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Commercial Building Energy Efficiency

The Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources works with regional and national programs to provide information about energy conservation and efficiency for new construction, as well as retrofit and remodel of existing buildings.

The Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources promotes energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings through private-public partnerships created at the community level.

Communities that are renovating and revitalizing their schools, commercial buildings, colleges, universities and municipal buildings find that energy efficiency enhances economic development, promotes community livability and protects the environment. Many community and commercial entities are not only renovating existing buildings, but many are addressing new construction as well. An integrated systems design approach provides the greatest cost savings for new building construction. Starting from the ground up builds savings that are lost if the building is constructed to minimum standards.

The following resources provide useful information to improve the efficiency of community and commercial buildings:

The Idaho Governor’s Office of Energy and Mineral Resources can assist in finding resources and technical assistance for educational facilities.

K-12 and higher education

School  districts and universities can utilize energy strategies that can improve students’ learning environment while saving energy, resources and money. Examples include the following:

School districts and universities can reduce operating costs and improve campus environments by making energy-efficiency improvements. Universities across the state are installing building controls, energy efficient lighting, low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets, vending misers and HVAC system upgrades. Some universities haves targeted the most inefficient systems first, and then used the savings to fund additional capital improvements.

Building operators and budget managers are learning more about the connections between buildings and the occupants that use them. Cost-effective management is always a concern, but balanced budgets and well-maintained buildings are not mutually exclusive. Energy consumption in most buildings can be cut 25 percent through retrofits and better operation. New construction also benefits from energy-efficient designs, effective commissioning and smart operations.

Energy performance contracting is a multi-year, budget neutral, financing tool that uses cost savings from reduced energy consumption to repay the cost of installing energy conservation measures.  Generally, energy performance contracts are financed by third-party finance companies with long-term debt or leases.  Idaho Code section 67-5711D authorizes public entities to enter into energy savings performance contracts.

To learn more about energy performance contracting, please read the State of Idaho’s Guide to Energy Performance Contracting (PDF) or contact the Office of Energy and Mineral Resources.

In today’s competitive health care environment, hospitals and medical centers continually work to reduce operating costs and improve patient care and comfort by retrofitting old, inefficient systems or building new high-performance ones.

Retrofits reduce energy consumption and costs by reducing maintenance requirements. The combination of new equipment, scheduled maintenance and energy management systems that provide constant monitoring, and control of energy operations can result in big energy savings.

High-performance systems reduce operating costs, improve operating margins, enhance community leadership, improve staff retention and support the highest quality of patient care. Research has shown that increasing natural light in patient rooms can ease post-operative pain, decrease the need for medication and reduce hospitalization time and energy consumption.

Better Bricks, an initiative of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, has information about improving the energy efficiency of medical facilities.

“Commissioning” (Cx) refers to a project-specific, holistic, systematic process of constructing or retrofitting buildings to assure they perform in accordance with the design intent and owner’s operational needs. Today’s complex buildings comprise a variety of systems and must function in an integrated manner to meet owner and occupant needs. Cx offers a comprehensive approach to building construction or retrofit, and is rapidly becoming the norm in the U.S.

Building Commissioning

Cx benefits include higher employee productivity and lower rates for absenteeism, tenant vacancy, construction delay and overall operating cost. Proper training, which is part of the Cx plan from the outset, ensures that the staff understand and properly use operational features and settings.

Retrocommissioning

Commissioning existing buildings can be as productive as commissioning new ones. Called retrocommissioning (RxCx), this process can address existing problems in control, ventilation or heating and cooling that can cause major indoor air quality problems.

Unexplained building “symptoms” – high absenteeism, tenant turnover or maintenance costs; low productivity; or poor indoor air quality or occupant comfort – may indicate a need for action. An RxCx site assessment may provide solutions; it differs from an energy audit in that it focuses on identifying low-cost changes, rather than technology-intensive capital improvements to enhance efficiency. Or, if major energy-using systems need replacement, energy performance contracting may be a better choice.

The Building Commissioning Association, which supports diverse and creative approaches to achieving high professional standards, provides additional information about building commissioning.