Feature Article

Cost-Effective Green Retrofits: Opportunities for Savings in Existing Buildings

Between lighting, water use, mechanical systems, the building envelope, and occupant health, existing buildings are rife with cost-effective retrofits and operational opportunities that also offer environmental benefits. Improvements range from the painfully obvious to the more complex and involved.

March 26, 2009

Start with the basics. There is an abundance of opportunities, right beneath our noses, for realizing operational savings and environmental benefits at the same time. If there is a “green lining” to the recession (as EBN explored in Jan. 2009), one piece of it may be a renewed focus on low-cost and no-cost green solutions. Experts interviewed for this article provided examples like these:

• Disabling a broken irrigation sprinkler head that had poured out 100,000 gallons (38,000 l) of water over the last two years.

Each of the three Adobe Towers is LEED-EBOM Platinum. Since 2001, a total of $2.3 million in capital costs (including $483,000 in rebates) has resulted in 47% reduced electric use, 42% reduced gas use, and 48% reduced water use, which add up to an annual savings of $1.6 million.

Photo: William Porter

Start with the basics. There is an abundance of opportunities, right beneath our noses, for realizing operational savings and environmental benefits at the same time. If there is a “green lining” to the recession (as

EBN explored in Jan. 2009), one piece of it may be a renewed focus on low-cost and no-cost green solutions. Experts interviewed for this article provided examples like these:

• Disabling a broken irrigation sprinkler head that had poured out 100,000 gallons (38,000 l) of water over the last two years.

• Fixing an economizer damper that was stuck open and bringing in huge volumes of humid outdoor air during the entire cooling season.

• Installing faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads. They’re cheap and often overlooked or broken.

Basic is not always obvious. Green, cost-saving opportunities are often hidden or overlooked. Knowing where to look and what to do with what you find is the focus of this article. We’ll look at commercial buildings inside and out, from lighting to the building envelope, mechanical systems, water consumption, operations and maintenance, and other areas.