Get Started with Spark Tool

Developed over several years through collaboration with regional experts, utilities and Integrated Design Labs, Spark is a unique fast way to evaluate your building for a renewal project. The tools will help you assess renewal potential for a specific building. And, unlike others, these tools look at market and income potential in addition to energy savings potential.

Spark allows you to input specific details about your building and market position then suggests an Integrated Measure Package that would save at least 35% of current energy costs.  It also provides potential costs for the project, financial impacts other than energy savings and allows you to adjust key factors to better represent your business.  

Run the IMP builder more than once changing options and compare scenarios. 

About Spark

Now that you understand the potential for Building Renewal, it’s time to begin more in-depth investigation. Spark is an interactive tool that provides customized design concepts and an initial economic analysis of your project. Spark was developed for design and real estate professionals and project managers to facilitate and streamline the early analysis of a Building Renewal project. Utilizing Spark allows for quicker identification of potential design strategies and project scopes of work, and provides a preliminary view of project costs and economic benefits.

Why Use Spark

Spark saves time! Based on user answers to a modest set of questions, Spark saves time required for early design analysis and helps to focus project team attention by first reducing hundreds of potential energy efficiency measures into a situation-specific project scope that will provide at least 35 percent energy savings over the building’s existing energy performance.

Spark supports decision-making! Spark’s output is a business case proposal for your Building Renewal project to present to the decision-makers. The proposal focuses on the real estate drivers most important to building owners and investors, such as increased net operating income and market benefits from building modernization, such as increased rents and reduced tenant rollover.

Spark is flexible and allows you to adjust the tool assumptions! Spark is not a “black box.” After viewing an initial summary of Spark results, there are capabilities for the user to easily explore project sensitivity analysis by adjusting cost, savings and value creation assumptions. This will allow you to understand the variables and impacts to the financial analysis, and own the final results before you generate the business case proposal.

Data You Will Need

  • Building size and occupancy information: gross square footage; distinctions between spaces that are heated, cooled and ventilated, from others that are not conditioned; current and typical occupancy percentages
  • Annual consumption and expense data for electricity, and for the building’s primary heating fuel (if other than electricity)
  • A general understanding of building physical characteristics: building envelope, lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, including estimates of HVAC system ages
  • Overview information about the building’s business profile, including: rentable square footage, rents, vacancy percentages, tenant turnover expectations, and the applicable capitalization rate

How Spark Works

Spark will ask you to respond to a series of questions about a building’s physical characteristics and business profile. The questions function as a guide to user understanding and conceptualization of deep retrofit project opportunities, with answers informing an assessment of project scope, energy savings, project cost, and value creation opportunities. At times, Spark will make recommendations, based upon your answers, and will urge you to either accept the recommendation and proceed, or will allow you to override the recommendation and make a different choice.

It is not expected that every user will have all of the necessary information available during an initial Spark session. Projects can be saved, to be completed at a later time, and other users can be invited to participate and answer specific project questions.

Your answers to the building characteristics questions will first be aligned with one of the various “prototype” buildings developed from NEEA’s Building Renewal demonstration projects, to match a package of energy efficiency measures with an estimate the post-retrofit energy performance of the user’s building. This estimated post-retrofit energy performance is compared to current energy performance to estimate savings.

Spark’s energy analysis is built upon the capabilities of US DOE’s EnergyPlus, including the OpenStudio Application Suite and EnergyPlus Example File Generator. Weather Data for the user’s building location is used. It is important to remember that Spark does not develop and run an energy model of your building, rather, a rough order of magnitude of savings and costs, is calculated, matching the user building and retrofit characteristics with the characteristics of the closest matching office building prototype. Measure costs, also developed from NEEA’s demonstration projects, are used to estimate project cost.

Calculated energy savings and project cost estimates are then combined with information provided in answers to the business profile questions to calculate the present values of costs, expenses and market benefits provided by the Building Renewal project, to report the overall value creation potential.