Whether pursuing LEED or just looking to cut building energy costs, it's important to start with the basics. Many building owners tend to focus on highly visible projects such as new windows or solar panels. In fact, these high profile improvements aren't always the most effective.
The best advice for building owners is to start by getting a professional energy assessment. An energy assessment can identify the most cost effective energy efficiency improvements for your building. Look for simple measures with low cost, but that can make a huge difference in energy bills.
Next steps may include measures such as repairing or replacing HVAC systems, insulating hot water pipes, and upgrading lighting. Taking care of these basics first will provide a foundation to build from when working toward more ambitious sustainability goals such as LEED certification. And the savings achieved through lower energy bills can free up funds for future improvements.
To achieve substantial energy savings in the long term, it is important to continuously monitor building performance. Regularly tracking the use and cost of energy, water, and other resources allows facility managers to establish operation and maintenance practices that improve performance.
Facility managers should monitor energy use, and share this information with building stakeholders. One possibility is signing up with a program that can provide an annual performance report that summarizes building energy use over time. They are encouraged to share these reports with tenants, both current and potential, to help them make informed decisions and compare properties in much the same way a miles per gallon rating allows auto consumers to compare vehicles.
Comparisons to other buildings and to national, regional, and other benchmarks can be interesting, but should not replace comparison to one's own building over time. Buildings are constantly in flux as their use, occupancy, systems, and other factors change over time. Understanding the impacts of these changes is critical to evaluating building performance.
— Kathryn Eggers and Stephanie Folk
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