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Before making what may amount to a major investment in the retrofit of existing buildings for energy and sustainability improvements, it is important to determine if the investment is worthwhile in perspective with other building conditions. Is the building structurally sound? Are seismic upgrades needed to meet current standards and local building code requirements? Do hazardous material like asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and lead paint have to be contained and removed? Can the work be done in phases to minimize disruption to the occupants? Relocating occupants to other facilities can be a significant expense. If a vegetative roof is being considered, is the roof able to support the additional weight without costly reinforcement? Look for opportunities to reduce the cost of the work by recycling waste and demolition materials.
Once you have determined that other building conditions are not impediments to upgrading for sustainability and improved energy performance, you should have a plan and follow a sequence of activities in order to determine the best options for energy and sustainability improvements.
First, determine if the existing systems are operating at optimum levels before considering replacing existing equipment with new higher efficiency equipment. This can be accomplished by performing an energy audit. Sometimes, considerable savings in utility costs can be gained by evaluating the performance of the building envelope and existing systems: leaks, clogged/dirty filters, stuck dampers, disabled sensors, faulty or incorrect wiring, or even lack of knowledge on how to properly operate and maintain equipment can all contribute to inefficiencies and increased costs. Audit the performance of the building's water systems as well; since leaking and inefficient systems not only waste water, they also use energy by needlessly running pumps and other electrical equipment.
Then, if the building is metered, review utility bills from the last two years to determine if consumption (not cost) has risen.
For existing federal buildings, performing an energy audit (assessing existing condition and operational procedures of the building and major building systems and identify areas for improvement) is one of the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Existing Buildings.
- Next, determine air tightness of the building envelope by examining the building envelope, looking for leaky windows, gaps around vents and pipe penetrations, and moisture intrusion. Upgrading heating and air-conditioning systems without addressing problems with the building envelope will result in less than optimum performance of those systems. Employ the methods in ASTM E1827 Standard Test Methods for Determining Airtightness of Buildings Using an Orifice Blower Door and ASTM E779 Standard Test Method for Determining Air Leakage Rate by Fan Pressurization. Consider also doing tracer gas test described in ASTM E741 Standard Test Method for Determining Air Change in a Single Zone by Means of a Tracer Gas Dilution.
Sustainability and Energy-Efficiency Strategies
Develop a plan to optimize the recycling and reuse of demolition debris and construction waste to minimize waste sent to landfills.
Evaluate occupancy patterns, then apply daylight, HVAC and lighting sensors in appropriate locations. Incorporate energy efficient lighting into the project as appropriate for the tasks and functions of the spaces.
Determine if natural ventilation and fresh air intake are feasible alternatives to reduce heating and cooling loads.
Investigate renewable energy options that can offset the purchase of fossil fuel-based energy.
Replace existing windows with high-performance windows appropriate for climate and exposure. If building requires security upgrade, evaluate blast resistant windows and films. If building is located in a high noise area, evaluate windows that also include adequate exterior to interior noise reduction.
Analyze the benefits of distributed generation if the building is in a campus cluster or can share the on-site energy produced with adjacent buildings.
Certain site renovations can improve the energy performance of the building including reducing the heat island effect.
Employ Energy Star and/or a green building rating system for existing buildings like LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED EBOM) or Green Globes for Existing Buildings to gage the building's level of performance.
For historic buildings, update systems appropriately to maintain a balance between the need for energy and water savings with the character of the original building fabric.
To ensure a newly renovated building continues to perform as designed, measure the performance of the building regularly.
Relevant Codes and Standards
- Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA)
- Energy Policy Act of 2005
- Executive Order 13221, "Energy Efficient Standby Power Devices"
- Executive Order 13693, "Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade"
- ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings, except Low-Rise Residential Buildings
- ASHRAE 100 Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings (ANSI Approved/IES Co-sponsored)
- International Green Construction Code (IgCC)
Building Types / Space Types
Aesthetics—Engage the Integrated Design Process, Cost-Effective, Functional / Operational, Historic Preservation—Update Building Systems Appropriately, Productive, Secure / Safe, Sustainable—Optimize Site Potential, Sustainable—Protect and Conserve Water, Sustainable—Optimize Building Space and Material Use, Sustainable—Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality, Sustainable—Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices
Systems & Specifications
Operations & Maintenance
Facilities Operations and Maintenance, Real Property Inventory (RPI) and Asset Management (RPAM), Computer-Aided Facilities Management, Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), Comprehensive Facility Operation and Maintenance Manual
Energy Analysis Tools
- Center for Neighborhood Technology
- Empire State Building Retrofit
- The Mutual Building - Christman Company Headquarters
- NAVFAC Building 33
- Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Office Buildings, DOE
- Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Retail Buildings, DOE
- "Energy Efficiency Retrofitting of Existing Buildings", Journal of Building Enclosure Design Winter 2009
- The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse , National Trust for Historic Preservation