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Highly Efficient Buildings: Making Sustainable Decisions Economically Viable

Q4 / Fall 2013
As societal and environmental pressures to adopt sustainable practices into our daily lives grow, companies are increasingly motivated to operate their facilities more efficiently. The quest for operating efficiency can include anything from minor equipment adjustments to major investments — but even small improvements can make a difference.

“We are seeing a lot of activity in building energy efficiency,” says Dan Probst, chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services for Jones Lang LaSalle. “We still see a lot of the low-cost, no-cost opportunities involving energy improvements we can make as building managers.”

However, Probst also points to the two other major categories of building energy improvements: retro-commissioning and building system upgrades. Retro-commissioning involves recalibrating building systems to operate at maximum efficiency, while building systems upgrades — deep retrofits — involve some level of investment in new equipment.

As societal and environmental pressures to adopt sustainable practices into our daily lives grow, the business community is feeling the pressure to conform too.

“We even perform energy modeling to get a deeper understanding of how the building is operating,” says Leo O’Loughlin, senior vice president of Energy and Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle.

“Deep retrofit value means doing a major energy and sustainability retrofit to generate 50 percent or more energy savings,” explains Scott Muldavin, the executive director of the Green Building Finance Consortium.“The industry has been stuck, where the average retrofit is based on a 3.5-year payback on energy cost savings alone.”

Smart buildings mean lower utility bills — but that's not all. More than 85 percent of facility spend is on employees, so the full value of a building lies in leveraging real estate to drive employee productivity, and in transforming energy use for a more connected, efficient future.

“Green buildings have typically been thought of as a lower energy building, but the true value is far more,” says consultant Roy Torbert of the Buildings Practice, Rocky Mountain Institute. “What we are talking about is ‘how can we make employees in the building more productive so they can go on to other things and be more creative?’”

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