We offer the following recommendations in the hope that they will help step up the pace of high-performance building reconstruction in the U.S. and Canada. We consulted many experts for advice, but these recommendations are solely the responsibility of the editors of Building Design+Construction. We welcome your comments. Please send them to Robert Cassidy, Editorial Director: rcassidy@sgcmail.com.

May 11, 2012

10. Owners of small commercial buildings need to get on the renovation bandwagon.

More than 90% of commercial buildings in the U.S. are under 50,000 sf; 73% are under 10,000 sf. The owners of these buildings are notoriously risk averse, but they are the ones who hold the key to potentially large-scale energy and environmental improvements. BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association International) is making some progress in this direction through its BOMA Energy Efficiency Program and BOMA 360 Performance Program, but more needs to be done.

It is important for owners of smaller buildings to realize that retrofits don’t have to be completed or paid for all at once—that incremental improvements over time can be done in conjunction with major events, such as tenant turnover, code-required upgrades, market repositioning, or necessary improvements to the building envelope (roof or window replacement, overcladding,  insulation upgrades, etc.)6 (“Financing Deep Energy Retrofits: Workshop Report,” 17 May 2011, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and the Rocky Mountain Institute, at: Whitepaper_Financing_Energy_Retrofits_RMI_05-17-2011.pdf). Making small improvements over time will produce cumulatively greater energy and dollar savings than waiting to undertake the whole job much later.

Other organizations that can play a significant role in reconstructing nonresidential buildings include the Certified Commercial Investment Manager Institute, CoreNet Global, the Council of Education Facility Planners International, the Institute of Real Estate Management, the International Facility Management Association, NAIOP, the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, and the Urban Land Institute.

11. Owners who engage in reconstruction projects should meter their buildings for both energy use and water use.

Reconstruction is a perfect time to meter an existing building. However, while forward-thinking owners may “get” the benefit of metering (and submetering) for energy use, many neglect to think about measuring water use.

Advice to owners and Building Teams from Rob Zimmerman, PE, of Kohler Co.: 1) If you are doing energy monitoring, pull the water use in via a smart meter so you know your water use in real time, and make the data available on a dashboard or via the Web—don’t rely on utility bills; 2) submeter major water uses like landscape irrigation and cooling towers; 3) benchmark your building’s water use against similar types of buildings; 4) replace old fixtures with high-efficiency toilets and urinals, and consider using piston-style flushometer valves for commercial toilets.

12. Community colleges and technical training institutions should create programs to educate and train skilled professionals for jobs in deep energy (and water) retrofits.

The nation’s community colleges, along with private-sector training institutions like DeVry and ITT Educational Services, are uniquely positioned to train a generation of mid-level experts skilled in energy modeling, building commissioning, and energy- and water-conservation practices in existing buildings and retrofits. Such an effort could start with certificate programs and lead to two-year associate’s degrees in energy, water, and building materials management for retrofits7 (One model AAS program for energy management and renewable energy is offered by Lane Community College, Eugene, Ore. http://www.lanecc.edu/science/energymgmt). Certification programs that go beyond LEED-EB:O+M accreditation could also be developed for architects, engineers, and construction professionals who want to strengthen their expertise in reconstruction work8 (The Northwest Energy Education Institute is one such exemplary program http://www.nweei.org/).


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