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When Energy Savings Fail to Materialize: Experts Suggest 5 Ways to Better Predict Energy Savings and Improve Building PerformanceResearch paper authored by Tolin Mechanical and The Green Engineer presented at ASHRAE conference in Denver

Published: June, 21 2013

DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A trio of national energy experts has identified five reasons why predicted energy savings often fail to materialize. Their findings — and proposed solutions for enhancing building performance — are outlined in a technical paper presented at an June industry conference in Denver.

With a growing emphasis on energy efficiency, many new construction and retrofit projects are specifically designed to achieve energy savings and reduce operating costs. But research shows that many facilities fail to meet projected savings.

The research paper, “From Design to Occupancy: Strategies to Enhance Building Performance and Prediction Accuracy,” was written by Leslie Beu of Tolin Mechanical, Anthony Hardman of The Green Engineer, and Tom Riead of Tolin Mechanical. The paper was reviewed at the ASHRAE conference in Denver on Monday, June 24, followed by a more detailed presentation (“Building Energy Performance: Bridging Expectations to Reality”) that examined specific case studies on Wednesday, June 26.

Among the key reasons that projects do not meet predicted energy savings: a lack of coordination and accountability among those responsible for the design, construction and operation of the building. Individual team members are responsible for specific tasks, but no one is ultimately responsible for how the building performs once it is complete.

In some instances, there is a failure to communicate when design specifications are changed “on the fly” during the construction process. In other cases, a building manager may operate the facility in a manner that is far different than intended. These issues can significantly impact a facility's ability to meet predicted energy savings.

“Unqualified team members, poor design details, field installations errors, poor communication and a lack of accountability can all contribute to a divergence between analyst predictions and operational data,” the paper explains.

To better predict energy savings and improve building performance, the paper recommends the active involvement of a qualified energy analyst and an integrated design approach. This includes establishing a feedback loop that keeps everyone informed of design and construction changes that may impact a building’s energy use, and developing incentives that reward all team members for the building performance rather than the completion of individual tasks.

Performing measurement and verification activities and conducting adequate operator training are also critical to closing the gap between projected and actual energy savings.

About The Authors

Leslie Beu is an energy engineer for Tolin Mechanical in Denver who specializes in developing, designing and retrofitting projects with a focus on energy efficiency. A graduate of Colorado State University, Leslie is a Certified Energy Manager, Certified Measurement and Verification Professional, Certified Energy Auditor, and a LEED EB O&M Accredited Professional. 

Tom Riead is also an energy engineer for Tolin Mechanical in Denver and specializes in performing energy data analysis and quantifying energy savings. A graduate of Colorado State University, Tom is a Certified Energy Manager, Certified Measurement and Verification Professional, and a LEED EB O&M Accredited Professional.

Anthony Hardman is a building performance analyst with The Green Engineer in Concord, MA who specializes in assessing the energy performance of building projects. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Anthony is a licensed Professional Engineer with the LEED AP BD+C credential. He currently serves on two ASHRAE Technical Committees.

About Tolin Mechanical

Established in 1948, Tolin Mechanical is a privately-held company that provides a wide range of energy solutions, including HVAC/R maintenance, facility staffing, energy sustainability services and design-build retrofit services. Tolin employs more than 250 associates at locations in Colorado, Arizona and Virginia.

About The Green Engineer

The Green Engineer, Inc. is a sustainable design consulting firm specializing in solutions to design, build, and operate buildings with improved energy efficiency and reduced impact on the environment. The firm is located in Concord, Massachusetts. For more information, visit


ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is a building technology society with more than 54,000 members worldwide. The Society and its members focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. Through research, standards writing, publishing and continuing education, ASHRAE shapes tomorrow’s built environment today. ASHRAE was formed as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers by the merger in 1959 of American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHAE) founded in 1894 and The American Society of Refrigerating Engineers (ASRE) founded in 1904.

Download a .pdf of the report

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