Better Buildings Program Shines Spotlight on $40B Retrofit Opportunity

RMI's RetroFit initiative focused on helping U.S. commercial building sector profitably tap energy savings

Snowmass, Colo. - Rocky Mountain Institute today announced how business owners can meet and exceed the Obama administration's new Better Buildings goal of making commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020, a plan the administration estimates will save business owners about $40 billion a year in offset electricity costs.

Energy efficiency in the built environment is a key element of RMI's long-term fossil fuel reduction roadmap. RMI believes that energy efficiency is the key to reducing fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions in the built environment, and that mitigating fossil fuel consumption in this sector offers a huge, yet-to-be exploited economic opportunity.

"Perceived financial risks associated with comprehensive building retrofits are a formidable barrier to building owners," said Victor Olgyay, a principal with RMI's built environment practice. "Innovative government programs that address some of these up-front costs will instill confidence in this market and move the industry in the right direction."

RMI's RetroFit initiative aims to prove the business case for deep retrofits, and encourage the retrofit of the U.S commercial building stock to use, on average, at least 50 percent less energy by 2050, via the wide adoption of deep energy retrofits that save far more energy, even more profitably, than today's normal practice.

"Many people assume that it is too hard to do deep energy retrofits and instead invest just enough to deliver a return in the shortest amount of time," Olgyay said. "But in reality, it may be much more prudent to go for a deeper level of investment in order to reap great energy cost savings for the lifetime of the building."

A deep retrofit saves at least 50 percent of energy operating costs with positive financial returns. This is achieved via integrative, whole-building design that recognizes how efficiency gains in one system can affect other building systems and attributes. These interrelationships often let many small improvements combine to create substantially larger benefits.

"If performed at the right time, we can markedly improve the economics of energy efficiency in commercial buildings," said Olgyay. "Through pilot projects, we have shown that a 50 percent reduction is almost always cost effective when executed properly."

"By pursuing deep energy retrofits, building owners are able to reduce operating costs that really are the gift that keep on giving year after year."

Leveraging the lessons learned from high-profile pilot projects such the award-winning Empire State Building retrofit (with partners Clinton Climate Initiative, Johnson Controls Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle), RetroFit focuses on collaborative engagements that overcome common barriers that have inherent scaling qualities. RMI's most recent engagement with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) on the Byron Rogers Federal Building (with partners Mortenson Construction, Bennett Wagner & Grody Architects, HOK, The RMH Groun, Inc. and Martin/Martin, Inc.) was announced last month.

Direct results, case studies, and tools for building owners and service providers to implement deep retrofits can be found in the RetroFit Depot. Visit www.retrofit depot.org.

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About Rocky Mountain Institute
Founded in 1982, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources. RMI's work supports a vision of a world thriving, verdant, and secure, for all, for ever. Its strategic focus is to map and drive the business-led transition from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. For more information, visit www.rmi.org.

About RetroFit
Energy efficiency in the built environment is a key element of RMI's long-term fossil fuel reduction plan. The RetroFit Initiative aims to encourage the retrofit of the U.S. commercial building stock to use, on average, at least 50 percent less energy by 2050 via the wide adoption of deep energy retrofits that save far more energy, even more profitably, than today's normal practices. For more information, visit www.retrofitdepot.org.