Saving Energy with Commercial Building Retrofits Quantified in Rare Study

Tuesday December 13, 2011
Posted at 14:14

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Whether you’re the energy manager of a large commercial building operator or the owner of a small commercial property, you probably know that retrofitting older buildings with simple energy-efficient technologies can help save money off utility bills. After all, the practice has been around for years.

However, the problem with savings estimates on retrofits is that they offer more of an idea of savings than actual numbers. The fact is, there isn’t much research out there that shows how much energy you can actually save by upgrading your properties with straightforward improvements like energy-efficient boilers, high-quality windows and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The good news, however, is that a new study aims to supply commercial building owners and operators with just that kind of hard data.

The 18-month study was commissioned by the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the German bank, and Living Cities, a nonprofit partnership of foundations and financial institutions. The study involved the creation of a database of several hundred retrofitted residential buildings in New York City. The study examined energy efficiency upgrades at each building and quantified the energy savings of each type of improvement.

The study found that overall, the residential building retrofits resulted in a 19 percent savings on fuel bills and a 10 percent savings on electricity across the portfolio of properties. Although the study focused on residential buildings, data produced by the study could also be valuable to owners and operators of other types of commercial buildings such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools and storage and distribution warehouses. The full details of the study will be released in a corresponding report later this month.

Gary Hattem, president of the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, said he hoped the study would help convince both building owners and lenders to pursue energy-efficient building retrofits. “The largest obstacle to making these practices go mainstream is data that will convince building owners to retrofit their properties and at the same time increase underwriters’ willingness to finance the projects,” Hattem said in an interview.

Marc Zuluaga, a vice president at New York building consultancy Steven Winter Associates, said that many of the buildings in the study were some of the least energy-efficient properties in New York City prior to receiving simple retrofits. After the retrofits, however, Zuluaga said those same buildings had become some of the best-performing buildings in the city.

According to Jeffery I. Brodsky, president of Related Management, one of the property owners involved in the study, the study “proves that the assumption that you can’t rely on savings when doing a retrofit isn’t true. It may not be perfect or exact, but you will see savings.”

Sources

Study Clarifies the Energy Savings in Retrofitted Buildings,” The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2011.

Showing the Benefits of ‘Green’ Retrofits,” The New York Times, June 1, 2010.

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