The 12 Themes of Retrofit

In these final days of 2011, a report of our September Summit on Deep Energy Retrofits (DERs) is on my holiday list of things to wrap into a colorful package with ribbons of logic and bows that compel change. The very name ‘Retrofit’ denotes change – change for the better through improvements, upgrades and modifications.  This season of appreciation for what is, and hope for what may be, is a natural time to think about the efforts and inspirations needed to change building’s energy use.The report is taking good form; the ‘Snapshot’ I produced shortly after the event enhances my recollections and composition as I now pour through the dozens of pages of notes from 80 bright minds that met for the two-day event.  The Summary will be available in the New Year, however as I wrapped up my overview of cross-cutting themes from the working groups I noticed the count was twelve. A certain holiday song would not leave my head so, as a preview of the report, I thought I would share The 12 Themes of Retrofit NBI did bring to me:1.Deep savings are possible (of 30-60%) and are demonstrated and documented in existing commercial buildings of various types, sizes and ownerships.  However these represent a small fraction of the existing building energy saving potential. More comprehensive savings in existing buildings and wider market impact are critical to meeting targets and policies.2.Small buildings matter as a critical, but largely underserved, market for efficiency gains, representing 95% of all buildings and half of the commercial floorspace.  These buildings require simplified turn-key approaches that deliver deep sets of efficiency solutions requiring little time, knowledge or direct financial investment from the owners. Small and medium buildings (SMB) are defined broadly as those less than 50,000 square feet.3.Develop sets of efficiency solutions that are pre-analyzed to address the majority of savings opportunities in SMB. Combined with recognition of the customized or modeled needs for larger buildings and filters to determine the right mix for various SMBs, this can create repeatable, scalable tools for streamlining the delivery of DERs. Establishing groups of buildings by deeper typology including vintage, location, architectural features, size, configuration, glazing ratios, envelope type, equipment, etc. is foundational to creating an SMB efficiency assessment tool for the market. 4.Aggregate buildings to create the energy saving and economic mass to make DERs a stronger business model through reduced transaction costs and the ability to leverage services and solutions. Examples include single-owner portfolios, ‘fleets’ created by geographic proximity through eco-districts or community-led initiatives, and third-party aggregation to leverage the implementation, financing and savings in a performance contracting or power purchase agreement model.5.Use Urban Strategies to mobilize large change through geographic, political, cultural and regulatory commonalities. Developing district energy through eco-districts, increasing data on energy performance through disclosure requirements, aggregating buildings by neighborhood or district, using locally trusted sources for delivery of services, and reach or outcome-based codes are examples of the role and opportunities through cities.6.Simplify delivery, particularly to the SMB sector, by enhancing and expanding third-party provider models – contractors, energy service companies (ESCOs), owner consortiums.  The current ESCO focus is predominantly widget-based and operating almost exclusively in the municipal, utility, schools and hospital (MUSH) market, with less than 7% of business revenue coming from private sector projects . Turnkey approaches extended to large segments of the building marketplace would increase participation by owners.7.Facilitate financing at attractive rates and as off-balance sheet options such as PACE, performance contracting, or utility power purchase agreements, these are largely missing in today’s retrofit market.  Financing strategies and access – although not a topic directly addressed at the Summit – is a primary component to successful DERs and gaining much needed attention through national and regional forums.8.Align programs and policies to support and rapidly drive deep savings in existing buildings. Aggressive policies and energy targets are in place, but there are substantial conflicting regulatory areas that constrain DERs. These include cost effectiveness tests applied per individual measure rather than packages of measures, defining ‘total’ resource cost to include the customer contribution, short-term program planning and the absence of price signals on the value of deeper and monitored energy efficiency.9.Recognize trigger points and savings opportunities and match the pursuit of efficiency accordingly. Opportunity varies generally around three categories of building: a) As is – no planned improvements ,  b) Plan in Place – regular maintenance plan, equipment regularly assessed and upgraded, and c) Major Renovation – large scale changes, often structural, in-use, tenant or multiple systems provides access to deep saving.10.Partner for outreach and training through trusted organizations or local entities. The most crucial topics center on establishing the cost, energy and financial performance of retrofit buildings for owners and lenders, providing project examples relative to the decision maker, understanding motivations and growing the technical and sales capacity of contractors.  Including messages of ‘future-proofing’ existing buildings by repositioning (renovating, change of use, etc.) follows the current strategy of some real estate leaders.11.Target tenants, they drive energy use and have become a larger portion of energy impact as design and construction practices improve.  Plug load management and behavioral science are becoming a piece of the retrofit puzzle along with equipment procurement, energy use feedback, individual controls and green leases.  Attention here must combined with ensuring the building is operated to provide the thermal, air quality and tenant control needs at optimum energy performance.12.Learn from leaders and their stories of energy savings at the project level.  This contributes to market confidence and can create a ‘pull’ as others aspire to not be left behind.  This same transfer of knowledge and experience can occur by identifying the leading utility program, neighborhood and municipality approaches, and nonprofit organizations. The creation of widely available profiles on these projects, owners and methods is an important piece to move the market.  * Larsen, P. LBL, US Energy Service Companies Industry and Market Trends 2011