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GreenStep City Best Practices Buildings and Lighting

Efficient Existing Public Buildings
no. 1

Benchmark energy usage, identify savings opportunities in consultation with state programs, utilities and others to implement cost-effective energy and sustainability improvements.
  • Operations and maintenance experts claim a minimum 5-10% efficiency improvement is achievable in virtually any building by implementing certain low- and no-cost measures. According to Honeywell, Inc., without monitoring and maintenance, the efficiency performance of building systems and equipment can degrade by as much as 5% every year. And the EPA estimates that if the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings improved by just 10%, Americans would save about $20 billion annually and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to the emissions from almost 30 million vehicles.
  • Investments in buildings can produce immediate economic impact, as most of the money is spent on labor costs for workers who tend to spend this money locally and increase its multiplier effect: $1 million spent on retrofits creates between 8 and 11 jobs and generates about $300,000 in taxes, according to estimates.
  • The State’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) can assist cities bundle low-cost, short-term payback improvements (lighting, highly efficient motors, building envelope improvements) with longer-term payback improvements (LED lighting, HVAC systems, steam/chiller conversions, co-generation systems, wastewater treatment facilities, ice arenas, renewable energy systems) to achieve deep energy retrofits where the aggregated payback does not exceed 15 years. The improvements (to existing facilities or to facilities to be built) – which require no capital contribution from a city - are paid for over the term of the financing arrangement using a combination of utility savings, operational and maintenance savings, and/or capital cost avoidance savings.
  • According to Energy Efficiency: Engine of Economic Growth (Environment Northeast: 2009), all the money that government agencies, utility companies, and others are spending on efficiency programs not only saves energy, it pumps cash back into the economy - from $6 to $8.50 for every $1 spent.
  • The use of one green building framework, Sustainable Buildings 2030, is required for all Minnesota state-funded projects that begin schematic design after January 1, 2015. It will result in buildings that achieve an energy and carbon reduction of 70% compared to representative Minnesota buildings in existence in 2003.
Step 3 Recognition Minimum for Category A and B cities
Category A and B cities: implement this best practice by completing at least actions 1 and 2.

Category A cities: also complete at least one additional action from actions 3 through 7.

Category C cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least one action.
In city buildings the owner is also likely going to be the tenant for all of the building's life; all cost savings from careful asset management and short and long-term efficiency investments will accrue to the city and its taxpayers. In such a circumstance, energy and water efficiency opportunities are almost always justified on a purely economic basis, even without considering the benefits from reducing greenhouse gases, lowering exposure to fuel price volatility, or meeting sustainability goals. Most existing public buildings were not designed to use energy and water efficiently, and even those that are designed well are infrequently managed to capture efficiency opportunities. Energy efficiency and other sustainability opportunities abound in existing buildings, which are in a constant drift toward expensive inefficiency. Many of the opportunities not only reduce operating costs, but improve occupant quality of life, create higher resale value, and improve worker productivity.
greenstep advisor
Laura Millberg, MBA, LEED AP BD+C, Sustainable Development and Climate Resilience Principal Planner, MN Pollution Control Agency, for B3 & green building improvements: 651/757-2568, Laura.Millberg@state.mn.us, http://www.pca.state.mn.us/yhiz6ef

Peter Lindstrom, Local Government Outreach Coordinator, Clean Energy Resource Teams, for assessment & GESP & other financing of energy improvements: 612/625-9634, plindstr@umn.edu, http://tinyurl.com/PeterCERTS

connection to state Policy

  • All public buildings over 5,000 sq. ft. and fueled by two or more sources of energy are required by the State of Minnesota to enter energy consumption data into the B3 database. The database allows public entities to compare sq. ft. energy use among all buildings in a locale, and among the same type of building across Minnesota. This makes possible targeted energy improvements to lower-performing buildings.
  • In 2011 the State Commissioner of Commerce created under Executive Order the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) to provide technical and financial resources to state agencies, local units of government, and school districts. Cities can access GESP through a voluntary Joint Powers Agreement with the Minnesota Department of Commerce.