You can’t just jump into an energy efficiency retrofit. You’ll have to take a few baby steps before the big leap.
- Baseline and Benchmark.
In order to make the best decisions about your retrofit, you’ll need to understand your existing energy use — and energy loss. The best way to do this is to undertake an energy audit with a qualified energy management firm. They’ll be able to assess your building and identify where you are using the most energy, and best opportunities for energy savings. This way, you’ll be able to compare yourself to similar buildings and create goals for your own building.
- Set Goals.
Once you understand where your building is wasting energy and where the energy efficiency opportunities lie, you can define what you’re looking to get out of your retrofit. Are you looking to cut costs or get special certification? Check in with your stakeholders and get a real handle on what you want for your building, based on your energy audit findings.Retrofitting can mean everything from tuning up your building (re-caulking windows and cleaning boilers, for instance), resulting in a 5–10% reduction, to undertaking a major energy efficiency retrofit (such as installing new equipment or lighting systems) for a 15–30% reduction. You could also undertake a deep energy efficiency retrofit for 30–60% savings, through ambitious measures such as building cladding, geothermal heating and cooling, and solar energy panels.
- Once you understand your building’s needs, and your stakeholders’ desires, you’ll know what kind of energy efficiency retrofit is your best option.
- Identify the Opportunities.
As part of your energy audit, you will have uncovered specific areas in your building that could benefit from energy efficiency upgrades. Some opportunities will mean replacing existing equipment with new high efficiency models; other low-cost opportunities may only require recalibrating controls or minor modifications. For more examples, see the common retrofit measures section or read a few case studies.
- From your list of opportunities, you can evaluate the benefits and costs of each to determine how they coincide with the goals you set with your stakeholders. Once you’ve figured out the energy efficiency measures you’d like to make part of your upcoming retrofit, you can set about getting your plan together in just a few steps.
Assess the Business Case
When you’re assessing how your energy efficiency retrofit might affect your finances, don’t just consider payback. Sure, energy efficiency pays for itself — and puts more money in your pocket — but taking a more holistic approach can get you bigger bang for your retrofit buck.
Look at your overall goals, as well as the results of your audit, various retrofit packages, and blended payback and net present value (NPV). Don’t forget to consider how energy prices might go up in the future, as well as the avoided costs of repairing and maintaining old equipment. For any equipment that is near the end of its life, you should consider the incremental cost of going with a high-efficiency model, rather than looking at payback on the whole cost (most of which you would incur anyway).
As part of your holistic approach, you should consider the non-energy financial benefits of a retrofit, as well. For instance, creating a more comfortable living environment will attract more tenants, who will stay longer, leading to lower vacancy rates. You’ll also have lower maintenance costs and be able to increase the overall value of your property. In fact, for apartments and commercial buildings, every $1 you save from your annual energy costs is equivalent to approximately $10-15 in additional building value.
You can ask your energy auditor to revise their cost benefit analysis to take these factors into account. Or contact TAF and ask for assistance evaluating the business case for your retrofit.
Develop a Retrofit Plan
If your retrofit is likely to get derailed anywhere, this is the place. So keep
these few things in mind and you’ll be on your way to implementing
your energy efficiency goals in no time.
- Think holistically. Once you’ve got your goals and energy audit results, you can consider your business case and potential co-benefits. Is your building starting to look a bit tired? Consider retrofit measures that can also enhance the building appearance, like lighting upgrades, window replacements, or an exterior insulation finishing system. Are tenants complaining it’s too hot or too cold? Then prioritize upgrades to heating control systems. You should also look ahead to see what non-energy capital replacements are coming up. For example, if you need to replace your roof in a few years anyway, now is the time to plan for added insulation or, perhaps, a rooftop solar system. The key is to make sure your overall building goals are addressed.
- Engage your stakeholders. Circle back and get your stakeholders on board with your plans.
- Make the plan. Decide what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Determine if it makes more sense to split the retrofit into phases or do it all in one shot. Assess whether more detailed engineering studies are required for any measures. Decide whether to seek out financing; remember that energy savings increase cash flow, which makes financing easier and can cover the repayment costs of any loan you might take. Finally, determine your project management and procurement approach.
There are three ways you can manage your energy retrofit project:
- Design-build. Many energy management firms offer design-build contracting services. This is a turn-key approach where the same firm designs the retrofit, purchases the required equipment, selects and manages sub-contractors, and commissions the project on completion.
- Design-tender. You can have an energy management firm design your retrofit, then bid it out to qualified contractors, help you select the best contractor(s), supervise construction, and commission it on completion.
- Do it yourself. You can act as your own general contractor and work with contractors you know and trust. This approach is only advisable for experienced building owners and operators with sufficient expertise and capacity on staff to get it done right.
It’s time to implement your plan and get your retrofit started. At this stage, you’ll need to undertake the following measures:
- Finance. Secure any financing you require.
- Contract. Build your team of service providers and contractors.
- Communicate. Engage your tenants or residents and explain the goals, benefits, and timelines of the retrofit. A little upfront communication can diffuse tension over any noise or inconvenience caused by the retrofit. Your tenants or residents can also play an important role in your energy savings by adopting energy conserving behaviours, so tell them what they can do to help.
- Installation. Get the retrofit started. Always keep in touch with your contractors and engineers throughout the installation: often new opportunities, or challenges, arise during the process and may require adjustments.
- Commission. Use a commissioning agent or quality assurance process to make sure that new equipment has been installed and works properly.
- Train. Make sure that whoever is in charge of your building’s maintenance and operations knows how to use the new equipment and can troubleshoot basic issues before calling in the pros.
Optimize Your Investment
Once your retrofit is complete, you can take the following steps to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.
- Track your savings. Assign someone the specific responsibility of measuring and verifying your energy savings. And don’t just look at the energy costs, but look at volumes to account for varying energy prices. Since weather changes year to year, weather normalization can help you figure out your true savings. You can monitor and track your energy use and savings in house if you have properly trained staff, or you can easily contract it out to an energy management firm.
- Protect your savings. If it turns out that there is a problem with your new equipment, or it’s not performing up to snuff, don’t give up! Have your energy management firm or contractor come back to troubleshoot the problems. Sometimes it can take up to a year to get everything operating optimally.
- Maintain your savings. Make sure that your new equipment is properly maintained and operated correctly. This is why it’s important to train your staff. Check into manufacturer recommendations to protect your warranty.
- Enhance your savings. Undertaking periodic re-commissioning can help maintain or even deepen your savings over time. New technologies, or aging equipment, can create new opportunities. Just because you’ve done one retrofit, doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from continued energy audits or find new opportunities for efficiency.
- Communicate your success. Update your stakeholders, residents, and tenants regularly. Let them know how your retrofit is performing both financially and environmentally. This will build momentum for future projects, and keep residents or tenants engaged in making sure the building is as efficient as it can be.