Unified Team: Managing Auto-DR Challenges in Multi-Tenant Assets

When it comes to automated demand-response efforts, multi-tenant office properties tend to entail more challenges than user-owned or net-leased facilities.

When it comes to automated demand-response efforts, multi-tenant office properties tend to entail more challenges than user-owned or net-leased facilities. But the vast majority of Transwestern’s California tenants are happy to cooperate during manual demand-response events. The company wins participation by striving to launch them after 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., which means buildings are mostly vacated for the night before offices get perceptibly warmer.

Furthermore, turning off common-area lighting fixtures for a few hours and shutting down water features where applicable are not exactly disruptive measures, noted Paul Lilley, a regional vice president with Transwestern’s Southern California group. And tenants are also generally willing to shut off their internal non-essential lighting during load-shed events.

Nevertheless, a few have refused to approve the corresponding thermostat set-point adjustments in particular. Transwestern has typically been able to get around this by implementing Auto-DR programs on all floors but those occupied by the naysayers. “We can opt out on that portion of the building,” Lilley said, while lamenting that such logistics might not be viable in certain tenant and building configurations.

Unfortunately, unless a property is sub-metered, management is unlikely to determine individual tenant load-shed capabilities and distribute benefits of lowered utility bills accordingly. Pacific Gas & Electric’s program administrators will consider reimbursing customers for sub-metering upgrades, but only if the investment clearly enhances Auto-DR enabling, lead project manager Albert Chiu.

The key to accommodating tenant considerations with Auto-DR is communication—informing the tenants as soon as events are scheduled and detailing what programs entail, Lilley added. “If we let them know the grid is likely to be taxed the next day and make them aware of how we’ll be load-shedding, there’s rarely any concern.”

Chiu suggested building managers emphasize how a property’s participation can translate to lower utility pass-throughs. They should also stress to tenants that pre-cooling efforts the night before a scheduled or likely demand-response event will help assure that comfort impacts are minimal, he added.

For more on Auto-DR, turn to “Automatic De-consumption” in the July 2013 issue of Commercial Property Executive.