Services We Supply to Existing Buildings

Cyclone Energy Group offers many services for buildings, from inception through turnover and occupancy and even beyond. But the one area of service that Cyclone provides and that sets us apart from the others in the building services field is our special projects for existing buildings.

Any project that involves working with existing building’s systems presents unique challenges and opportunities. Probably the largest challenge and opportunity is to make them better – more energy efficient, easier to operate, and able to provide better comfort.

There are many special project opportunities currently for existing buildings, given that the physical plant that serves a building constructed during the 1980’s and 1990’s is nearing the end of its 30 year useful life and is in need of replacement. Newer replacement technologies are available, especially given the maturation of digital controls for both equipment and building automation systems. Also, many of these buildings were built by developers whose business model included selling the building soon after completion and investing the profits into their next new construction project. Since their approach focused on minimizing their upfront investment costs, the building’s ongoing operating costs were not a priority; this applies to both newer and older buildings.

Given all these factors, it is easy to achieve success with an existing building’s project goals. The challenge lies in the fact that each project’s requirements are unique and requires a customized and creative approach. Examples of this customized approach include:

  • When evaluating the replacement of a piece of heating or cooling equipment, the best approach may be to include an analysis of the building’s entire heating and cooling system since it may reveal that performing additional upgrades provides a much greater benefit (i.e. cost savings or better system operability) than simply “swapping out” the old equipment.
  • Spending time with the building’s operating staff and learning their preferences and capabilities. This knowledge is used to make recommendations for what will be best for the building. As an example, is it best for the building to have equipment that is simple to operate, or do they want – and can they handle – a super-efficient but slightly complicated high-performance system?
  • A building’s management may have many stakeholders with different viewpoints and priorities. Time needs to be spent learning and understanding those factors to help ensure all stakeholders goals are achieved.

Given all these criteria, cutting and pasting from the last project does not work. Managing all these factors into a single project that satisfies everyone’s requirements is where Cyclone’s experience becomes the critical component for success.

Specific projects where we have successfully used this approach:


  • 340 East Randolph Condominium Association (340 On the Park). The existing district cooling service was replaced by installing a new chiller plant at the top of a 63-story building. In addition to solving the design and construction challenges, Cyclone worked with the building management to better understand that they were comfortable with owning and operating a highly efficient (but more complicated) chiller plant so that they would obtain a better payback for their investment. The project is saving them $430,000/yr, resulting in a simple payback of less than 8 years for their investment.
  • 200 North Dearborn Condominium Association. The two existing 250-ton chillers that were 30 years old and located in the penthouse needed replacement (or an expensive overhaul). Additionally, a local utility incentive for chiller replacement projects was scheduled to expire in 4 months at the beginning of the cooling season. Cyclone lead the effort to meet this replacement deadline by working with the building management and a design build contractor. Specific to this project: 1) The new chillers had to be able to be disassembled so that they could be brought up by the freight elevator, 2) Piping modifications were performed to improve operability of the cooling system, 3) The building does not have a BAS, so the new chillers had to be simple to operate. This project was completed underbudget and in time for the Association to receive a $120,000 utility incentive.
  • 20 North Michigan Avenue. Cyclone ushered the building through a series of capital upgrade projects that in total have shed 683,000 kWh of electricity and 24,000 therms of natural gas annually – translating into nearly 30% whole building energy savings. These capital projects include: the retrofit of a 40-year old direct expansion (DX) evaporative cooled chilled water plant, boiler replacement, variable pitch fan conversion to variable frequency drive (VFD), and automation system modernization. These projects made a significant contribution towards their 2014 LEED Platinum Certification.
  • One Magnificent Mile. The building needed to replace chillers that were nearly 40 years old but the price quotes they had received were much higher than they were willing to consider. Cyclone applied our process and successfully bid the project for significantly less cost than they had previously been presented. Our team worked with the commercial owners and the condominium association to get buy-in for the complicated retrofit. The project included the replacement of two 450-ton chillers with new premium efficiency chillers. The chillers had to be disassembled and placed into the building through a 4-foot opening on the third floor. Additionally, the high-end residential portion of the building that requires 24x7x365 cooling would have to be temporarily shut down. There was no room for error. The project was delivered ahead of schedule and on budget and resulted in significant energy savings.

Cyclone executes existing building projects by combining their pool of talented engineers and their unique project management approach into a single process that reduces overall project costs while completing the project in a shorter timeframe. Overall, we act as the technical representative for the building, and this process typically includes:

  • A feasibility study, outlining what is needed/recommended to address the specific need.
  • Working closely with stakeholders to help them get a level of comfort and buy-in with the project.
  • Creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) that includes the project’s basis of design and which closely aligns with the feasibility study. The intent is to have the contractor perform the engineering (this unique step reduces the cost and time for a project since it eliminates the need of a consulting design engineer whose work is often redesigned by the contractor).
  • Conducting the RFP to select a design-build contractor to act as engineer-of-record and to construct the project. Cyclone’s evaluation of bids results in a recommendation based on the “best value” and not the lowest bid price.
  • Observing the construction to ensure it complies with the design intent as well as representing the building’s interest on all technical issues.
  • Providing commissioning services for the new equipment and systems to ensure they operate as intended and in harmony with any existing equipment and systems.
  • Measuring performance post-construction and tuning the system for optimal performance.

For any existing building’s special project, Cyclone performs all these steps in-house; none of this work is outsourced.

Cyclone has experienced great success with this approach, resulting in repeat business from many of these clients. They really appreciate our customized approach to their project, the attention to the details, and most importantly that one consultant can manage and perform the engineering and technical services of their entire project.

If you’d like to know more about existing building services and how we can make your building better, contact us at