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Insights from a Building and Energy Expert: Dane Taival

May 04, 2022


Q. What are some of the most challenging questions or concerns that you hear that customers are facing right now about operating their building or managing their energy?
A. One of the top-of-mind issues that I hear about regularly is “how do we address our customers’ building confidence now and as we go forward into the future?” Customers are concerned about things like indoor air quality and whether they have the right ventilation rates. While the pandemic has made these things top of mind, I think that these concerns are expanding into other areas. 

As people return to the office, there’s a need to accommodate new working conditions. Many organizations have an increased need for more space for teams to come in and collaborate and work together. That includes both people who are on-site as well as the need to connect to virtually located people through video conferencing.

More and more, organizations also have ESG (environmental, social and governance) goals that include carbon reduction. In general, customers want to know how they can move forward and accomplish some of these goals. There's also a lot of desire for technology applications that can be used to help manage variable occupancy and save energy. 

Now that we once again have spaces that are occupied, you can light them appropriately, you can ventilate them appropriately and when they're not occupied, you can turn off the lights and reduce the ventilation. You may even be able to let the temperature drift – all of which can save energy. There’s also an increasing number of questions regarding how customers can integrate technology into making their buildings more flexible and effective as well as how to make them more energy-efficient.

Q. What are some common misconceptions in the market today about reliability or resiliency reducing energy emissions or reducing operational costs?
A. When it comes to improving reliability and resiliency, one of the common misperceptions that I hear is, “our buildings are old and there's really not much that we can do about that.” I like to flip that one around and say, “no matter how old your building is, you can always do something.” The real question is, “what's cost-effective and what fits within your budget?” while taking into account variables such as how long the organization will be in the facility, how stable their use patterns are and whether they have some intended changes in mind. In terms of improving reliability and resiliency, there's always something we can do regardless of the age of the building.

When I think about reducing energy emissions, one of the common misperceptions is that it's too expensive to renovate or upgrade our building, so there's really nothing we can do. That’s a misconception that I try to course correct. There are a lot of unique financial solutions out there that can help make upgrades more cost-effective and also fit within an organization’s financial goals. 

The solution could be a performance contract where we direct future savings to help cover the cost of upgrades, for example. It could include energy service agreements or other financial structures that can really play an important role in helping fund these upgrades that will improve the overall performance of the building and reduce emissions. 

When it comes to reducing operational costs, one of the misconceptions that I hear is “we run things until they break and then we fix them, and that's the most cost-effective way for us to manage our building.”

The reality is that there have been many studies that show that this “fix on fail” approach is actually the most expensive way to manage the ongoing operation of a building. So, the reality is that you're so much better off as a building owner or property manager if you do a certain amount of maintenance at the prescribed times to extend the life of those systems and ensure that they're operating in an ideal fashion. 

Q. What do you think Trane brings to the table?
A. In my experience, Trane brings a unique depth and breadth of capability in what we offer. Whether that be the number of people with the depth of expertise that we offer or the breadth and capability of our product and service portfolio. 

When there’s a building need or challenge, Trane also brings a unique depth and breadth to the process its people use to assess what’s going on, identify options to resolve it and then create a solution that's right for our customer, given the circumstances.

We understand buildings, how they operate and how they can be optimized to support the unique needs of the people and the organizations inside those buildings. We are unmatched in the number of people with extensive capabilities. These things are what I think is really unique about Trane.

A. How does building and energy data drive customer outcomes? 
Q. I don't know that building and energy data alone drive customer outcomes. I think what you really have to add to that is a very good understanding of what's important to the customer, what their goals and objectives are, and what outcomes you want to achieve. Then you can look at that building and that energy information to understand the current performance of the building they have and then identify a unique solution.

When you have a solid understanding of what our customers want to achieve, you can gather the right data to understand the current performance and put them on a good path forward.

Q. If there's one baseline, every customer should understand about their building, what is it and why? 
A. What I would point to is EUI, energy use intensity, which gives building owners and managers insight into how much raw energy their building, consumes. Then when you have that number, you can compare that to benchmark data that's readily available. The EPA and other sources have that benchmark data, and that data allows you to see how much energy reduction potential there is based on how your building performs compared to the energy-efficient benchmark data.  

A second baseline that every customer should understand about their building is ECI, which is the energy cost index. That's very similar to the energy use intensity, except, it's in dollars. So, if you see that you have the opportunity to reduce your energy use by 20 percent, you can monetize what that 20 percent looks like and get a rough understanding of the potential financial impact of that energy reduction.

Q. What's the most important thing customers should consider when they're looking to reduce their carbon footprint?
A. When you start to think about carbon footprint, there are various categories or sources of emissions: 

  • source one is the energy you're consuming
  • source two is the energy consumption of the utility providing your energy
  • source three looks at your suppliers and other stakeholders 

So, in my opinion, I think one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint and really build that into your culture is to first think about sustainability within your organization and in your buildings. 

Look at how you operate and look at energy efficiency as one of the potential levers to pull. As you're strengthening the culture around sustainability and reducing your carbon footprint, you've got some nice internal wins that people can see and experience inside your operation that you build off. When it comes to reducing carbon footprint, I think this is a very pragmatic and practical way to get started.

Q. What’s your personal philosophy when it comes to helping customers achieve their goals?  
A. I firmly believe and have seen time after time how the built environment that organizations occupy can positively influence their ability to achieve their organizational goals. 

The belief that the built environment can impact organizational goals is a very important one for me and one that I think that many, if not all, within Trane’s sales organization share.

I could go through example after example, whether it's an educational institution or a healthcare institution or commercial office space, etc. We work to understand our customers’ goals and then we partner with them to co-create a road map forward. We respond to their unique needs by applying our knowledge, our offer portfolio and our capabilities to deliver solutions that advance along the pathway to their organizational goals.

The process is in some ways like working with a financial planner or maybe a personal trainer. Part of it is that there's an implied accountability dimension that I think can be really helpful. You have a goal and then you have an advisor who helps you create a plan to reach it which makes you feel a little bit more accountable to follow the plan and reach your goal. 

Q. If there's one service, every customer should be thinking about right now, what is it and why?  
A. If there's one service that I would recommend acting on, if you haven’t taken steps to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, etc., it would be a benchmark assessment on energy.

Go out and calculate your EUI index to understand how much you consume and then you can compare that to benchmarks. Then you can very quickly see what scale of opportunity you have. When you have that understanding you can see the financial impact that you could be making. It really helps provide that forcing function to move forward in selecting a partner to help and create that road map to move from where you're at today to where you'd like to be in the future.



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
Dane Taival, VP Digitial and Energy Services -  Commercial HVAC Americas

Dane Taival is vice president and general manager of Digital & Energy Services for Commercial HVAC Americas – which goes to market as Trane – for Trane Technologies plc. Dane leads an organization of more than 6,000 employees throughout the Americas and has responsibility for setting and executing the business strategy and ensuring delivery of its operational and financial commitments. 

Dane has been with Trane Technologies for more than 25 years, the majority of which were spent with Trane, a leading global provider of high-efficiency HVAC systems, services, controls and energy reduction solutions. His most recent position was vice president and general manager of Thermo King, where he was responsible for the North American business. While there, he built and executed a successful growth strategy and organizational transformation, resulting in market share gains, improved operating margins, stronger customer relationships and confidence in the dealer channel. Dane earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin. 

He is a registered professional engineer and certified energy manager. Dane is active in the community and industry and previously served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO), the leading advocacy and accreditation organization for Energy Service Companies. He is currently on the Board of Directors for VEAP, an organization focusing on providing access to healthy foods, housing stability and supportive services