How green is your office?

Energy retrofits of commercial buildings pay off for business and the environment

As part of its goal to become the greenest city in the world, the City of Vancouver wants to significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings by 2020 and will require them to be retrofitted to perform like new construction by 2050. That includes commercial buildings—yet office buildings in Metro Vancouver have not been consistently upgraded, according to a report released Wednesday by commercial realtor Colliers International.

Colliers says upgrades would benefit building owners as well as the environment. Improved technology, government incentives and low-emissions energy sources have decreased both the initial cost and the payback time for retrofits. Over the long term, energy efficient upgrades also decrease operating costs.

Another study found that, in Canada, rental rates were 10 per cent higher in LEED-certified office space and had 8.5 per cent higher occupancy.

To demonstrate simple, effective strategies for reducing energy consumption in offices, Colliers carried out a couple of case studies. One challenged the 1,000 occupants of Airport Square, a 220,000-square-foot high-rise office building in Vancouver, to close office blinds over three summer weekends to reduce solar heat gain when the air conditioning was turned off. Eighty-five per cent of the tenants took part, reducing energy consumption by 2.13 per cent. For the second case study, Colliers persuaded Alderbridge Place, a low-rise building in Richmond, to switch to LED lighting, reducing electricity consumption by 75 per cent. Incentive funding from a local utility covered 46 per cent of the cost of the project.

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