“Building tune-ups” is the latest phraseology for energy audits that increase energy efficiency. A building tune-up is similar to getting your car serviced – you wouldn’t buy a beautiful new Tesla and not take it in for its regularly scheduled maintenance. A building requires the same periodic maintenance, and the upside is that building tune-ups can save owners and operators a lot of money.

quoteWhat do you get out of a building tune-up?

  • Optimize building performance through active management of building systems.
  • Identify and correct no- or low-cost tweaks to building operations.

Typically, a building will achieve 5-20% energy savings and pay back in two to three years, depending on the current performance. The recent Benefits of Benchmarking Building Performance report by IMT shows that tune-ups will:

  • Save owners’ money
  • Cut waste
  • Support the local economy
  • Make your city smarter, which draws economic development.

The report also finds that half of a building’s energy savings are achievable through no- or low-cost efforts, and on average tuned up buildings save 7% on energy costs.

Bastyr’s buildings get a boost and benefits

Paladino is working with Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington on a comprehensive building tune-up program, providing energy efficiency recommendations for an 187,000 square foot building that comprises the bulk of the built campus environment. Built in 1959, the building once served as a Catholic seminary, and since 1996 has adapted in phases to meet Bastyr’s needs.

Tune-ups and boosted performance are a comprehensive part of a wider sustainability plan to address sustainability in Bastyr’s aging campus. A thorough look at the building’s energy use was a smart next step to meet the university’s sustainability goals.

“Sustainability requires active steps to alter those things which take away from our natural ecosystem,” says Michael Thoreby, facility operations manager at Bastyr University. “Building tune-ups are just one small step toward the re-investment in natural capital.”

The Bastyr University campus once served as a Catholic seminary built in 1959.

Building upgrades will position Bastyr for continued sustainability excellence through energy efficiencies, and will also provide access to incentives through Puget Sound Energy (PSE) under the Comprehensive Building Tune-Up (CBTU) program. The program incentivizes low- or no-cost operational improvements or energy efficiency upgrades through commissioning. Paladino’s retro-commissioning process dovetails with the CBTU program, which can offset up to 100% of the commissioning investment.

Based on preliminary results of the tune-up program, PSE has greenlighted the next phase of the project based on the energy savings potential of the building. Paladino’s retro-commissioning team will determine opportunities for energy saving measures with the greatest impact.

Embrace requirements

In many states and jurisdictions, building tune-ups are mandatory as part of building efficiency ordinances. Each ordinance varies, and most require tune-ups every five years for commercial buildings 50,000 square feet or larger. Some jurisdictions are lowering the building size requirements as their programs evolve.

Don’t let a requirement put you off – the real value is apparent. Low cost measures pay you back in a few years, and incentive programs can cover commissioning costs entirely. If you are required to do it, why not make the most of it?

Here are some of the most recent changes:

  • Seattle, WA: Added a mandate for building tune-ups and transparency for non-residential buildings 50,000 SF or larger
  • Berkeley, CA: Added a mandate for multifamily, non-residential, and public buildings 50,000 SF or larger.
  • Montgomery County, MD: Added a mandate for non-residential buildings 250,000 SF or larger
  • Boston, MA: Added a mandate for non-residential buildings 35,000 SF or larger
  • Cambridge, MA: Added a mandate to non-residential buildings 25,000 SF or larger
  • Chicago, IL: Added a mandate for multifamily buildings 50,000 SF or larger
  • Kansas City, MO: Introduced a mandate for public buildings 10,000 or larger
  • Portland, OR: Added a mandate for non-residential buildings 50,000 SF or larger

Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Boulder, Cambridge, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, DC, Montgomery County, MD, and the states of California and Washington have a variation of energy benchmarking mandates for buildings.

Existing benchmarking requirements already effect more than 56,000 buildings totaling approximately 6.6 billion square feet in the U.S.

Want help sorting out your next step for building improvements? Drop me a line.



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