The United States federal government has finally taken a look at nationwide energy use and concluded that as much as $40 billion could be saved every year if commercial buildings reduced energy usage by 20%. That’s a big chunk of change to be had just by reducing air conditioning, lights, furnaces, fans, and other devices public and commercial buildings.
Seattle’s Bullitt Center is one example of how to do things the right way, with 83% more efficiency than the average commercial building. It also has a few elements that every building could benefit from including occupancy sensors, data displays for energy use and emissions, and of course, solar panels.
Since we obviously can’t rebuild entire structures to be more like the Bullitt Center, companies like FirstFuel Software of Boston are auditing existing buildings to see where energy is wasted the most. The company never actually sets foot in the building, but instead uses interval meter data from the local utility to provide a “zero-touch audit.” So far, FirstFuel has found $12 million worth of savings over 60-million square feet of buildings, with most changes available at little to no cost to building owners. That’s an eye–opener.
These projects are two examples of how it is possible to develop energy-efficient buildings without breaking the bank or making drastic changes to what we already know. The U.S. Department of Energy is also testing a building performance database with statistics on commercial and residential buildings, and 110+ organizations have pledged to help meet a goal of 20% savings by 2020.
It might be a long stretch before we really start to see savings, but it’s big initiatives by the government and large investors that could really give it the start it needs. Do you think $40 billion in savings a year is possible by 2020?
Image CC licensed by Jim Trodel: New York