retrofit

Deep Energy Retrofits: Big Investment, Big Rewards

retrofitEnergy managers understand that there are “low hanging fruit” steps and more fundamental – and more extensive – deep energy retrofits which, of course, cost more and have correspondingly greater upside potential.

Since the spring of 2015, Efficiency Vermont has run The Deep Retrofit pilot program at five organizations. The goal, according to The Rutland Herald, is to cut energy consumption by half. The story says that at the end of last year, four out of the five companies in the pilot had succeeded.

The story offered information about each of the participants, including the one organization that pulled out (but increased efficiency by 17 percent before doing so). The savings are significant:

The four participants that have already reached the 50 percent reduction mark will save an estimated 5,000 MMBTU (million British thermal units; one BTU is equivalent to the energy released by burning a match) and approximately $105,000 per year in energy savings. Once those savings have paid for the improvements, these business[es] will enjoy reduced operating expenses for many years to come. These businesses are a diverse bunch, ranging from large commercial facilities to small nonprofit schoolhouses.

The story says that 15 companies, ranging in size from 4,000 square feet to 21,700 square feet, will participate in the next round of the project, which is part of Efficiency Vermont’s Business Forward initiative.

“Deep energy retrofit” is a vague term that refers to significant cuts in energy use that are achieved by radically changing or replacing several systems in a building. High Performance Building profiled a deep energy retrofit done by Sharp Development to what the story describes as a “nondescript, dark and cold” building in Sunnyvale, CA.

The story says that Rocky Mountain Institute – which offers a guide to deep energy retrofit projects – defines it as a reduction in energy consumption of 30 percent. In the case of the Sunnyvale building, net zero status was achieved. The property value as increased by $56 per square foot and it was filled to capacity in three months. The average for Silicon Valley is 18 months, the story said. Keys to the project were 100 percent natural daylighting and 100 percent natural ventilation.

It may be that resistance to such extensive work is more financial than technical. Notes Forbes:

[O]nly about 60% of commercial floorspace in the United States is occupied by its owner. Consequently, larger ticket upgrades, such as deep building envelope or HVAC system upgrades, remain difficult to sell within the retrofit market.

The idea is that organizations are reluctant to engage in expensive, long-term and disruptive work if the company doesn’t have as much stake in its efficiency.

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