We often hear about big corporations – Walmart, Google, FedEx, Target, Verizon – that are designing, constructing, or retrofitting green buildings. But there is just as much potential for these same green building techniques to be successful within small commercial buildings.
A 2013 report from the Preservation Green Lab shows that commercial buildings less than 50,000 square feet, which make up 95% of all U.S. commercial buildings, could cumulatively save more than $30 billion each year in energy use. The report recommends key actions needed to realize energy savings in the seven million businesses that are currently operating in 4.4 million U.S. small buildings.
The Preservation Green Lab also says these small commercial buildings offer the greatest potential for easy retrofits with fast, significant gains in ROI. The most obvious reason for this is that small building owners and tenants are typically consumed by daily operations, keeping green projects on the back burner. Many of the changes that could be made to improve energy savings haven’t even been considered due to lack of time and resources.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has noticed the potential in this category, too, announcing a recent investment of $10 million in six different projects that will generate user-friendly tools and resources for small green buildings to use. These tools will be easy to implement and require little technical expertise, and won’t necessitate big financial investments.
There are also a few green certification programs geared specifically toward small green buildings, helping building owners decide which green building techniques to put into practice.
Green Plus, established in 2004, is a university-backed, nationally recognized third-party green business certification that also offers scholarships to help small businesses complete green building upgrades. Green Plus also provides education and networking opportunities for owners of small buildings; the program focuses on processes as well as facility operations.
Earth Advantage Commercial is a national commercial building green certification program exclusively for buildings less than 50,000 square feet. The program is organized around five categories of sustainability, but it doesn’t use a points system. On average, a building with Earth Advantage Commercial certification experiences energy savings of 30%.
Do you own or manage a small commercial building? How do energy efficiency and sustainability rank on your list of priorities?