The Boiler Room Blog

Advice on commercial water heater selection, maintenance and safety issues for businesses that rely on a steady supply of hot water.

Why Update An Old Building?

energy efficient building

You can make some easy energy efficient building updates to refurbish old buildings and help the environment.

The US Department of Energy reported that just last year, commercial buildings were responsible for 50% of the energy consumption in the United States, costing the economy over $400 billion. And that’s just in one year. Clearly, there’s a major problem here—one that falls under the overarching issue of sustainability. This type of spending and resource consumption cannot continue if we, as a species, plan stick around for the next century.

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A lot of the buildings in this country are old—a century isn’t really that long in the lifecycle of a building, and for many of the buildings still in use today, this is the norm. But old buildings, as a general rule, are grossly energy inefficient. So much in fact, that the government has begun funding the Better Building Initiative which is a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

An energy efficient building is the first step to going green in the business world. The world of today is unlike anything humanity has yet achieved; technology, industry and modern standards of living demand more energy than ever before. In the past, commercial, industrial and residential buildings were wired for basic electrical needs. (In outdated apartment buildings, the electric power available for an entire 2-bedroom apartment can sometimes be as little as what we now wire into a single child’s bedroom.) Energy consumption as a whole was never considered. Sustainability wasn’t really even a thing. These buildings reflect the old world way of thinking.

Up until very recently, the old model for building commercial and industrial structures was still used. Upwards of 70% of the buildings in use today are at least twenty years old. Most are much older than that. Even twenty years ago, buildings were still mostly built as they always had been. Today, though, we are faced with the very real issue of sustainability. Our current focus is learning how we can continue to grow and develop as a nation, while still meeting our ever-growing energy needs. It’s time to take a closer look at how updates can help create an energy efficient building.

Green Built Environments Start at Home

There are a select number of companies and organizations out there at the forefront of the energy efficient building crusade, setting the standard for change and encouraging efficiency solutions for some time now. Here at home, local innovator Johnson Controls has been leading the way in energy efficient building trends with such fervor and dedication that they’ve been making national headlines for over a century. Building sustainability was among their first priorities. In fact, Johnson Controls started their business with temperature control systems, allowing, for the first time in history, the ability to control the temperature within a building. This was the beginnings of HVAC, a revolutionary invention that is literally everywhere today.

Leading by example is the foundation for innovation – especially when it comes to making energy efficient building updates. And in this case, it also means long-term survival. But it’s about so much more than that. We are facing an impending crisis that requires major change if we are to continue flourishing as a species. Changes in the way we work, live and socialize have seeped into our societal mentality as we move forward into building a more conscientious and sustainable society.

Important Energy Efficient Building Updates

In light of all this, it’s easy to see why your old building needs updating. Cost-effective efficiency improvements can be applied to your building, helping to create jobs and build a stronger economy while reducing energy consumption. Right now is the perfect time to get started on your own building. With a growing number of federally funded programs, grants and tax incentives designed to help get your old building running more efficiently, you can’t afford not efficient building

And the best part is that most of these solutions are low-cost/high output. Between affordable investments and government incentives, you can help build a more sustainable economy and help the environment. Saving money in the process of working towards an energy efficient building is a quality investment.

Getting Started

If you’re unsure where to start, check with your local utility company for guidance and possible incentive programs they offer. Wisconsinites can start by visiting Focus on Energy for lots of info, resources, and incentive programs (with plenty of information on energy efficient building codes, update ideas, and more) while Hoosiers can check out Energizing Indiana for the inside scoop.

There are a lot of things you can do right now to achieve an energy efficient building. A large variety of contractor solutions are available that can meet any and all of your building’s needs. Whether your building needs to update the HVAC system or electrical wiring, or you’re trying to really go that extra mile and incorporate green technology, such as solar panels, smart environmental controls, or even converting to a green roof, there are many, many solutions available.

Here are the big things to consider:

  • Lighting
  • HVAC
  • Electrical wiring
  • Energy management systems
  • Windows and insulation
  • Water heating units
  • Green technologies

Updating to an energy efficient building is the key to reducing your energy costs. It also happens to be the best way for our society to significantly change current energy consumption from that $400 billion/year drain on the economy. The environmental implications of this reduction are perhaps even more important than our economic concerns. If we continue with current consumption rates (which increase yearly), we won’t have a planet that can support human life.

Long-term and big-picture thinking are becoming a regular part of American industry’s thought process. Through our innovation, creativity, and hard-work, we have already begun to build the world of the future, instead of maintaining the world of the past.

So it’s up to us. We can’t afford to wait for someone else to do it for us. This is exactly why the government is rewarding individuals and corporations making efforts to improve their own building efficiency concerns. Remember that these things don’t all need to be done at once either. Each efficiency solution, once implemented in your building, will begin to save you money. As the savings add up, you can get started on the next solution.

Now is the time.

Image “Sustainability Graphic on” courtesy of Flickr user photologue_np; Image “Dana Building solar panels tour” courtesy of Flickr user U of M SNRE; licensed under CC by 2.0. Featured image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons – licensed under CC Public Domain.


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