Master Planning for a Sustainable Future
Master Planning for a Sustainable Future
Master Planning for a Sustainable Future
9 minute read

Energy master planning is helping companies consider how to optimize their facilities to reduce costs and build a sustainable future for their energy model. This ensures solid environmental compliance, energy efficiency and adequate capacity for growth.

Rising energy costs, looming greenhouse gas emission regulations and lean budgets contribute to this conundrum. Energy master planning provides the road map that will guide companies in making the right decisions about maintaining their facility infrastructure.

Implementing a solid energy master plan ensures environmental compliance, energy efficiency, adequate capacity for growth, reliability, redundancy, flexibility, sustainable infrastructure and lowest life cycle utility cost. Outlining utility needs over the next 15 to 30 years, an energy master plan involves conducting a cost-benefit analysis that considers the performance of existing equipment, alternative energy sources, energy and water conservation, demand-side management, and infrastructure optimization to reduce environmental impact and operating costs while maintaining high-quality, safe and reliable energy delivery.

Through a two-pronged approach, Burns & McDonnell first identifies operational and functional issues within the existing utility infrastructure, taking into account projected load changes and conditions. Burns & McDonnell then develops custom energy models to account for the interdependence of systems and the effect on overall life cycle cost. Through this analysis Burns & McDonnell recommends utility infrastructure upgrades or expansions needed based on priority.

When it comes time to implement the master plan, Burns & McDonnell can execute its recommendations and also assist in project financing. Burns & McDonnell has helped its clients secure $160 million in government incentives since 2000, $50 million of which were American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants in 2009 and 2010. The firm also arranges partnerships to finance renewable energy projects.

Higher Education

Colleges and universities recognize the importance of such planning. As of November 2010, more than 675 higher education institution presidents nationwide signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to develop a climate neutrality action plan, take immediate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and publish periodic sustainability reports to track progress. As a result, more colleges and universities are exploring renewable energy sources and seeking sustainability measures that will reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. The higher education industry’s constituents, college students, also value the green movement and now consider colleges based on their sustainability.

Accomplishing these environmentally friendly goals can be challenging for the many higher education institutions with historic, aging buildings that have become characteristic of university campuses. However, energy master planning can help colleges and universities develop a customized action plan that optimizes energy use across the campus. This plan contributes to an ideally sized and configured central utility plant (CUP) that is neither too large nor too small to serve a particular campus. An appropriately sized and configured CUP saves operating costs and eliminates unnecessary capital expenditures.

“When you take the steps to prepare an energy master plan and follow through, you’ll end up with more capacity in your existing plant and won’t have to expand,” Karen Stelling, associate vice president in the Burns & McDonnell Aviation & Facilities Group, says. “Reducing demand on equipment helps the central plant operate more efficiently to meet the actual demands of the building or campus. This way we’re not just adding to demand; we’re scaling it back.”

Case Study: University of Missouri-Kansas City

Energy master plans often include recommendations of when and how to modify utility systems for maximum efficiency.  Recommendations can include energy audits and performance contracts — improvements to existing systems paid for by the resulting energy savings.

Burns & McDonnell conducted an investment-grade energy audit of 27 buildings, totaling more than 2 million square feet, on the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) campus to help UMKC realize enough energy savings to cover the capital costs of replacing its chilled water plant.

“The right combination of retrofits and energy savings with quicker payback periods will help you to afford to implement your energy master plan,” says Matt VanDeCreek, energy services project manager at Burns & McDonnell.

Through high-efficiency lighting modifications, pressure-independent valves in the chilled water system, low-flow plumbing fixtures, an improved energy management system, variable air flow units and other energy efficiency measures, Burns & McDonnell is helping UMKC realize a projected $1.6 million in annual energy savings through a 15-year guaranteed energy savings program. With a 20 percent reduction in British thermal units consumed per square foot of the campus, these sustainable upgrades also reduce UMKC’s carbon footprint by nearly 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions — the equivalent of offsetting the emissions of 1,352 single-family homes or removing 1,344 mid-sized sedans from the road. Burns & McDonnell’s energy-saving upgrades also allowed UMKC to eliminate 14 building pumps and the cost of associated operations and maintenance in addition to increasing chilled water capacity in a new CUP.

As part of UMKC’s comprehensive performance contract, VanDeCreek conducts a measurement and verification analysis of UMKC’s utility bills each month and initiates troubleshooting if the data suggests that a utility system isn’t operating as expected. “Looking for deviations helps us find new opportunities for energy savings,” VanDeCreek says. “If you stay aware of your building utility systems and keep them operating as designed, the more likely you are to catch any issues and reduce future operating costs.”

Case Study: Texas A&M University

It’s important to revisit energy master plans every five years, as projected utility demands may change over time. Texas A&M University selected Burns & McDonnell to validate its existing energy master plan and provide updated recommendations. Texas A&M’s energy master plan contains detailed plans for campus utilities needs over the next five years, with a more flexible outlook for future years. Since its 2005 master plan — which Burns & McDonnell OnSite Energy & Power Group engineers led while at another firm — Texas A&M implemented $175 million in utility infrastructure upgrades to modernize the campus utility systems. Ongoing projects include a $70 million combined heat and power (CHP) plant, which is partially funded by a $10 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant for which Burns & McDonnell helped Texas A&M apply. When completed in mid-2011, the increased energy savings from the CHP plant will result in more than enough monthly savings to recover the monthly financing costs of the project.

The next phase of master planning will optimize Texas A&M’s power generation, steam and chilled water systems for maximum energy efficiency and emissions reductions. The master plan will also include Texas A&M design standards updates to extend these efforts beyond the utility infrastructure and into individual buildings. The resulting energy master plan not only helps the university save operating costs and become more environmentally friendly, but it also aids management in securing funding and approval for necessary utility upgrades over the next two decades.


With heightened security measures costing airports most of their capital expenditures since 9/11, many airports are facing aging infrastructure and obsolete equipment that costs increasingly more to operate. Greater operating expenses are passed onto airlines and eventually the traveling public, motivating airports to become more energy efficient to save operating expenses. Energy master planning helps airports assess how best to optimize their utility systems, delay unnecessary capital costs and plan for future expansions.

Case Study: Denver International Airport

As part of the Regional Transportation District’s FasTracks commuter rail program, the Denver International Airport is building a train station to connect the airport with downtown and a 500-room hotel and conference center. In order to prepare for these projects, the airport hired Burns & McDonnell to evaluate whether its existing CUP could handle the planned additional heating and cooling loads associated with the South Terminal Redevelopment Program.

“This study gives us the knowledge we needed about our CUP to make the right budgetary decisions regarding our utilities,” Lee Walinchus, senior engineer at Denver International Airport, says.

Burns & McDonnell analyzed the capacity of the airport’s CUP, equipment performance parameters and plant expansion limitations. The ultimate capacity of the plant was then compared to the existing loads, the anticipated future loads of both the currently planned expansions and the ultimate build-out of the airport.

Burns & McDonnell then developed a CUP master plan to identify if the CUP could be expanded, when new equipment would be needed and if additional square footage or a satellite plant would be necessary.

Burns & McDonnell determined that due to several site restrictions, the plant footprint could not be expanded, but with equipment additions the existing CUP could handle the planned South Terminal Redevelopment Program and existing concourse additions. However, the plant would need a satellite addition if a new concourse were added.

Currently, Burns & McDonnell is designing valve and air handling unit modifications it recommended in the airport’s energy study. These modifications allow for the elimination of 125 pumps, resulting in an estimated annual energy savings of more than $400,000 for the airport and better access to the plant’s full chilled water cooling capacity.

“Optimization of our hydronic system to the way we do business leads to substantial energy reduction, which contributes to our ISO 1400-certification status and effort to be a good stewards of our environment,” Walinchus says.


Energy master planning for manufacturers, as for most businesses, primarily focuses on the length of project payback. There are always many projects competing for capital investment funds, but it’s important to understand that there’s a cost to doing nothing.

“With internal rates of return (IRR) exceeding 25 percent, in most cases, we see a high cost of doing nothing,” Scott Clark, leader of the OnSite Energy & Power Group at Burns & McDonnell, says. “We see many manufacturers with rental and inefficient, retrofitted equipment because they can’t compete for capital on an IRR basis. These inefficient systems cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more to operate than optimized utility systems.”

Burns & McDonnell helps manufacturers avoid this problem by creatively looking at interdependencies, capital avoidance, and maintenance and energy savings; replacing inefficient equipment; and developing infrastructure projects that meet IRR requirements. For manufacturers in the government supply chain, there are additional sustainability mandates, concerning factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, that don’t apply to private industry. These manufacturers need to be forward-looking, so that they can continue work for the government by complying with existing and upcoming sustainability requirements.


The healthcare sector has grown increasingly more dependent upon electricity with digital medical records and equipment essential to patient care. With hospitals and research facilities operating 24/7, energy becomes the second largest expense behind staff compensation. Coupled with the requirement for hospitals to keep all utilities running up to 96 hours in an emergency, energy reliability and security drives many healthcare facilities to consider energy master planning.

Case Study: Parkland Hospital

For its new 17-story, approximately 2.5 million-square-foot hospital in Dallas, Parkland Health & Hospital System selected Burns & McDonnell to perform an energy analysis, conceptual design, and final design for its CUP. Early CUP planning allows Burns & McDonnell to coordinate its recommendations, such as optimized controls and utility management software, with the hospital’s design team for maximum CUP efficiency.

Anticipated to reduce energy costs by 25 percent, this CUP will feature 16,500 tons of cooling, 230,000 pounds-per-hour of steam and 20 MW of emergency power to support 2.5 million-square-feet of hospital and medical office buildings.

“We selected Burns & McDonnell because of its energy efficiency strategies and cost-saving techniques,” says Kurt Dierking, vice president of facilities support services at Parkland. “The CUP’s energy efficiency will help us obtain LEED® Silver certification for the new healthcare campus, which optimizes our resources, saving money both for the hospital and taxpayers.”

Energy-efficient measures, such as heat pump chillers, variable-speed pumping and chilled water plant optimization, will conserve energy and provide redundant, reliable and efficient utilities to the new Parkland campus.

For more information, contact Scott Clark, 817-840-1233.

Online Only: A Master Plan for Meeting Growth Needs at the Texas Medical Center

Planning for energy-efficient CUP improvements helped Thermal Energy Corp. (TECO), which supplies energy to institutions at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, earn a $10 million federal grant, one of nine ARRA grants from the DOE for implementing CHP technology. As the design-build contractor, Burns & McDonnell prepared the DOE grant application and also helped TECO realize more than $30 million in equipment and subcontract cost savings.

Increasing utility costs and rapid growth motivated TECO to start developing a CUP master plan in 2005, for which Burns & McDonnell validated the economics and constructability before executing the plan. When the final phase is completed, TECO’s district energy plant will provide 100 MW of on-site power generation, 160,000 tons of chilled water, 152,000 ton-hours of chilled water storage and 940,000 pounds-per-hour of steam to facilities at the Texas Medical Center.

TECO’s on-site CHP system will double operating efficiency to 80 percent; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 83,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent per year; and improve the security, reliability and emergency operation capacity of the utility infrastructure serving the world’s largest medical center. Over the next 15 years, this CHP system is estimated to save TECO nearly $200 million.

Online Only: Hurricane-Resistant Design Keeps Shands Cancer Center Systems Up and Running

When University of Florida’s Shands HealthCare decided to build a new cancer hospital in hurricane-prone Gainesville, Fla., it knew it needed a reliable, efficient and clean energy source to keep the hospital operational in the event of a natural or man-made catastrophe. Burns & McDonnell worked with the local municipal utility Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) and Shands to arrange an innovative, 50-year, open-book agreement, which allows the hospital to share the costs of the South Energy Center (SEC) with an energy partner that owns and operates the on-site energy system. This innovative energy agreement assigns risk to the party best qualified to manage it. GRU provided bond financing to construct the energy center, saving the hospital $30 million in capital investment. This allows Shands to focus on its core business, while GRU provides electricity, chilled water, steam and medical gases to Shands Cancer Hospital. GRU can sell electricity to the open power market when conditions are favorable, with resulting revenues split between the utility and hospital. Similarly to the arrangement with TECO, Burns & McDonnell’s open-book accounting leveraged GRU’s credit and tax-exempt status, which resulted in the client realizing equipment and subcontracted labor cost savings from the competitive bidding process.

Burns & McDonnell provided design-build architectural, engineering, procurement, construction management and commissioning services for the 40,500-square-foot SEC, which is expandable to meet Shands’ future energy loads without disruption of service. The GRU SEC features a 4.3-megawatt CHP system that produces normal and essential electricity, 44,500 pounds-per-hour of steam, 2,400 tons of chilled water and medical gases to meet 100 percent of the cancer hospital’s needs. With a hurricane-resistant design, the GRU SEC has two independent grid feeds and can island from the electric power grid to provide continuous operation up to 96 hours in the event of a prolonged grid outage.

The greenhouse gas emissions-reducing, 46 percent more efficient CHP system — compared to a traditional power plant — contributed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) energy-efficiency points, resulting in the hospital becoming the first in the Southeast to earn LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and the only CHP system in Florida to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star CHP award. The Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers recently named this project the Grand Award winner in the energy category of its 2011 Engineering Excellence Awards.

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