Energy Efficiency | November 30, 2020

Piecemeal or Comprehensive Project: Which is Better for My Facility?

Is it better to install one energy solution at a time or pursue multiple solutions together? These describe two major efficiency project strategies: piecemeal and comprehensive. Piecemeal projects break out different energy solutions into separate projects entirely, while a comprehensive project will tackle multiple solutions simultaneously. These different strategies provide varying benefits and disadvantages for facilities and businesses.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of piecemeal vs comprehensive projects.

What’s a “piecemeal project”?

In piecemeal projects, companies consider energy efficiency solutions separately, starting with evaluating for a single efficiency opportunity. For example, if a facility wants to decrease energy usage from lighting, lighting is the focus of the audit and the following project, without considering any other measures or energy savings opportunities.

The principal benefit of piecemeal projects is total cost: by pursuing one measure instead of two, a facility spends less upfront to lower energy use and operational cost. If facility management wishes to pursue another energy solution later, then the costs of these two measures are spread across a longer period of time and evaluated separately. Furthermore, these projects can be less invasive, as they require less careful coordination and planning.

However, piecemeal projects don’t provide the combined savings that comprehensive projects do, specifically the cost and incentive benefits stemming from combining multiple projects into one time period. And as we will discuss, some utilities incentivize deeper dives into facilities with higher levels of incentives by combining multiple measures.

What are the benefits of a comprehensive project?

A comprehensive project involves two or more energy efficiency solutions installed jointly within a facility or building. Comprehensive projects can look very different depending on the type of facility, and they vary significantly by level of complexity. For example, a warehouse may only have lighting and heating opportunities, while a comprehensive energy efficiency project for a hospital can include upgrades to chillers, heaters, piping, lighting and building automation systems.

In the initial stage of a comprehensive project, professional engineers perform an audit of all energy systems within the space and make determinations on opportunities for lowering operational costs and energy use. From here, depending on needs and wants of the client, all or some potential upgrades may be acted on.

There are many benefits to approaching energy efficiency comprehensively. Notably, many utility incentive programs will pay higher amounts when a facility achieves multiple measures of lowered energy use. For example, Connecticut provides increasingly higher project cost coverage for two or three measures instead of just one. While combining projects results in a higher overall cost at once, instead of the cost spread across separate periods, higher incentives may mean paying less in total for the same efficiency measures.

In addition, for financial purposes, naturally longer payback periods -- such as those for many mechanical projects -- can be offset by projects with shorter payback periods. This results in a shorter overall payback period than if the mechanical project was done separately. For companies that rely heavily on payback period when formulating decisions, this can make or break a project. If a facility intends to perform multiple measures, then multiple projects at the same time leads to fewer interruptions.

Comprehensive projects are a team effort that are best managed by an energy engineering firm. Professional engineers have the resources to provide one client-facing project manager that will in turn work with other PMs to ensure each project runs smoothly on a plan that allows all concurrent projects to move quickly. As a turnkey firm, Mantis Innovation plans every aspect of comprehensive projects, from initial audit to final documentation with utilities, taking this burden off the client.

Which project strategy – piecemeal or comprehensive – is better for my facility?

Ultimately, both piecemeal and comprehensive projects have their comparative benefits and drawbacks, and the decision to build one or multiple efficiency solutions at one time depends on the needs of the building and facility management.

However, if you are looking to gain higher energy savings and upgrade multiple energy systems over time, comprehensive projects provide overall better cost and time savings for you.

What’s the first step to determining what kind of project you want to pursue?