Deep Energy Retrofits for Existing Buildings
The Green Lab is partnering with New Buildings Institute on a project called Deep Energy Savings in Existing Buildings, which will provide guidance for owners of smaller commercial buildings to achieve deep energy savings (50 percent and greater) through energy retrofits.
We know that small and medium buildings matter as a critical (but as yet underserved) market for efficiency gains, representing 95% of all buildings and half of the commercial floorspace. These buildings require simplified turn-key approaches that deliver deep sets of efficiency solutions requiring little time, knowledge or direct financial investment from the owners. The primary product of this project will be a free, online retrofit tool that will allow building owners to select retrofit strategies that are customized to their building’s size, features, climate and uses for deep energy savings without the need for computer energy modeling that is often cost prohibitive for owners of modestly sized buildings.
In the first phase of this project, the Green Lab helped New Buildings Institute investigate 11 examples of energy retrofits in existing commercial buildings that, on average, use 50% less energy than the national average – most with an energy use intensity (EUI) of less than 40 kBtu per square foot. The Project Profiles for each building include motivations, technologies and practices, energy performance, financial information, overall project results and quotes from owner and design teams. A Meta Report contains the aggregated results of the case studies plus findings from an initial group of 50 buildings with 30% or more energy savings. This research was made possible by support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA). In the project’s second phase, the Green Lab is describing the market for the online retrofit tool, so that we can target our work to buildings and owners most likely to take advantage of the resource.
Defining the “smaller buildings retrofit market” is no easy task. We are segmenting the building stock to identify “market clusters” of buildings that are: most in need of energy retrofits; under-served in the current marketplace; culturally and economically valuable or endangered; and that represent a substantial portion of the existing building stock smaller than 50,000 square feet. This is a new approach to market segmentation with emphasis on both smaller buildings and physical characteristics, and we think it will change the way smaller buildings are considered as opportunities in the marketplace by technical experts and financing entities.
The Environmental Value of Building Reuse
A report produced by the Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental benefit of building reuse.
This groundbreaking study, The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, concludes that, when comparing buildings of equivalent size and function, building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction. The report’s key findings offer policy-makers, building owners, developers, architects and engineers compelling evidence of the merits of reusing existing buildings as opposed to tearing them down and building new. Those findings include:
- Reuse Matters. Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction. The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20-30 years to compensate for the initial carbon impacts from construction.
- Scale Matters. Collectively, building reuse and retrofits substantially reduce climate change impacts. Retrofitting, rather than demolishing and replacing, just 1% of the city of Portland’s office buildings and single family homes over the next ten years would help to meet 15% of their county’s total CO2 reduction targets over the next decade.
- Design Matters. The environmental benefits of reuse are maximized by minimizing the input of new construction materials. Renovation projects that require many new materials can reduce or even negate the benefits of reuse.
- The Bottom Line: Reusing existing buildings is good for the economy, the community and the environment. At a time when our country’s foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, communities would be wise to reinvest in their existing building stock. Historic rehabilitation has a thirty-two year track record of creating 2 million jobs and generating $90 billion in private investment. Studies show residential rehabilitation creates 50% more jobs than new construction.