Energy Efficiency of Retrofitted Buildings

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If you own or manage an older commercial building in Canada, chances are you are paying large energy bills. *Statistics show that the commercial sector in Canada spends an astronomical $17.6 billion per year on lighting, heating, and cooling. These same activities are creating more than  65 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. It's easy to see that making commercial properties more energy efficient will be good for both the planet and your bottom line.


A green renovation or retrofit of a commercial property can be very successful if done properly. With an emphasis on "whole building” rather than piecemeal approaches, existing buildings can significantly lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while producing financial rewards for owners.


In recent years, even historical buildings such as the Empire State Building in New York City have been able to realize great efficiencies in energy performance through retrofitting.


Energy efficiency retrofits to older properties have many advantages beyond the obvious cost savings, including higher property valuations and higher rates of occupancy.


Where to Begin


As the sole license holder for LEED® in Canada, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) is great place to start. The LEED Canada green building rating system for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EB:O&M) is a set of performance standards for certifying the operations and maintenance of existing commercial or institutional buildings, and high-rise residential buildings of all sizes – both public and private. The intent is to promote high-performance existing buildings that are healthy, durable, affordable, and are operated sustainably.

This rating system helps building owners and managers measure operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. Whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs and systems upgrades are covered in this program.

Unlike other LEED certification rating systems, LEED Canada EB: O&M focuses on the operation and maintenance phase of the building lifecycle rather than the construction phase. Buildings may be operated and maintained for decades, and so under this rating system they must file for recertification at least once every five years to maintain their status.

EB: O&M addresses seven topics:


•       Sustainable Sites

•       Water Efficiency

•       Energy & Atmosphere

•       Materials & Resources

•       Indoor Environmental Quality

•       Innovation in Operations

•       Regional Priority


The first step in finding out the level of efficiency or inefficiency of your building portfolio is an analysis of how well the buildings are performing. It's then helpful to compare your properties with other similar commercial buildings within your portfolio and across the country, to see whether your properties are above or below the national average. Third, you must assess which retrofits or upgrades would cause the most benefit to your building usage and how they should be done. Finally, you'll need follow-up tracking stats to ensure that the improvements are working as well as they can.


The Canadian adaptation of ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager, available through Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), is an important tool allowing building managers, owners and operators in Canada to benchmark the energy performance of their buildings against their Canadian peers. Being able to measure, track and evaluate each property can have a significant impact on the long term performance and efficiency of portfolios of any size.

Responsible builders, owners and operators who are looking for the next step towards becoming truly green need to know what’s available. CaGBC can help you find the best solution.

 *Statistics from: Natural Resources Canada.
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