Seven years ago, my wife and I were in the market for a new house. Actually, my wife was in the market for one—I liked the house we were in. You see, we had just finished our great Energy Plan that began by replacing all the windows, and ended with installing a new high-efficiency mechanical system, new insulation, and a new kitchen (I'm still trying to figure out how that fit into the original energy improvement plan).

She found the house of her dreams while I was on the road for work and when I got back into town, the old house was on the market, the new house was awaiting my review, and my head was spinning at the energy required to keep up with all the changes. The next thing I knew, I was moving into a gorgeous 32-year-old house in a great neighborhood, and I got to start over. You see the house of our dreams had a 32-year-old mechanical system and windows, the original roof—you get the picture.

Energy Plan, Take Two. For the past seven years, we've been on the upgrade path in an effort to bring our comfort levels up and our energy consumption down. I'm a little nervous because we just finished this project and my wife is talking about the kitchen again.

I suppose the key to all of this is the energy plan. In a nutshell, isn't that exactly what we do in the commercial marketplace everyday? And the minute we, as an industry, think we have it all figured out, something changes: the law, the economy, the technology, the tools, the processes we use, everything.

Just a few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal published a report titled, "Innovations in Energy," that addressed the future role of nuclear energy, advances in kinetic energy, ocean-thermal energy conversion and osmosis, as well as lessons learned from the first green buildings built, utility plans that pay big energy users for NOT using energy, energy-financing plans, and smart-meter technology. You can read the report here: http://on.wsj.com/energy_rpt.

For facilities engineers and mechanical-systems designers, the energy issue is top of mind. It has to be. Energy use in commercial and industrial buildings is much more complicated than it is in homes and things change. According to Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, the commercial real estate industry spends approximately $24 billion annually on energy and contributes 18 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. BOMA suggests that energy represents the largest controllable operating expense for office buildings, typically a third of variable expenses.

This is why BOMA developed its BOMA Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP), which is an educational resource to help facilities managers and engineers in their quest for reducing energy use in their buildings (http://bit.ly/boma_beep).

It's also why HPAC Engineering has dedicated editorial space to the energy issue. For example, Promod Kumar explains the four phases of planning for energy-retrofit projects. That is followed by a case study examining biomass technology and how it fits into an energy-retrofit program.

From a timing standpoint you can learn about when to act on energy retrofits for existing buildings, and then, read Ron Auvil's feature on how to analyze facility energy use.

Interestingly enough, it took the completion of my home projects to realize this simple fact: Energy really is at the heart of it all.

How a new kitchen fits in is beyond me.

Send comments and suggestions to mike.weil@penton.com.