Pocket big savings, like the 25% reduction in natural gas usage this engineering firm enjoyed following the installation of high-efficiency boilers.

The goal of any successful business is to sell more of its product or service. But DTE Energy focuses on helping its customers reduce the amount of energy they use. Chelly Heeringa, facilities director at Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber finds that approach to business quite uncommon.

“I’ve been a subscriber to EnergySmarts for Michigan Business since 2018, and what impresses me most about the magazine is that it focuses on stories about real energy savings,” said Heeringa. “It explains how DTE is working with customers to accomplish savings and tells readers how they can share in those savings.”

Heeringa is familiar with the benefits of conserving energy. Among its many professional services offered, the architectural, environmental and engineering firm also performs energy audits. Like any smart business, the company practices what it preaches, as evidenced by the reductions in energy consumption they’ve achieved at their Grand Rapids office.

Practicing what it preaches

“Helping customers reduce energy costs is a large part of what we do, but when we looked at our own building, we saw some energy inefficiencies. We knew we could do better and reduce costs in the process,” said Heeringa. In addition to keeping tabs on the company’s energy usage, she is responsible for LEED certification for the Grand Rapids office and oversees environmental practices at the company’s 15 locations.

“The Grand Rapids building has a closed-loop boiler tower heat pump system. In layman’s terms, it’s a low-temperature system that can utilize much of the energy content of natural gas. In 2016, we replaced two existing boilers with these high-efficiency, condensing, low-temperature counterparts. They are a much better fit with our building’s HVAC system,” said Mark Zoeteman, the firm’s senior mechanical engineer.

The company contracted Grand Rapids-based Correct Mechanical for the boiler installation and received $798 in rebates from DTE for the upgrade. Following installation, Fishbeck realized savings of approximately 25% for each of 2017 and 2018. Those numbers are based on real data normalized for weather, so the savings are genuine.

Fully aware of the fact that reducing energy consumption is a matter of continuous improvement, the company has also taken steps to further reduce its electric bill and is replacing inefficient light fixtures with LED counterparts. “We’ve focused on reducing unnecessary lighting at night when no one is present,” Heeringa said. “We had lights that stayed on 24/7. Now, thanks to recircuiting, occupancy sensors and low-energy night lights, we’re saving a lot of money.”

Open to new ideas

Some of the energy-saving ideas that Fishbeck has implemented were influenced by the articles in this magazine. Others were inspired by participating in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings. This competition is an awards and recognition program for energy-use reduction and is open to all Michigan commercial, industrial and multifamily buildings. The program encourages energy efficient practices in buildings across the state.

“We’ve participated in Battle of the Buildings for the past five years,” said Heeringa. “It’s nice that it takes place in Grand Rapids and that the participants are building owners, sharing stories about what has actually been accomplished, not just theories.”