Retrofitting of Buildings: Energy Efficiency

A building retrofit to improve energy efficiency pays for itself and delivers a range of benefits, including carbon reduction, increased occupant comfort, and improved operational reliability.

What is an energy efficiency retrofit?

An energy efficiency retrofit reduces energy usage, improves sustainability, and enhances building comfort and performance. Improving energy efficiency through a building retrofit is an effective way to lower energy costs and reduce environmental impact. The cheapest, most climate-friendly kilowatt, after all, is the kilowatt not used.

What is retrofitting a building?

Retrofitting a building is the process of replacing aging or outdated equipment and technologies with newer, more efficient components and systems. Energy retrofits can range from improvements to the building envelope – i.e., the walls, floors, windows, and doors of a building that act as barriers to external elements – to the installation of energy-efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting, and building controls.

The need to retrofit can arise from a combination of factors, including deferred maintenance/escalating equipment repair costs, negative feedback from building occupants, and a heightened interest in improving sustainability through decarbonization.

Achieving maximum savings with a building retrofit

A free Metrus energy audit is designed to identify improvements that will provide the most “bang for the buck”—i.e., those that will generate the most savings, carbon reduction, and operational improvements in the quickest, most cost-effective manner. Bundling these improvements into a single contract can accerate progress toward sustainability goals and deliver broader financial and operational benefits.

Types of improvements an energy audit may surface:

  • Interior LED lighting
  • Exterior LED lighting
  • Commercial HVAC fans
  • Chiller (cooling system)
  • Boiler (heating system)
  • Battery storage
  • Building management systems
  • Low-flow water fixtures
  • Building envelope

Retrofitting commercial buildings for sustainability

Deep energy efficiency retrofits play an important role in the larger push for climate action. As noted by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), more than half of U.S. commercial buildings were built before 2000 and do not meet today’s more efficient energy codes because they lack the systems, materials, and technologies that can save the most energy. Newer buildings may also fall short of energy performance goals due to lack of maintenance, improper installation, or normal wear and tear.

The types of building and industries that can benefit from a building retrofit are across the board. Some of those that can benefit the most because of their intensive energy demand include:

  • Schools and higher education campuses
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Warehouses and distribution centers
  • Government buildings
  • Data centers

How to know when it’s time for a retrofit

Take inventory of your equipment to determine if it’s time for a building retrofit. Advances in technology and decreases in equipment costs may make it practical to take on a retrofit sooner rather than later.

  • LED lighting: For example, if your lighting is more than three years old, the economics might justify changing to LEDs, since LEDs use two to three times less energy than conventional lighting yet last twice as long as fluorescent and metal halide lights and up to 25 times longer than halogen lights, reducing labor and future lamp costs.
  • Rooftop HVAC units should be inspected if they are more than 15 years old. New units can cut energy use in half and improve indoor air quality.
  • Many colleges and universities have achieved significant savings by replacing aging steam-driven boilers and chillers with lower-temperature hot water systems and electric chillers, which are up to seven times more efficient.
  • A building management system is the brains of your building and provides real-time monitoring and optimization for maximum energy savings and occupant comfort.

A building retrofit pays for itself

The benefits that result from a building retrofit are numerous and include carbon reduction, increased occupant comfort, and improved operational reliability. But the most compelling argument for retrofitting a building may be that it pays for itself. As the International Energy Assocation, in a report issued after its 2022 Global Conference on Energy Efficiency, states, “put simply, a more efficient building, car or industrial facility, requires less energy to perform the same function, with cost savings that are larger than the investment required to achieve them.”

Getting started with a Metrus Energy retrofit

Through our Energy as a Service model, Metrus Energy provides building retrofits with no upfront cost. The savings generated by the equipment upgrades pays for the project, which is cash-flow positive from day one.

The first step in a building energy retrofit project is our free energy audit, in which we analyze your energy utilization, identify potential savings measures, and work up a preliminary project scope and financial analysis. Using that analysis as a springboard, Metrus works closely with the customer to draft a Sustainable Energy Service Agreement (SESA), which begins the formal process of benchmarking building performance, modeling energy use, and additional analysis in order to develop a detailed scope of work. Metrus then works with top-tier Energy Services Contractors (ESCOs) to design and implement the project and to provide ongoing measurement and verification.