Buildings contribute significant energy waste, especially in large and historic cities. Some people may believe the only way to solve this problem is to entirely replace the old buildings with brand new ones. But, in reality, this is an extremely expensive and inefficient option compared to retrofitting.
Retrofitting is the process of replacing, upgrading, or renovating components of an existing building with energy-efficient solutions. It uses a holistic approach to achieving energy goals throughout the entire building.
Not only are these improvements good for the environment, but they are also helpful for lowering energy bills. These savings are transferred to the building owner and can trickle down to all occupants and employees who use the building.
Retrofitting an entire building can be a huge task, especially if you don’t know where to start. Energy experts recommend breaking down the process into these three steps:
Stage 1: Improve Operations
At this stage, it’s important to start with an ASHRAE Level 1 energy audit. This will help you identify glaring areas of inefficiency and pinpoint how to improve them without breaking the bank.
When you are ready to begin the retrofitting process, start with the easiest and cheapest improvements. This mostly involves the daily operations of the building, including how occupants use it. Turning off lights when no one is using the room, for example, is a great policy to enforce.
Simply cleaning the windows and air ducts can allow you to get more usage out of these features. Windows can be easily recaulked to reduce leakage. Finally, extra insulation (or replacing old insulation) is a cheap way to reduce energy wasted through heating and cooling.
Stage 2: Upgrade Existing Energy Wasters
Moving on to stage two involves tackling the more costly upgrades. This is also when an ASHRAE Level 2 audit would be helpful. This step will allow you to look at your biggest energy wasters and make the best decisions to upgrade them.
For example, if recaulking is not an option, you may need new windows entirely. If the HVAC system is too old or not the right size for the building, consider renovating it.
Installing LED lights throughout the building is another great upgrade for this step.
Also consider your roof. If it has any damage, it could be a factor in wasted energy. You can also consider adding a green roof, which insulates temperatures better and minimizes runoff from rain and snow. Plus, more greenery in cities ultimately means cleaner air.
Stage 3: Install New Systems
Finally, the most expensive strategies can be initiated in the third stage. Before you commit to these large-scale projects, conduct the final ASHRAE Level 3 energy audit. This will give you the most detailed and closely analyzed data so you can move forward with confidence in your investments.
Information technology can be installed to monitor your energy usage and minimize areas of waste. Automatic systems, like a smart thermostat, can also help.
You may also consider your old water heater and storage systems. Replacing these outdated systems with new, energy-efficient ones can lower energy waste throughout your entire commercial building or residence.
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