Commercial Energy Management Leads to Greener Cities

Tue, 2012-10-30 09:49

It’s no secret that the buildings we live and work in consume a large portion (about 40%) of our nation’s energy, with big contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. The green building industry is helping to ensure that new buildings are designed with a focus on reduced environmental impact and energy consumption. The home performance industry is providing solutions to evaluate the house as a system, making homes more energy efficient. With improved standards and guidelines, we are moving in the right direction.

buildings in a cityBut what about cities that are densely populated with aging, inefficient buildings that continue to guzzle energy? Is it too late for these long-standing pieces of our history to contribute to sustainability efforts? Not necessarily. The growth of commercial energy management offers options for these old buildings and could save the day for cities trying to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprints. Here are the top five indicators that green retrofits are on the rise and poised to green our cities:

Building Owners and Operators

Building owners and operators are realizing the potential for positive financial impact from energy upgrades. Johnson Controls recently released a survey of 3,500 building owners and operators, which indicated that 96% of those surveyed have implemented at least one building efficiency improvement. The potential for higher occupancy rates and lower operating costs, as well as the pressure to remain competitive as building codes evolve, are all driving forces behind a shift toward energy retrofits.

Tenants Have The Power

As companies increasingly focus on sustainability strategies, the impact of the built environment has become an increasingly important consideration. Energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality must be incorporated into building selection, space design, and build-out to align with overall corporate goals that address people, planet, and profit.

The value of an educated tenant population cannot be understated as demand for a healthier, lower waste environment continues to grow. Tenants have the power to impact a building’s performance through demand for more comfortable and efficient spaces, use of building technology, and conscientious interaction within the built environment.

Research and Technology

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is currently conducting case studies with commercial tenants as part of their High Performance Tenant Demonstration Project. NRDC collaborates with tenants to incorporate energy efficiency into their new space and analyze the various outcomes. The goal is to create a model to achieve 30-50% energy savings with a 3-5 year payback. The case studies detail procedures, costs, savings, value analysis, and step-by-step instructions for duplicating the process.

Advances in technology are yielding some important diagnostic and energy management tools. Smart grids and meters, energy audits, energy management and modeling software, social media to share best practices, and access to renewable energy are just some of the ways technology is contributing to energy conservation possibilities in our cities.

As more research and case studies verify the benefits of energy conservation in commercial buildings, the margin of risk in terms of return on investment decreases. Energy-efficient retrofits are becoming more firmly established as a common practice. Building owners can’t afford not to address efficiency in building upgrades.

20% by 2020

In 2011, President Obama announced the Better Buildings Initiative to make commercial buildings 20% more efficient by 2020 and accelerate investments in energy efficiency. The program provides support in the form of education, funding, and research. States, municipalities, and utilities are all supporting conservation efforts through various incentive and rebate programs. Many local codes and regulations are being updated to reflect higher performance standards for commercial buildings.

Real Estate Professionals

In order to better serve clients, real estate professionals are stepping up lease negotiations to include provisions for energy efficiency upgrades. Green leases allow tenants and landlords to discuss the desired criteria for energy savings and to agree on cost sharing for retrofits as part of initial lease negotiations. In San Francisco, green lease toolkits are one of many resources available online to assist building owners and tenants with the challenges of up-front investments for energy efficiency. In New York City, commercial real estate professionals have started to incorporate an Energy Aligned Clause (EAC) into leasing terms to better align the cost and benefits of energy efficiency investments. It is considered to be groundbreaking new green lease language that will help building owners and tenants to collaborate in an effort to achieve energy savings.

Commercial energy management requires a combined effort of building science, technology, data analysis, energy modeling and monitoring, tenant education, and financial analysis. Everblue’s Commercial Building Energy Auditor training provides a framework to coordinate the various functions to achieve energy efficiency in a commercial space, from an energy audit to cost-saving solutions.

photo credit: ecstaticist via photopin cc

By Amy Malloy

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