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Insights from a Building and Energy Expert: Larry Cummings

April 20, 2022


Q.  What are some of the most challenging questions/concerns you hear our customers are facing right now regarding their building operations and energy use?
A. Deferred maintenance is a big issue for customers. Many local governments and K-12 schools are currently leveraging COVID-related funding, such as ESSER funding for schools, to address deferred maintenance and improve their indoor air quality and HVAC infrastructure.

Higher education didn’t receive the same government funding and consequently, their deferred maintenance continues to grow at an alarming rate, all while they are competing for students. This means that some schools are going to struggle financially especially second or third-tier schools and community colleges.

Q. What do you think that Trane brings to the table that nobody else can/does?
A. What sets Trane apart is that we connect the solutions we propose to our customers’ missions. In K-12 and higher education, for example, we tie our projects into the mission of the school or the institution. In some cases, we help them implement our BTU Crew curriculum to educate students about energy use and work with the educators to give the students access to the technology being used in their buildings.

Additionally, where some companies may come in and identify a prescriptive solution, we work closely with our customers to find the right solution for them. It may take a bit longer to develop the project in some cases but that’s because we have listened to our customers and understand what they truly want to achieve. We customize everything to our client’s needs. I think that's a differentiator for us.

Q. So how does building and energy data drive customer outcomes?
A. We work with customers to understand their KPIs (key performance indicators) and then as we get into the control data information, we can see how they’re running their building. That allows us to address, from a data-driven perspective, how the buildings are being operated. We can then show them that by making minor changes, they could run their buildings more efficiently without impacting occupant comfort. So, building and energy data is critical for decision-making from a fact-based perspective. It’s also useful when they present to their boards or administrators because they can show the data that’s driving their decisions.

Q. If there was one baseline that every customer should understand about their building, what is it and why?
A. I think that most people like to compare their energy spend per square foot against their peers. Everybody always wants to know how they're doing against their peers, whether that's another university, another state agency or another K-12 school system. Nobody likes to be at the bottom of the list, and once you know where you are, you can improve it.

Q. What's the most important thing customers should consider when looking to reduce their carbon footprint?
A. Really, it’s about finding a partner who can help you identify the best way to reduce your energy spend because greenhouse gas emissions, GHG, and energy spend are closely tied together.

Ultimately, we partner with our clients to act as third-party advisors and help them find the best carbon footprint reduction solution for their needs. We take the time to really understand their challenges and what they to accomplish. We don’t rush them so that they have a comfort level with us and with the technology we offer.

So, the most important thing is to look for a partner who can offer this approach and who has successfully implemented projects this way. Trane has accomplished this for renewable and other projects. We can offer that expertise on very large, sophisticated projects. And our projects are backed by a national support team that stands behind all the Trane offices.

Q. What’s a recent example of how you've helped a customer work toward an energy goal?
A. In Virginia right now, we're working on a combined heat and power project designed to take a university off the grid. Although their sustainability goals are really important to them, they're doing it now primarily for financial reasons. Their budget has recently been impacted by three consecutive years of declining enrollment. Thanks to this project, however, after they pay off their debt, they are projected to save a million dollars a year.

They chose us as their partner because we helped them understand why it made sense to do the project. We took the time to understand their challenges and goals and didn’t rush them. That gave them a comfort level with us and with the technology. They also liked that we could use this project as a living-learning lab and show their current and future students what we did and why we did it.

It can take a while for the customer to move through this whole process. Sometimes there are setbacks because a stakeholder or two is skeptical. When that happens, we step back and address their concerns before moving forward. We take the time to answer all their questions and make sure that everyone is aligned before proceeding.

Q. How do you help customers show the impact of the actions they're taking
A. We can help customers demonstrate results in a couple of ways. They can put a screen or monitor up on their building that shows how much they’re reducing their energy spend and greenhouse gas emissions. We can also help them identify the right metrics to show the performance impact of their improvements and then help them package the information so it can more easily be shared with stakeholders and with other key influencers. It’s important for us to show customers and their stakeholders that we making tangible progress and that they are saving energy and money.

Q. What's your philosophy when it comes to helping customers achieve their goals?
A. From my perspective, it's all about the client. It’s not about Trane or our products, per se. Fortunately, Trane is a great company with great products and great people, so it's easy to recommend our equipment and controls. We’re currently completing a project for a university and Trane doesn’t make some of the solutions needed, so we’re putting in the best solution that our client needs for that project.

I think that our team and the teams around the country believe that if you focus on the clients, you're going to do fine. And that's our goal, to focus on our clients and their goals.

Q. If there's one service, every customer should be thinking about right now, what is it and why?
A. Based on everything we've talked about, I think that those who have not done performance contracting and have a lot of deferred maintenance could benefit from implementing a performance contract to address that deferred maintenance.

Performance contracting uses future energy savings to fund current energy-saving upgrades. It upgrades operations that are causing the energy spend to be higher than it could be and pays for it with energy-efficient dollars. You're building infrastructure at no additional cost to the client.

It's the smart play financially and a smart play from a sustainability perspective. It positions you as a leader with your stakeholders and community, the people who understand what’s important.

I encourage all public bodies to look at performance contracting. While it’s not the whole answer, it’s one solution that can supplement everything else in their toolbox.



Trane is a strategic business of Trane Technologies, a global climate innovator. Trane Technologies brings bold thinking to our customers to advance the conversation on sustainability and achieve more through sustainable climate solutions for buildings, homes, and transportation. We're leading the way to a better future, and we boldly go.

Kasey Boxleitner

About the author
Larry Cummings, Sales Manager Complex Solutions

Larry leads the Comprehensive Solutions sales team that develops energy-based projects for the Trane Southern Atlantic Region serving North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Eastern Tennessee.  He has been with Trane for fourteen years.

Larry works closely with Trane strategic clients to solve energy and infrastructure challenges.  He leads branding and partnering opportunities for all Trane vertical markets (manufacturing, higher education, K-12, commercial real estate, government, and healthcare).

Larry co-developed Go Green Virginia for all public and private schools, cities, towns and counties in Virginia (VACO, VML, BSBA, VAIS); also developed Sustaining Virginia for manufacturers (VMA).