Climate Corps 2010: When Buildings Go 'Retro'

One of the biggest takeaways from my EDF Climate Corps fellowship this summer is that there is always opportunity for improvement in sustainability -- even at an organization as progressive as Xerox

Companies that adopt a strategy toward energy efficiency must look past the low-hanging fruit to less obvious energy waste, while also monitoring implemented changes to ensure picked fruit doesn’t grow back.

Let me paint a quick picture of Xerox’s successful sustainability initiatives:

• Running with the best: The company is ranked 28th in Newsweek’s 'Green Rankings' list of top 500 U.S. companies.
• Manufacturing green products: Xerox's WorkCentre 7428 and 7435 multifunction printers have received accolades for energy efficiency, and its ColorCube product line is well regarded for its waste-reducing solid ink technology.
• Setting green goals: The company's Energy Challenge 2012 program initially aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent from 2002 to 2012. After successfully surpassing its goal by 2006, the bar was raised to a 25 percent GHG reduction by 2012.
• Keeping track of progress: The site and facilities energy team on the Webster, N.Y. campus has a running list of energy efficiency opportunities and monitors energy use of the 50-plus buildings on campus.

With so many bases covered, where did I find my opportunity to help Xerox see past its low-hanging fruit? Retrocommissioning.

What’s Old is New Again

When buildings are constructed, they are typically designed for a specific use and occupancy. This tends to change over the years. Building systems should be commissioned as construction is completed to verify that they operate as designed, but often the commissioning process is neglected. A National Energy Management Institute study estimates less than 5 percent of existing buildings have been commissioned. Buildings that have changing uses and those that weren't commissioned after construction can be secretly wasting energy. In both cases, retrocommissioning can help.