10 Ways to Boost Your Building's Energy Efficiency in 2012

Faced with a promising new year, we have an opportunity to start fresh and get fit -- and that includes our buildings.

Has your building become fat and lazy? Is it consuming more than it provides?

Efficiency is cheaper than energy. Guidance is not coming from national policy makers. Tight competition for commercial tenants means you need to offer healthy, bright, sustainable spaces -- with a green lease so everyone benefits. It's past time for real people to get serious about building energy efficiency and start to move the needle.

Here are 10 ways to go deep on energy efficiency in 2012:

1.  Start at the bottom. Instead of reducing consumption, start with nothing and justify how much you actually need. Talk about eliminating waste. Do we install a high-efficiency air conditioner or retrofit the building so effectively that we don't need an air conditioner? What does 20 percent savings mean, anyway? Compared to what? What if you could get your building to operate within 10 percent of its best technical potential? It's like doing the limbo -- how low could you go with no constraints? How does that change your approach to building energy performance?

2.  Go retro. Retro-commission your building right now. With almost instantaneous payback, this one is a no-brainer. Make sure the building is operating the way it was designed to operate and hasn't been sabotaged by well-meaning building engineers. Operating an uncommissioned building is like driving your car down the road with the gas cap hanging open and the blinker on; you look like an idiot.

3.  Show me the money. Lobby hard for energy efficiency financing programs in your community, maybe even through your Business Improvement District. Exciting, emerging programs -- often including third-party businesses -- pay for efficiency upgrades through your property taxes (PACE) and “on bill” through your utility. These investors see the predictable, replicable and relatively low-risk value in energy efficiency. 2012 will likely see more of these programs popping up.

4.  Tighten up. I know, it sounds like a broken record, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to seal the gaps. Like a gut that creeps up on a middle-aged man, air infiltration can sneak up on you over the years. Check the weatherstripping at doors and windows and seal those cracks. Construct a vestibule to reduce infiltration. Don't know where to start? Get a building energy audit (through your utility) with infrared imaging to show exactly where the heat is escaping. You will be surprised at what you see.