, such as an extended power failure due to weather of faulty infrastructure, is a criteria many clients now want in the design of power and energy systems. The key to profiting from any onsite energy generation strategy is being smart about available energy resources and technology.

Conservation is like Gold. Waste is the great untapped resource. We generate plenty of it in all forms, especially energy. Visionary thinker Amory Lovins coined the term Negawatt Power in 1989, and slowly people have come to see its value. But now the gold rush is on!

Wasted energy costs businesses money, a lot of money! By some estimates 30%-50% of the energy used is ultimately wasted, costing businesses many thousands of dollars. Implementing an energy conservation program harvests those lost dollars all the while making businesses more profitable and successful. A good energy conservation plan is strategic, incremental, and resourceful. Businesses of all sizes benefit from this type of planning whether they use in-house resources and outside expertise. Spiezle spend a lot of time talking to clients about the business benefits of energy conservation and ways to improve building efficiency. We see this trend continuing in 2014.

Energy Performance is the New Status Symbol. Businesses that “get it” now want to flaunt it, because they realize it is good for their brand. We are seeing more and more clients talking about energy conservation successes and the positive impact it has on business. They understand it is important to stock holders, investors, customers and constituents. Whether energy conservation is being socially responsible, or being green, it is a badge of credibility that helps connect customers to their brand. It’s smart business, and everyone likes to show how smart they are.

Energy performance as status symbol is being propelled by forward looking cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles that require large buildings to benchmark and report energy use. New York City recently released data on building energy performance and it is instructive to see who the energy winners and losers are. In a hyper competitive market such as New York, having an address with outstanding energy performance is a business status symbol.

Winning like the Biggest Loser. Coming out a period where many businesses went under and most struggled to survive, investing in ways to make your business stronger and more resilient gives you a competitive advantage. Our fascination with reality-TV weight loss shows can provide us with some real world business wisdom.

There is a lot of excess energy to be conserved, like excess fat to be lost, in buildings and building operations. The process takes commitment, perseverance, and is not without a certain amount of sacrifice and investment of time and energy. But this effort makes your business healthier and stronger. Some are able to do it themselves, but often we need a good coach to help us achieve our goal.

Let 2014 be the year you find your energy coach, develop a plan to trim energy use and making your business healthier, stronger, and more competitive. Each business needs its own plan with goals that make sense. Talk to us about being your energy coach. Join the trend!

Businesses are ready to do what it takes to succeed in the long term. Innovation, new technology, new business models, and new metrics for success are popping up everywhere. Businesses are harvesting energy savings as a way to invest in the future. The biggest winners are making smart investments in energy conservation and technology. Expertise is out there, so are the tools and the resources to help businesses make smart energy choices. Find your energy coach. Perform like a champion and don’t hesitate to show it.


Frank Sherman is Director of Sustainability for Spiezle Architectural Group, headquartered in Trenton New Jersey. Frank is a practicing architect, green building expert, part-time educator, and aspiring beekeeper.

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