Eliminating Energy Use in Existing Buildings is Possible and Plausible

December 01, 2017

Many commercial building owners are looking for ways to save energy and money at their buildings through energy efficiency projects. Another big driver of energy efficiency projects is curbing climate change by reducing carbon emissions and energy use. Most solutions that building owners find only address the low-hanging fruit like switching to LEDs.  While these solutions do reduce energy use, Ian Shapiro, founder of Taitem Engineering, has identified ways to eliminate energy use in existing buildings. Shapiro has even said that this process is easier than many think. 

Eliminating energy use in existing buildings is possble and now becoming plausible

Here are the steps to eliminating energy use in existing buildings that Shapiro has laid out:

  1. Set Lofty Goals - Drawing from a survey of hundreds of buildings it has been found that if we set energy saving goals, they are usually met.  Shapiro has even found that if one sets a goal of saving 100% of energy then it has often been met.  Alternatively, if one sets a low goal or no energy savings goal at all,  they risk not reaching their maximum savings.
  2.  Initiate Multiple Projects and Approaches - Addressing the low-hanging fruit will save only so much energy.  To completely eliminate energy use in a building, multiple projects must be undertaken in conjunction.  One must address lighting, HVAC, plug loads, appliances, hot water, and insulation in addition to installing renewable energy sources like like a solar PV system. 
  3. Identify Financing Options - Eliminating the energy use in an existing building could be a costly endeavor.  Financing options now exist which take some of the financial burden of retrofit projects off of the building owners shoulders.  PACE financing now exists which allows an owner to get the money they need for projects and pay off the money through the savings on their energy bills.  There are  many other emerging financing options as well. 
  4. Go Beyond One-for-One Replacements - While replacing aging equipment with new energy efficient equipment does help to reduce energy use, more can be done.  Instead of just replacing an incandescent or fluorescent bulb with an LED, you can also initiate human-centric or right lighting in addition to installing lighting controls.  With HVAC systems you can eliminate distribution losses and add thermal zone controls, rather than just installing new equipment.  For ventilation, you can reduce over-ventilation and duct leakage and add in heat recovery. 

Eliminating energy use through these steps is possible and has even been done in commercial and multifamily buildings.  As emerging energy efficient technologies have scaled, the prices for these products has dropped dramatically.  This should make it more feasible for building owners to initiate projects with lofty goals of eliminating energy use, rather than just reducing it.   

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