Submitted by Katrina Managan
Senior Advisor, Denver City Energy Project
Department of Environmental Health , City and County of Denver
Are your buildings sitting on an untapped wealth of savings? The City and County of Denver think so, and we are now calling on local building owners and tenants to join us in unlocking billions of dollars (yes, with a B) in savings. How? Energy efficiency.
Improving energy efficiency not only will improve Denver’s environment and quality of life, but also will benefit building owners’ and tenants’ bottom lines, as high-performance buildings, such as ENERGY STAR-label spaces, have been shown to have faster lease up times and higher occupancy rates. High-performance spaces can help meet a company’s internal sustainability mandates or goals
The first step in improving energy efficiency is to measure energy use and establish a baseline against which you can quantify improvement and track improvements. With this in mind, last October the City and County of Denver launched the Denver City Energy Project, a voluntary program that aims to benchmark building energy performance across the city. City officials including Deputy Mayor and Chief Financial Officer Cary Kennedy, Denver Environmental Health Executive Director Doug Linkhart, and representatives of project partners BOMA Denver Metro Chapter, the Energy Efficiency Business Coalition, IFMA Denver Chapter, and Xcel Energy officially kicked off Denver's program in a launch event at the historic Brown Palace Hotel.
The Denver City Energy Project encourages building owners of commercial and multifamily structures over 10,000 square feet to commit to measuring their buildings’ energy use in order to identify opportunities for improvement. And there certainly is room for improvement: Research has shown that Denver’s large commercial and multifamily buildings are sitting on $1.3 billion in energy savings*.
Measuring energy use and investing in efficiency is a win for building owners and tenants because it identifies and informs strategies that owners can use to establish a continuous cycle of improvement to benefit both the bottom line and the environment. Research has shown that building owners who benchmark their buildings are more likely to make energy efficiency improvements and, on average, benchmarked buildings reduce energy use by 7 percent over three years.
The city is kicking off a challenge to tenants in Denver to commit to ask about the ENERGY STAR score of a building when they lease space. If you know tenants who would want to be recognized by the city for taking this small step towards getting smart about energy usage by being the first ones to sign up for the challenge ahead of the launch event – tell them to email denverCEP@denvergov.org for more information. Energy is 22% of commercial building operating expenses on average, so tenants should know a building’s energy performance when they choose to rent a space. ENERGY STAR certified buildings are 30% more energy efficient than their peers.
The city also wins from these voluntary efforts, too: Energy efficiency projects generated new jobs—the Denver City Energy Project is expected to create 4,000 jobs—and those building owners who opt to share their ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager score or energy use intensity (EUI) with the city can help drive citywide investment in the most effective programs and solutions.
Buildings that benchmark and share their findings with the City through the Denver City Energy Project receive training on how to benchmark and improve building efficiency, as well as assistance in engaging tenants in improving building performance. (Access the full list of participants here.)
It was appropriate to launch the Denver City Energy Project at the Brown Palace Hotel, a historic building that has saved 26 percent on its electricity costs and 24 percent on its natural gas costs per occupied room through various energy efficiency projects over the past two years. These include a guest room lighting retrofit initiative that’s set to provide a 167 percent return on investment and a new laundry system that’s projected to save 54 percent in energy use and provide more than a 200 percent return on investment over less than six months.
Also recognized at the event was 1670 Broadway, a local building that is projected to save more than $128,000 per year in energy costs thanks to a new energy-management system that monitors, controls, and optimizes building performance. The project is anticipated to pay for itself in less than three years, and just six months into the year from its completion this past January, the property was seeing a 20-percent reduction in overall electrical use, as well as a 25-percent reduction in overall district steam energy use. These savings in operating expenses are a critical element of how 1670 Broadway retains its tenants.
Nationally, buildings consumer more than 70 percent of the energy generated in the U.S., and in many cities, including Denver, this huge appetite also accounts for significant carbon emissions. Currently commercial and multifamily buildings account for more than 64% of Denver’s carbon emissions. What’s more, much of the energy consumed by buildings is wasted due to inefficiencies, creating unnecessary pollution and high utility bills.
When Denver joined the City Energy Project last January, it was already a leader in sustainability. The Denver City Energy Project aims to solidify and grow that status. Are you ready to participate?
* Savings estimates are scaled to the City and County of Denver based on models published in "United States Building Efficiency Retrofits: Market Sizing and Financial Models," from the Rockefeller Foundation and Deutsche Bank Group, March 2012.