Green retrofits play a major role in this, but they are rarely deployed to achieve its fullest potential.  A proper retrofit requires a decision that is based on facts, quantitative benchmarks, analysis that considers life cycle and persistence factors, and a thorough assessment of other alternatives (including re-commissioning) to achieve the same level of efficiency.

So what is really driving many building owners and managers to embrace greening of their buildings? With electricity costs in Ontario expected to rise by 33 percent in the next five years and 55 percent in the next 20, the most obvious answer is rising operating costs.

"High performance buildings offer competitive advantage for retaining and attracting tenants."

There is another equally important driver: tenants. In addition to seeking landlords who are aligned with their own sustainability goals, tenants also understand the impact of green building on the work environment, health,  wellness of employees, and on productivity. Savings from increased productivity and reduced employee costs often exceed benefits from energy savings by a large margin.

As tenants become more and more aware of these benefits, they will demand newer and upgraded buildings. Since the commercial sector is very responsive, they will strive to meet tenants’ demands.  High performance buildings offer competitive advantages for retaining and attracting tenants. While this is true, it’s important to be practical as large- scale retrofits would not only be very costly,  but also be very disruptive to tenants.

Thinking about retrofits

Having said that, here are some things to consider when thinking about retrofits:

  • Take a holistic approach by assessing the performance of the whole building instead of taking a piecemeal approach. Aggregated projects often lead to a quicker return on investment.
  • A robust monitoring, targeting, and reporting system is a must. You cannot correct what you cannot measure.
  • Benchmark performance. Through benchmarking, the key metrics for assessing the performance of a building or portfolio of buildings can be identified along with a facility’s key drivers of energy use.
  • Depending on the building characteristics, consider re-commissioning before resorting to capital investment. Tweak existing equipment and systems to make sure they are operating as intended and being fully utilized. Re-commissioning could easily provide 8-15 percent energy savings.
  • Allocate sufficient resources for training building staff as well as for initiatives aimed at changing the consumption behavior.
  • Aim to have a plan in place for continuously improving building performance.
  • Take advantage of incentive programs; don’t leave any money on the table.
  • When in doubt, consult with qualified energy management and green building professionals.

It is not enough to just invest in retrofits, it is equally important that policies and resources are in place to make sure that the investment is protected. This means new equipment or systems continue to operate properly and deliver savings throughout their life.