Energy efficient retrofits and their impact on building costs and jobs

December 22, 2011

The recent push by the President Barack Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Energy to call for $4 billion worth of deep retrofit work resulting in more energy efficient buildings could have a broad impact on the economy.

According to Triple Pundit, the benefits of making buildings more efficient could have a significant impact on energy costs and could create jobs for Americans.

The significant amount of energy that buildings account for in the U.S. represents a high level of waste, and the retrofitting of these structures could help decrease this number in the near future.

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) issued an analysis on the potential energy savings for retrofitting buildings, estimating that if more efficient technology practices were used on these structures there would be a measurable change. By 2050, the average square foot would use one-half to three-fourths less energy than today and would represent a net savings of $700 billion, according to RMI estimates.

The Triple Pundit reported that although the necessary changes to buildings will be difficult to implement, there have been significant strides made recently. This included the retrofitting of the Empire State Building, as $4.4 million in annual savings have been reported and the project was projected to have created 252 jobs.

Newsweek ran an article that highlighted the specific jobs that were created by the retrofitting project, including radiator installation, window refurbishment, cooling system installation, manufacturing and project development and energy tracking and sensing.

The energy retrofitting of the Empire State Building was part of a joint project spearheaded by the Clinton Initiative. The effort was based on the collaboration between several agencies, both public and private, and featured work from engineers, construction workers, building developers and researchers.

This type of collaboration may be what helps America move forward with energy retrofitting for a large number of buildings. The U.S. Department of Energy designated an innovation HUB at the Philadelphia Navy Yard to help design and develop technology and models for more energy efficient structures.

The effort, known as the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) relies on a cross-disciplinary collaboration between the private sector, government, development agencies and academia. These institutions will work together to help identify new energy efficient solutions and foster expansion, both in jobs and investment, in the sector.