Buildings present a massive untapped opportunity for reducing costs. The average building wastes 30 percent of the energy it consumes due to inefficiencies. Increasing energy efficiency in Houston’s large buildings will drastically reduce waste and save building owners and tenants money on their utility bills. In addition, a growing body of research shows that energy-efficient buildings have higher occupancy levels, lease-up rates, and sale prices than less efficient properties.

Here are five steps to guide you along the path to better building energy efficiency:

1. Benchmark. Benchmarking means measuring a building’s energy use and then comparing it to the average for similar buildings. It allows owners and occupants to understand their building’s relative energy performance, and helps identify opportunities to cut energy waste. Learn how to start benchmarking your facility performance using the free EPA ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool.

2. Audit. Energy audits, or assessments, are a more detailed analysis of energy usage within a building or facility and its contained equipment. The results of the analysis are recommendations for building energy efficiency improvement measures and operational changes as well as a financial analysis for each identified measure.

3. Document and Implement. Establish a policy for minimum energy performance levels in buildings, set targets that will help achieve transformation, define an implementation strategy to meet energy targets, and share building energy use, efficiency progress information and best practices.

4. Train. The successful implementation of energy efficiency programs throughout all sectors hinges on the skills of building managers and operators. Various industry-related organizations are committed to providing the education, training and resources for building operators to sustainably manage, operate and maintain facility assets. View examples of building operator energy efficiency training programs on the Resources page.

5. Challenge. Further promote building energy efficiency through education, training and advocacy for employees, tenants and other stakeholders. Join the Houston Green Office Challenge, a Houston-wide program that brings local, state and national sustainability experts together with commercial property managers and office tenants to learn and engage in both introductory and high performance green building practices through free workshops and training.

These steps are complimentary and can be woven together. Once a property is benchmarked, an energy usage baseline for the building is created and information is available for a site assessment. Audits then inform building owners and managers about low- and no-cost savings opportunities. If the building is improved, trained building operators will help maintain and optimally run the facility, achieving even greater reductions in the future. Documentation ensures that a strategy is created and implemented, efficiencies can be scaled, incentives can be utilized and the potential of energy efficient spaces can be realized. When buildings are more efficient, energy costs are lower and that translates into a more comfortable space and higher returns.


CC image courtesy of Alex on Flickr.