Consider Creative Financing to Take a Holistic Approach in the “New Normal”
July 09, 2020
Building owners and managers are facing new pressures as we all navigate the “new normal.” While budget pressure may be higher than ever, there is also a pressing need to optimize the indoor environment – and progressing so can meet multiple business objectives.
In fact, working to ensure that your indoor spaces offer high satisfaction can help you:
- Increase confidence that occupants can feel safer in a facility that offers comfortable, cleaner air;
- Support resilience against future challenges by deploying trusted solutions; and
- Contribute to your building’s overall productivity with targeted investments that generate results.
Yet, how do you fund now-top-priority air quality solutions, when critical demands such as staffing, reduced revenues, other operating expenses and competing capital demands are eating up most or all of your budgets?
You may even have deferred maintenance needed to optimize the building environment and now the need is more critical than ever. You also may be constrained to allocate capital funds to those needs due to existing debt service requirements and covenants, internal hurdle return rates or on-going debt for other competing projects through traditional financial channels.
In addition, in the “new normal,” a connected building technology strategy is essential to generate actionable data to make financial decisions and stay proactive on remotely managing your building environment while gaining cost-saving and efficiency benefits. A recent IDC and Acuity Brands survey  reports that almost 30 percent of building management companies have deployed a connected building solution, with another 60 percent also considering it.
Creative Financing Can Free Up Budget
Fortunately, creative financing exists that can help you address optimizing indoor air quality, aging infrastructure and deferred maintenance and free up limited capital to address those emergency efforts.
Disruption to traditional financing approaches to address mission-critical tasks is underway in multiple markets including: higher education, healthcare, secondary education, commercial and industrial, and municipal.
CARES Act Incentives
The following is an example of a couple of the incentives in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities Act (CARES Act) package:
- The Education Stabilization Fund consists of $30.750 billion to be distributed among states, local schools, higher education institutions and other entities providing educational services that were impacted by COVID-19. This includes $3 billion to be distributed among governors of each state to provide emergency support for the continued operation of educational institute services.
- Businesses that made certain capital investments over the past two years may be entitled to tax refunds now that Congress has fixed a provision in the tax code that denied generous cost recovery treatment to “qualified improvement property (QIP).” The CARES Act contained an important tax code fix that could return tax dollars to businesses now that made expenditures on QIP to improve an interior portion of a building that is nonresidential real property, including installation of a new HVAC system, in 2018 and 2019. The changes are effective retroactively as of Sept. 27, 2017, so businesses may want to evaluate previous or upcoming capital projects to factor in this more favorable tax treatment and take steps now to claim tax benefits to which you now may be entitled. Important caveat –depreciation and tax accounting are complicated; be sure to talk through any tax strategies with a certified tax professional.
Other Creative Financing Options
When it comes to creative financing options not specifically tied to the CARES Act, an energy savings agreement, (ESA), offers an alternative to traditional project acquisition and financing that provides 100-percent financing for energy services projects implemented and performance guaranteed by energy services companies, such as Trane®. This innovative option also helps organizations obtain a credit neutral approach to their rating.
This is a structured financing offering, arranged with a special purpose entity or trustee. Properly structured, the ESA may be treated as a services contract that should not be recognized as a debt obligation and should not adversely impact the organization’s credit capacity or balance sheet treatment.
Hospital Uses ESA to Finance Needed Upgrades
As an example, a hospital in the northeast United States turned to an ESA when leaders sought to upgrade aging infrastructure to improve comfort, increase operational efficiency and combat high energy costs. With limited capital available, hospital leaders still needed to initiate critical improvements, including replacement of 50-year-old air handlers.
When hospital leaders expressed interest in alternative financing options, Trane initiated conversations with a structured financing partner regarding the hospital’s financing needs. The hospital, Trane and the financing partner evaluated the potential upgrade options to prioritize the measures that would best address infrastructure needs and enable the hospital to apply savings, resulting from the upgrades, to help pay for other needed improvements.
The hospital selected the ESA as the best financing structure fit for this strategic need, which allowed the hospital to move forward with the project, while adhering to its tight budget parameters. The ESA gave them the option of leasing equipment for their immediate use and purchasing it at a later date.
Working together, Trane and the hospital implemented infrastructure upgrades to optimize operations, lower energy costs, provide better patient and staff comfort, and reduce equipment noise levels. The upgrades have resulted in an overall utility cost savings of more than 20 percent.
The approach the hospital leaders implemented represents just one of a number of ways organizations can innovatively finance building improvements. These fiscal options can help an organization use innovative financial vehicles that address their building needs holistically and programmatically outside of capital budgets.
These financial vehicles, which also include public-private-partnerships, concession agreements and power purchase agreements, enable organizations to take advantage of energy and operational efficiency gains and in some circumstances non-traditional ownership models. By working with an energy service company experienced in non-traditional financing options, an organization can determine which creative financing solution best meets its needs.
Click here to learn more about non-traditional financing options for your organization.
- Disclaimer: The information provided herein is general information and not intended as advice or recommendation of any specific course of action. In providing this general information, Trane working with our financial partners are not suggesting an action or acting as an advisor. Any recipient must act in their own interests and discuss such information with any and all internal or external advisors and experts, who owe a fiduciary duty to the recipient, before undertaking any action.
Challenges of Implementing Connected Building Projects Infographic, 2019, Sponsored by Acuity Brands