Retrofits go deep to save more energy, money

Businesses and organizations that retrofit their buildings to save energy do so with the best of intentions.

All too often, though, their efforts reap only modest rewards. Outdated engineering systems are replaced with more efficient technologies without taking into consideration how the space planning and envelope affect energy performance.

It is possible, however, for architects to help clients realize much deeper savings, upwards of 50 percent, through “deep energy retrofits.

OPN’s sustainability director Tate Walker, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, will explain how in a webinar hosted by the American Institute of Architects on Nov. 5.

Tate, an architect and LEED accredited professional, knows the value of climate-specific, sustainable design that enhances our community and environment. His expertise includes energy research, technical consulting, and promotional environmental awareness through the design process. Tate served on the USGBC technical advisory group to develop the energy and atmostphere credits for LEED V4, as well as on boards and committees for the AIA, USGB, New Building Institute, United States Environmental Protection Agency, and United States Department of Energy.

In the webinar, he will explain how a deep energy retrofit requires energy modeling, life cycle cost assessment, commissioning, and measurement and verification. He will also discuss the market forces and government regulations driving the energy retrofit market as well as the financial tools and incentives available to lessen the financial burden of these energy saving retrofits.

For clients, these retrofits are often about saving money. At OPN, it’s part of our larger mission of eliminating the impact the built environment has on the world’s energy and resource consumption. We believe sustainable design is good design. Because sustainable design has always been part of our process, we were early to sign on to the 2030 Challenge, founded by architect Edward Mazria in 2002 and widely promoted by the American Institute of Architects.

The challenge is an aggressive strategy to reduce the environmental impact of the building sector until it reaches net zero. It encourages designers to reduce fossil fuel energy consumption in buildings by setting energy reduction targets of 60 percent better than average energy use in 2010, and gradually ramping up in increments of 10 percent every five years until the goal of carbon-neutrality is met by the year 2030.

“Sustainability is central to everything we do at OPN. Tracking energy use and improving it is something that we’re implementing on every one of our projects, whether it has environmental aspirations, or just wants to save money,” says Tate. “The 2030 Commitment is rigorous. It’s a continuous process that touches all of our projects from their inception. It’s a big challenge, and we can’t do it in one big leap. So we’re incrementally improving over time and tracking those results, and our ultimate goal is to get to zero [fossil fuel energy consumption].”

In 2014, the average logged OPN project reduced energy use intensity (energy use per square foot of space) by 62 percent below the national average, which is 2 percent better than the year’s reduction goal set forth by the 2030 Challenge. Tate will offer these and other projects as real world examples of how architects can impact their client’s bottom line and the environment with a deep energy retrofit.