Tackling 71.6 Billion Square Feet

NBI recently hosted the 2011 Deep Savings in Existing Buildings Summit, gathering more than 80 innovative thinkers on energy savings and the built environment. Held in Boulder, Colorado, the three-day event was organized as part of NBI’s ongoing work to facilitate wide adoption of deep energy savings across existing U.S. commercial building stock—roughly 71.6 billion square feet of space.

The Work

To meet national goals for reduced energy use and climate impact, it is imperative that much of our existing building stock be significantly upgraded over the next two decades. While 50% or greater savings has been demonstrated, this level of savings isn’t the prevailing trend. There is a higher need to go beyond individual efficiency measures with relatively short payback periods (frequently two to three years) and to strategize how to bring replicable system upgrades to existing buildings with deeper, more long-term solutions.

NBI’s existing buildings work, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, seeks to drive the market for energy efficiency through development of key tools and informational resources. We have been expanding a set of deep savings case studies (view the 11 Deep Energy Savings case studies and Getting to 50 Database) and optimizing two simple and intuitive tools (FirstView and Multi-Measure) for building designers, owners, operators and others to provide a better understanding of current energy performance and potential solutions. Additionally, we have supported Preservation Green Lab’s work to research and characterize the prototypical building types, or “typologies,” that represent significant numbers of existing buildings. For more background on this work, review our suggested reading.

The Summit

The historic Boulderado Hotel was an inspirational backdrop for lively discussion and debate with nearly 20 presentations and a series of breakout groups that generated new ideas for scaling up retrofits and high performance renovations for both historic structures and small existing commercial buildings. The goal was not only to clarify existing barriers to widespread deep savings measures but also identify strategies to address those barriers. Summit participants brainstormed on topics like replicable energy savings measures, aggregation opportunities, financing and programmatic needs and more.Discussions went beyond the building envelope, strategizing on the possibilities of district-scale energy programs and benchmarking as well as new ways to approach and involve third parties. Ralph DiNola of Green Building Services introduced everyone to the concept of being future ready, where flexibility and preparedness—at both building and district scales—play key roles in design decisions for retrofits and renovations in existing buildings.

The Next Phase Begins

A few themes from the Summit include:

  • Existing buildings are the critical market opportunity now for significant energy savings.
  • Scale and typology matter.  Large buildings may have on-site building operators and require  different offerings than those smaller buildings typically operated by service providers (if at all).
  • Prescribed, third-party, and turnkey models are key solutions to unlocking small markets.
  • Strategies that address technical and financial issues are needed in one package.
  • Energy is not the core business of building owners. Removing the hassle factor is especially important for small building retrofits.

See our Summit “Snapshot” for a preliminary list of takeaways and brief working group summaries from the event.