New Study Highlights Untapped Energy Potential of Existing Commercial Buildings

BY TIMOTHEA TWAY
July 29, 2010

transamerica

[Photo Credit: flickr user Snapsi42]

Next 10, an independent, nonpartisan organization that studies the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life in California, has just released a new report on the untapped energy efficiency potential associated with existing commercial buildings. The paper outlines the energy efficiency benefits associated with making improvements to commercial buildings and analyzes the market barriers which make these improvements difficult.

Key Facts:

  • Commercial buildings account for almost 40 percent of primary energy usage in the U.S.
  • Existing commercial buildings can be made 80 percent more efficient with new and existing technology
  • New buildings can be designed to use one-third to one-half less energy with as little as two percent increase in construction costs
  • The three primary ways to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings include climate controls and equipment, lighting, and changes to the building's thermal envelope
  • Split incentives, upfront capital costs and an information gap are some obstacles to widespread energy retrofits

The study concludes that several opportunities currently exist for improvement in California. While California has historically led the nation in energy efficiency standards, there are currently no standards for existing buildings, and the U.S. Green Building Council has an opportunity to create more stringent LEED requirements for newly constructed buildings, which are currently far below what is possible. Additionally, California has the largest-scale Property Assessed Clean Energy programs in the nation, which allow public entities in the state to partner with property owners to finance energy efficiency projects with low-interest loans. Next 10 notes that more widespread adoption of these programs will help spur investments in energy efficiency. The study also suggests that California create its own version of the U.S. Department of Energy Commercial Building Initiative in order to remain a leader in energy efficiency policy.

San Francisco's very own Transamerica Pyramid is featured in the Next 10 paper as a "monumental retrofit." Find out more about the Transamerica Pyramid's transformation here.