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10 Ways to Improve Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

Photo: PixabayThe glimmering cityscapes at night might be a sight to behold, but there’s a staggering amount of energy wastage taking place in the background. 

30 percent of all energy consumption in commercial buildings is wasted, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  

However, the issue of commercial energy wastage certainly goes deeper than illuminated residential buildings. In this article, we’ll talk about how building energy efficiency is a crucial factor and how you can improve it.

Why Energy Efficiency Should Matter To You

Here are a few reasons why energy efficiency is important: 

Reduced operational and maintenance costs

Taking measures to improve your building’s efficiency gives you visibility into the energy performance of your equipment. Your energy consumption data can reveal the issues with your existing equipment and energy systems and whether you need to fix them for better performance. 

Tax incentives

Achieving energy efficiency qualifies you for tax incentives from both the state and the federal government. The major tax incentive available for energy-efficient adjustments is $1.80 per square foot for upgrades that save heating and cooling costs by at least 50 percent. 

Improved property value

Tenants, customers, and investors are willing to pay more for energy-saving buildings. Reduced energy consumption means savings on energy costs overall. Operating from an energy-efficient building helps the image of a company in its relationships with stakeholders like investors, customers, employees, and the public at large.

In fact, owners reported that overall ROI improved by 19.2% (including rent premiums of up to 20% higher than industry average) with achieving LEED certification. 

Better tenant comfort 

Perfectly designed building components and mechanical systems can help create a comfortable working environment for your tenants or employees. Occupancy levels are usually low in inefficient commercial buildings, mainly because of low comfort levels when it comes to temperature and lighting. 

Plus, maintenance costs are sky high due to the constant need to fix and repair outdated heating ventilation and air conditioning units. 

Lower greenhouse emissions

70 percent of U.S. electricity comes from burning coal, natural gas or petroleum; a process that emits high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Energy efficient commercial buildings have lower emission rates due to superior equipment. This benefits both the environment as well as the corporate image of the building’s tenant. 

Ways to Improve Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

Now that we have established the importance of boosting energy efficiency, let’s talk about a few ways to achieve this purpose.

1. Energy efficiency audits

You can only improve on what you know.  Energy efficiency audits help to reveal data on energy consumption and equipment or operational inefficiencies that could benefit from adjustments. Energy efficiency inspections, if conducted by an expert, help to benchmark your data against a high-performance building nearby to find the necessary adjustments for your building's efficiency.

A comprehensive energy consumption audit should:

  • Review and document your utility data from HVAC systems and power bills
  • Assess the building's envelope and how design influences energy consumption rates
  • Assess the cost vs. benefits for the energy efficiency recommendations for your building 

2. Daylight utilization

One of the cost-effective energy efficiency recommendations from your audit would be enlarging your windows and removing clutter. A little remodeling may also help to clear up workspaces and improve the floor plan for better access to daylight. 

The interior color design matters too—put on a fresh coat of bright paint to increase visual acuity and reduce eye strain for your tenants.

Other ways to take advantage of daylight:

  • Use skylights to reduce energy consumption in lighting
  • Switch to energy efficient windows as they let in light while blocking off heat
  • Automate indoor lighting with daylight sensors

3. Rework your insulation

Insulation is a requirement for many building codes. But abiding to building systems covers just the bare minimum; the right insulation should minimize heating and cooling costs. 

Reducing extreme thermal variations will keep your tenants comfortable and increase occupancy rates. Insulation types that may help save your heating and cooling costs include house wraps and caulking. Insulation work in existing buildings should not just be for the walls; windows, doors, and roofs need covering too to prevent air leaks.

4. Choose the right ventilation system

After insulation, you will need the proper ventilation system to freshen the air in the building and its workspaces. Underfloor Air Distribution (UFAD) systems have been found to have significant benefits over traditional ceiling-based ventilation systems.

UFAD delivers conditioned air by using the open space between the concrete slab and the access floor system. Air is delivered via numerous supply outlets on the floor level, instead of overhead. UFAD ventilation systems are highly efficient in reducing energy use and improving thermal comfort.

Read more about energy efficient construction:

7 ways UFAD and raised floors can help the environment
7 Incredibly Efficient Types of Apartment Heating Systems for Owners
5 Ideas to Supercharge Your Green Office Building Plans

5. Buy energy certified equipment

As a commercial building owner, switching to energy efficient systems can save a significant fraction of your heating and cooling costs. The Energy Star Certified products endorsed by the Department of Energy are an example of trusted energy-saving equipment and appliances in the market. 

From computers to HVAC systems, Energy Star equipment uses between 30% and 65% less energy than competing models.

6. Switch to LED lighting

Lighting fixtures are a necessity, but can also lead to significant energy wastage. For building owners and occupants replacing incandescent bulbs with LED is an immediate and cost-effective solution to save on your next power bill. LED lights use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.

LED light bulbs emit less heat which is also a great way to reduce your air conditioning costs. Their light is bigger and brighter, helping with employee and tenant comfort. Better yet, there are smart LED fixtures that can be controlled from a mobile device.

7. Upgrade to LEED

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification is the globally accepted building energy efficiency rating system.  But LEED certification is not just about energy efficiency - additional areas of improvement that LEED focuses on include building location, occupancy comfort levels, indoor air quality, water conservation and the use of sustainable construction materials. 

While attaining compliance can cost you more in building construction and remodeling, LEED has excellent opportunities for cost savings; by using LEED energy standards as a benchmark for mechanical systems and energy savings you can recoup your investment in just a few years. 

8. Regulate heating and cooling with thermostats

There is significant wastage that goes into heating and cooling when occupants use more energy than is required. Unnecessary cooling and heating are what drive up your energy costs without you knowing. 

Using a thermostat can help to minimize the heating and cooling costs - more specifically, programmable thermostats can help with precise heating and cooling.

9. Fix leaks in your building

Any leakage can impede all your energy efficiency efforts in the building. If you suspect the presence of leakage, get a building inspector to check. Leaks make it hard to control internal conditions. 

Ductwork is the primary culprit for leaks, accounting for 25% of commercial buildings leakages and sealing leaking ducts can go a long way in improving your building's efficiency.

10. Switch to renewable energy 

You can switch to renewable energy sources by installing solar panels and other lighting systems on your roof. In a sunny location, PVC panels will supply all your building's energy needs, including lighting, heating, and cooling. 

Another option is the installation of wind turbines that reduce the energy consumed in your office building. You can similarly look into the feasibility of a micro-hydropower system and other strategies envisioned by the Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The bottom line

Energy efficiency in commercial buildings is an important issue to contend with. For owners, the rising energy prices are hard to keep up with—there is a need to engage in cost cutting procedures. Furthermore, lower carbon emissions help you save both energy and money as well as appeal to an audience concerned about sustainability. [gem_quote]At AirFixture, we help building owners install HVAC systems that lower their long-term building operating costs and raise building value. Contact us today to see how you can leverage these advantages to make your property more competitive.[/gem_quote]

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