Energy efficient buildings: Benefits of taking a holistic view of a structure

April 26, 2012

The commercial real estate industry is beginning to see the myriad benefits offered through the adoption of energy efficiency practices for buildings, as increased worker productivity, a reduction in electricity costs and a reduction of carbon emissions has motivated companies to switch to green and sustainable technologies and systems.

GreenBiz reported that a recent sustainability conference in New York featured presentations from green building experts about the benefits of retrofit projects and an adoption of a holistic view of structures.

"A green building is an efficient building," Lisa Shpritz, senior vice president and operations executive for Bank of America, said in a presentation. "It is a healthy and efficient place to work."

The use of energy efficient buildings would leave companies with lower operating costs, according to several presentations, as the portfolios of buildings were examined and statistics were shown to highlights how efficiency can be profitable.

According to the news outlet, Andreas Schierenbeck, president of Siemens Building Technologies, data suggests that 40 percent of all American energy is consumed by commercial buildings in the U.S., and most of this waste comes from inefficient operational choices.

"If we ran our cars like we ran buildings, we would run them all the time," said the executive in a presentation.

Cutting a building's energy use can take a bite out of the structures' maintenance and upkeep budget, which account for roughly 80 percent of the overall lifetime cost of the average building, Schierenbeck noted in his presentation. He outlined how the biggest energy consumers in a property tend to be heating, lighting and air conditioning.

According to GreenBiz, the process of maintaining an energy efficient building is ongoing and owners and companies need to work together to develop a system for constant improvement.

ThomasNet reported that green building enthusiasts have transitioned to financial models for why energy efficient structures should be adopted and implemented, as the environmental method did not go as far.

This type of commercial integration of energy efficient buildings is what the U.S. Department of Energy is trying to promote. The DOE designated an innovation HUB for the development of the sector, known as the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC).

The GPIC has focused on retrofitting buildings as a way to limit the energy use of commercial structures, as this is a more cost-efficient and practical alternative than completely new construction.