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Energy master planning -- Early adopters profit most

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Beth Brummitt

California's Title 24 energy code defines the "worst building you can legally build." As California drives towards more efficient buildings, the worst building has gotten a lot better! But codes are never a replacement for good design, and the need for integrated design solutions and early energy planning has never been greater.

In addition to newly constructed buildings, the energy code applies to renovations in existing buildings. Any component that is being altered must meet the new code: glazing, lighting, controls and power distribution, and mechanical systems. With today's strict energy requirements, the energy impact of renovations must be considered very early in design in order to take advantage of code options and to avoid expensive surprises. A silver lining is that, when done thoughtfully, the financial profile of the building can be improved at the same time!

California's Big Bold Energy Efficiency Strategies call for cutting the energy use of our entire building stock in half by the year 2030. Yes, you read that right! This will be achieved with a combination of efficiency and distributed renewable energy. California's Existing Building Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EBEEAP) will soon activate market forces to help rapidly transform our existing building stock.

Leading the way, innovators have already shown that reducing operating costs can improve the value of a building. Benefits come from ongoing savings and also from a higher sales price due to higher Net Operating Income. In addition to operating savings, high performance buildings can also improve worker productivity and are more attractive to many kinds of tenants.

This is easy to understand for buildings which are owner occupied or have a gross lease. Yet, even with Triple Net leases, innovators have used "green leases" so that an owner gains higher rents while the tenants enjoy lower total costs from energy savings which more than offset the higher rents.

The Energy Use Disclosure, required by AB1103 at the time of a commercial building sale, re-finance, or single tenant lease, includes the energy use of the entire building—even Triple Net tenants. In other words, a savvy owner can get a higher sales price when the tenants have lower energy use and costs.

As the EBEEAP gains momentum and the majority of buildings have greatly reduced their energy costs, it becomes business as usual. For early adopters, a better building can still yield a significant market advantage.

How do you take advantage of this window of opportunity? An Energy Master Plan can help you set your energy goals, know how and when to put strategies in play, and follow-through to make sure the savings are realized. Ideally, this will be hand-in-glove with the overall financial plan for the project or portfolio.

Energy modeling is a keystone of an Energy Master Plan.

Design Modeling helps to quantify the benefits of multiple scenarios, so that design options, construction costs, and occupant comfort can synchronize into the optimum solutions. It is used in planning for both new construction and improvements in existing buildings.

Compliance Modeling is used to gain building permits and various kinds of utility and tax incentives.

Operational Modeling is based on an existing building's actual features and utility costs. It shines a light into the black box of how a building is actually using energy and sets a reliable baseline for the Design Modeling of scenarios and potential performance.

Brummitt Energy can help you develop your Energy Master Plan and choose the right kind of modeling to support it. The industry is changing quickly. Don't keep waiting: innovators and early adopters will benefit the most!


Brummitt is the President of Brummitt Energy Associates, an energy modeling firm specializing in high-performance buildings of all occupancy types and a leader in Zero Net Energy projects. She has over 25 years of experience in energy performance modeling and was Founding Chair of the San Diego Green Building Council. She will be speaking on Zero Net Energy Buildings at UCSDnEXT on September 11, 2015. www.brummitt.com

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Beth Brummitt

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