There is nothing small about the impact that small commercial buildings have on energy use in the United States. In fact, the 4.6 million small buildings across the nation consume 44% of the overall energy use in buildings, presenting an enormous opportunity to cut costs, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this potential, small building owners and operators face unique challenges that have historically impeded the adoption of widespread energy efficiency solutions. A new report developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines these barriers and suggests a path forward to support cost-effective energy savings for the small buildings and small portfolios sector, which typically has limited resources to pursue energy efficiency solutions.
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Small buildings have been left behind in the energy efficiency marketplace because financial and technical resources have flowed to larger commercial buildings (PGL 2013). DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) works with the commercial building industry to accelerate the uptake of energy efficiency technologies and techniques in existing and new commercial buildings (DOE 2013). BTO recognizes the SBSP sector’s potential for significant energy savings and the need for investments in resources that are tailored to this sector’s unique needs. The industry research and recommendations described in this report identify potential approaches and strategic priorities that BTO could explore over the next 3–5 years that will support the implementation of high-potential energy efficiency opportunities for this important sector.
A net zero-energy community (ZEC) is one that has greatly reduced energy needs through efficiency gains such that the balance of energy for vehicles, thermal, and electrical energy within the community is met by renewable energy. Past work resulted in a common zero-energy building (ZEB) definition system of “zero energy” and a classification system for ZEBs based on the renewable energy sources used by a building. This paper begins with a focus solely on buildings and expands the concept to define a zero-energy community, applying the ZEB hierarchical renewable classification system to the concept of community. A community that offsets all of its energy use from renewables available within the community’s built environment and unusable brownfield sites is at the top of the ZEC classification system at a ZEC of A. (A brownfield site is where the redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.) A community that achieves a ZEC definition primarily through the purchase of new off-site, Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) is placed at the lowest end of the ZEC classification but is still considered a good achievement.
The small buildings and small portfolios (SBSP) sector face a number of barriers that inhibit SBSP owners from adopting energy efficiency solutions. This pilot project focused on overcoming two of the largest barriers to financing energy efficiency in small buildings: disproportionately high transaction costs and unknown or unacceptable risk. Solutions to these barriers can often be at odds, because inexpensive turnkey solutions are often not sufficiently tailored to the unique circumstances of each building, reducing confidence that the expected energy savings will be achieved. To address these barriers, NREL worked with two innovative, forward-thinking lead partners, Michigan Saves and Energi, to develop technical solutions that provide a quick and easy process to encourage energy efficiency investments while managing risk.
The pilot project was broken into two stages: the first stage focused on reducing transaction costs, and the second stage focused on reducing performance risk. In the first stage, NREL worked with the non-profit organization, Michigan Saves, to analyze the effects of 8 energy efficiency measures (EEMs) on 81 different baseline small office building models in Holland, Michigan (climate zone 5A). The results of this analysis (totaling over 30,000 cases) are summarized in a simple spreadsheet tool that enables users to easily sort through the results and find appropriate small office EEM packages that meet a particular energy savings threshold and are likely to be cost-effective.
Dollars saved through energy efficiency can directly impact your bottom line. Whether you are planning for a major renovation or upgrading individual pieces of building equipment, these improvements can help reduce operating costs, save on utility bills, and boost profits. This fact sheet provides a guide for small businesses to find the resources to increase the energy efficiency of their buildings.
Dollars saved through energy efficiency can directly impact your bottom line. Whether you are planning for a major renovation or upgrading individual pieces of building equipment, these improvements can help reduce operating costs, save on utility bills, and boost profits. This fact sheet provides guidelines for SBA lenders to understand the value of financing energy efficiency investments.
The energy efficiency community has worked hard to engage lenders and consumers in what is estimated by the Rockefeller Foundation and Deutsche Bank to be a $279 billion market for energy efficiency investment. Great advances have been made in the federal and public sector’s program development arena, yet private sector transaction volume remains frustratingly low. In an effort to understand nuanced obstacles to market participation, ACEEE and Energi Insurance Services convened a group of small to mid-size lenders to discuss opportunities for increasing both lender and consumer participation in the energy efficiency space. Lender representation spanned state and local commercial banks, community banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), credit unions, and “green” lenders. This paper presents the obstacles identified in the convening and offers recommendations to the energy efficiency community to foster growth in the market for energy efficiency financing.
A solar ready building is engineered and designed for solar installation, even if the solar installation does not happen at the time of construction. The solar ready design features, if considered early in the design process, are typically low or no cost. Attention to building orientation, available roof space, roof type, and other features is key to designing solar ready buildings.
This study expands and validates previous research by Heschong Mahone Group that found a statistical correlation between the amount of daylight in elementary school classrooms and student performance. The researchers reanalyzed student performance data from two school districts to answer questions raised by the previous study. The results are consistent with the original findings and affirm that daylight has a positive and highly significant association with improved student performance.
Small commercial buildings – those smaller than 50,000 square feet – offer substantial and immediate energy efficiency opportunities and cost savings. The Small Buildings and Small Portfolios (SBSP) sector contains 95 percent of all commercial buildings by number and represents 47 percent of the energy consumption in all non-mall commercial buildings. However this building stock has received little attention in the growing energy efficiency marketplace compared to larger and institutionally owned counterparts, in part because of the market’s vast scale, physical diversity, and the disparate interests of its stakeholders.
While acknowledging these challenges, this study estimates that profitable investments in energy conservation can generate $30 billion in annual energy cost savings, improving the financial performance of millions of small businesses throughout the United States.