For commercial building owners, energy-efficiency improvements have had modest appeal
Switching to less power-hungry light bulbs is relatively easy, and the payoff relatively swift. But replacing furnaces or boilers or reconfiguring the building’s shell involves sinking millions of dollars into an asset that the owner may want to get rid of long before the investment has paid off.
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In a new twist, some investors, a technology company, a municipal utility and an environmentally oriented foundation have joined forces to show that major energy-efficiency improvements in commercial buildings may provide alluring new revenue to all involved.
A program at the Bullitt Foundation’s new building in Seattle is aimed at attracting the notice of commercial building owners around the country who may be reluctant to make heavy investments in such technologies. Under this plan, if they, or investors, put in the capital for major efficiency retrofits, new revenue, based on precise measurements of energy savings, will keep coming in for decades.
Currently, building owners, utilities and utility regulators who underwrite some efficiency measures remain somewhat skeptical of what are called “deep retrofits,” like swapping out furnaces, boilers or the building shell itself. This has been particularly true for older, smaller commercial buildings, which, according to a new report, account for 47 percent of all commercial real estate outside the world of malls.