New Tool for Estimating O&M Costs in Financed Energy Projects

November 1, 2002

A new resource is helping Federal facility and energy managers estimate operations and maintenance (O&M) costs and savings for their financed energy projects. The online, interactive HVAC Construction and Maintenance Cost Database allows users to enter data on their own projects and query the database to obtain detailed information on actual O&M and construction costs for a wide variety of HVAC system types.

With support from FEMP, DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) developed the database to collect data on geothermal heat pump (GHP) projects. FEMP's GHP team at ORNL, which provides technical and project financing assistance to Federal facilities implementing GHP projects, had been lacking information on construction and O&M costs for GHP systems. Estimating guides such as R.S. Means are standard reference tools for more common HVAC systems, but until now reliable information on GHPs has been virtually nonexistent. The database now includes data for conventional HVAC systems as well as GHPs.

ORNL worked closely with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to develop the database and assist the engineering society with updating its 25-year-old, obsolete data tables on maintenance costs and equipment service life for all varieties of HVAC equipment. ASHRAE recently approved funding for a research project to support accelerated expansion and development of the database, and if the research is successful, will move to commercialize the database tool.

FEMP project facilitators are already using the database to evaluate the accuracy of construction and O&M costs in Federal energy savings performance contract and utility energy service contract projects. "The GHP data is crucial in our review of construction and maintenance costs identified in proposals for financed energy projects," says Bob Baugh, a FEMP Project Facilitator with ORNL. "With little reliable GHP cost information available in standard estimating sources, the database helps us and our Federal customers verify the reasonableness of contractor costs."

Data are provided on a voluntary basis, and users must provide data for at least one project before they are allowed to gather information from the database through queries. The database also contains data collected via a seed project conducted by ORNL. All data points are closely scrutinized by an ORNL staff engineer before they are posted in the public database. Currently, the database contains cost data for 93 records on GHP maintenance, 98 records on GHP construction, 29 records on conventional HVAC maintenance, and 18 records on conventional HVAC con-struction. The more records entered, the more valuable the database will be for all!

The HVAC Construction and Maintenance and Cost Database is available at For more information about the database, please contact Melissa Madgett, database administrator, at 865-576-3373 or For information about the GHP Super ESPC, please contact Doug Culbreth of DOE's Atlanta Regional Office at 919-782-5238 or