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What Does it Mean to Have an Energy Efficient Building?

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Energy efficiency is a phrase that’s being used more and more when describing commercial building. From new construction to retrofitting to gut rehab, there are several ways to make a building both energy efficient and profitable. 

What is an energy efficient building? 

In order for a building to be considered energy efficient, there are certain standards it needs to meet. An energy efficient building is designed and built to significantly reduce the energy needed for heating, cooling, and energy use. Depending on the state in which you live, there are several standards for energy efficiency as well as benefits you can receive for reducing your energy consumption. 

In Texas, buildings are responsible for about 40% of the state’s total energy usage and over 70% of the total electricity usage. Because of this, the state of Texas is looking to help reduce energy usage and reward the people and businesses that help them meet their energy-reduction goals. 

It’s also important to note that Texas is a “home rule” state, so if a local jurisdiction wants to enforce more stringent codes than what the state has mandated, they are allowed to do so. With this in mind, be sure to check your local jurisdiction to see what their energy codes are as well as their requirements for implementation. 

To learn more about the Texas Building Energy Code, visit the Comptroller’s SECO programs page

What things to think about when considering energy efficiency 

Energy efficient construction doesn’t have to mean starting with a new build, you can also update your current systems, add new systems within existing structures, or add additional structures to house or help with energy efficiency upgrades. Here are a few things you should think about when working with your contractor to build a more sustainable, energy efficient commercial building.

  1. Think ahead.
    When designing a new commercial building, or renovating an existing building, it’s important to think about how you can create a structure that leaves room for future retrofitting. If you ever choose to sell your building, the new owner won’t have to start from scratch.

  2. Know the energy standards in your location.
    As mentioned above, Texas is a “home rule” state. So, while state codes exist, your location may have even stricter codes and rules for implementation that you’ll need to know about before your project gets started. That way, you won’t have to worry about violations halting your progress and costing you extra.

  3. Do your research on local and state rebates and incentives.
    Several Texas cities offer rebates for things like composting, solar panels, and energy-efficient construction that falls within the state and local energy requirements. Be sure to know what your location offers so you can take advantage of rebates, programs, and incentives.

  4. Be selective about your HVAC choices.

Selecting the right energy-efficient HVAC system can make or break your plans. Most experts advise you choose an Energy-Star rated system as they are built and certified to use less energy to function.

  1. Choose the right contractor.
    Be sure the contractor you work with has experience creating energy efficient buildings. Make sure to collaborate with them to ensure that what you build together is not only up to code but sustainable for years to come.

Why this is by no means a comprehensive list, is a good place to start!

What are the benefits of an energy efficient building?

While helping the environment is always a great goal and noble purpose, it’s also good to know that there are other benefits to building with energy efficiency in mind. 

  1. It saves you money.
    When you invest in energy efficient design, you save energy costs over time. With less energy being used, you can invest the money you would have spent on paying the bills into other areas of your business.

  2. Attract investors.
    Many investors are looking to invest in energy efficient projects. There are also special loans you can access for environmentally friendly construction. PACE loans are active in more than 50% of the US, Texas included. Property Assessed Clean Energy loans have many financial benefits and you can use them to help fund your project. To learn more about PACE financing, check out PACE Nation.

  3. Better ROI
    Buildings with energy efficient design have a lot of advantages, but one that people don’t often consider is the return on investment they’ll get. Energy efficient buildings save money on energy costs, last longer, need fewer repairs, and have the ability to attract tenants that are willing to pay a bit more to work or live there. You’ll also get a better price for your building when the time comes to sell it: a new buyer will be more than happy to invest in a building that is already set for energy efficiency and requires little to no updates.

  4. Rebates, Incentives, Programs
    As mentioned earlier in this post, there are several incentive programs around Texas aimed specifically at rewarding homeowners, investors, and businesses that choose to make their buildings more energy efficient.

  5. Help the environment.
    Energy efficient buildings reduce energy usage, the dependence on natural resources, and the emission of greenhouse gases. This helps ensure that our communities stay healthy and can flourish well into the future.

Be sure to check out the US Department of Energy’s website to see how you can save energy and save money. They offer a wide variety of resources to help you make the most out of your project. 

Energy efficiency is the right choice

Whether you’re looking at the environmental or the financial impact of sustainable and energy saving design and construction, the benefits are plentiful. To learn more about how your next project can be transformed into an energy-saving, sustainable, and profitable endeavor feel free to contact us to discuss the details and get a consultation.

Photo Credit: Photo by SevenStorm JUHASZIMRUS