Walking the energy beat: Cuffing carbon for smaller buildings

In the classic cine-crime series Dragnet, fast-talking Los Angeles detective Joe Friday is well known for the trademark line “Just the facts, ma’am.” In other words: “Let’s dispense with the distractions and get to the point.”

So it is with small and midsize enterprise energy-efficiency projects — theory turned to practice speaks louder than words. Projects are rendered in fact and this is the action in the neighborhood of great potential.

But walking the efficiency beat can be messy and complicated. It requires management; no one wants to pay for audits or analyses or anything else, for that matter. Decisions are not driven by the return on investment. Contractors are lax, contracts vague, incentive programs counter-productive. And projects can take longer than you think they should for a myriad of unfathomable reasons, not the least of which is “human factor.”

So, if you’re going to pursue these projects you need to be patient, thorough, respectful and patient.

The simple purpose of listing the successful efficiency projects you’ll find below is to illustrate that there is, in fact, opportunity, and it can be acted on. These projects reflect a small sampling of projects I have worked on in the last few years as the “energy guy” with the Small Business Sustainability Initiative run out of the University of Nevada in Reno. These projects were selected because they represent the breadth and depth of opportunity, from shallow to deep, across different business and building type. In Dragnet terms, a lineup of typical “suspects” and “circumstances.”

Let’s run with the facts.

Pay attention to simple ROI and pounds of CO2 avoided, and you’ll get the picture. If you prefer the quick “executive summary” view, scroll to the aggregate data following the pictures.

1. A small professional office building.  Efficiency project involved a simple lighting change out with added controls. This was a gateway project, opening the door to additional efficiency work since carried out but not accounted for here.




Energy cost savings / percent of original  $1,100 per year / 12 percent
Project cost  $3,100
ROI 35 percent
Avoided electricity 8.1 megawatt hours per year
Avoided CO2 emissions 9,800 pounds per year 


Next page: A classy automobile museum