Looking for a good way to see whether your energy-efficiency projects and building equipment are working like they should be? Try taking a walk through your building at night.
A commercial building is typically only occupied for eight or nine hours each workday, leaving 15-16 hours unoccupied. Although remote monitoring is helpful when it comes to keeping tabs on after-hours operations, it can be difficult for facilities managers to know how buildings are truly operating during the hours when no one is inside.
We may assume that HVAC, lighting, and building automation controls are working as intended, but even just one malfunctioning component can impact the entire facility. Periodic evening building tours – essentially serving as simple energy audits performed at night – can help uncover operational issues that affect building performance, energy efficiency, and water conservation.
According to BetterBricks, an initiative of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, night walks should be conducted with at least two staff members (including the facilities manager and building engineer or another member of the onsite property team). Depending on building size, several team members may be needed to evaluate possible energy waste and other issues.
Tours should be scheduled during times when the building is unoccupied. To get a better overall sense of the building’s operation, night walks can be scheduled at various intervals (a weekend afternoon, a weekend morning, a weeknight early in the evening, a weeknight late in the evening, etc.).
BetterBricks also recommends taking advantage of after-hours emergency calls. If you have to visit the building to address an equipment malfunction, take some time to walk through the rest of the building while you’re already there.
Here are some of the items you should be monitoring during a night audit:
- Air movement, extreme temperature fluctuations, and humidity levels
- Vibrations, humming, rattling, and other mechanical noises coming from HVAC, lighting, etc.
- Electrical and mechanical system temperatures
- Office equipment left on
- Overly lit areas both inside and around the building
- Dark areas both inside and around the building
- Condensation around HVAC systems
- Air diffusers blocked by furniture
- Water spots, standing water, or dripping water
- Odors (mold, overheating electrical equipment, chemicals, etc.)
Taking a closer look at your building after-hours may also help you pinpoint areas for security improvement. In the evening hours, it will be easier to spot under-lit areas. You’ll also be able to test access control and surveillance equipment to make sure appropriate entrances are secure, and that cameras provide enough visual detail in the evening hours.