Friday, June 7, 2013

Barriers to Energy Efficiency --- Who’s to Blame and Who Can Help by MCC Guest Blogger Susan Aiello, LEED AP, ASID, CID

Sometimes it seems as though there are outside forces conspiring to prevent us from doing what we know is the right thing. It's particularly easy to find a villain when it comes to energy saving measures.
• Tenants can blame their landlords, who won't make building improvements that could result in energy savings.
• Building owners can blame their tenants, who use inefficient lighting and equipment in their individual spaces and then leave them turned on at night.
• Anyone undertaking a construction project can blame various state, local and federal entities for not making funding for sustainable initiatives easier.
• Anyone who needs a loan can blame the banks, not only because loans for green initiatives are difficult to get, but because borrowing money for building improvements can trigger mortgage defaults.
• The banks can blame the government, because allowing mortgagers to assume additional debt for properties that are already worth less than when the mortgages were written could violate banking regulations.
• The government can blame the financial institutions, who were largely responsible for the insane inflation and subsequent meltdown of the real estate market.

It appears that to find who’s to blame for the poor rate of adoption of energy saving measures, we should all be looking in the mirror. There are steps that we can each take to make things better, whether or not we get the cooperation and support that we would like from others.

Going green definitely has its challenges, and it can be easy to get discouraged when others are less helpful than we'd hoped. But waiting for a hero to come along on a white charger to save the day is not a viable alternative.

Climate change and the threat that dependence on foreign oil represents to our economy and our national security are such large problems that they can make us all feel helpless, but if we each address areas of energy use that are within our own control at least we'll be contributing to the solution instead of the problem.

• Tenants can turn off lights and equipment when they are not needed. It goes without saying that lights and equipment should not be left on overnight or in unoccupied rooms. Tenants can also think before turning lights on. For instance, little to no artificial light may be required during the day for work spaces close to windows or skylights. And the number of work areas that can benefit from daylight can be increased with space planning and furniture placement.
• Tenants can elect to purchase energy efficient lighting and equipment whenever a replacement is needed. New York City now requires that efficient lighting and controls be installed when lighting is replaced as part of a renovation project that is filed with the Department of Buildings, but tenants can take this a step further and make incremental improvements to lighting efficiency whenever the opportunity presents itself.
• Building owners can install efficient equipment, lighting and lighting controls in common spaces and ensure that building systems are working as they should. The payback period for professional retrocommissioning and implementing many of the resulting recommendations can be less than a year.
• While owners might wish to defer larger capital investments, they can ensure that when they do invest in major systems their choices are informed by the need for energy efficiency.
• Building owners and tenants can work together for their common benefit. Green leases can provide for equitable distribution of energy costs based on actual usage and reimbursement for capital improvements that result in energy savings.
• Banks and appraisers can consider energy efficiency in determining building asset value. And banks can loan money for building improvements that will save energy and increase asset value, or at least allow mortgagers to borrow the money elsewhere.
• State, local and federal entities can facilitate funding for sustainable initiatives, especially for those who do not have access to attorneys and financial advisers. But funding should be viewed as a benefit of, not a prerequisite for, sustainable initiatives.

There are steps that we can each take to make things better, whether or not we get the cooperation and support that we would like from others. And if we each focus on doing what we can, no matter how insignificant it may seem, we can all save a lot of energy…. and money.

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