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Old Buildings Can Be Green Buildings

January 20, 2015 | 0 comments

It’s often a given that most new commercial buildings incorporate at least some energy and water efficiency initiatives into design, construction, and operation. But since the majority of commercial office facilities in the United States are existing buildings, greening “old” office buildings is just as important. (According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, 72% of U.S. commercial buildings are more than 20 years old.)

Because these buildings incorporate outdated technology (and construction practices, in some instances), they present a great opportunity to improve energy management.

When examining ways to improve energy efficiency, it’s common to begin with an energy audit and a water audit. These assessments will help you understand how your building is currently using energy, and identify energy-efficiency opportunities.

Think your building is too old or outdated to improve energy and water use? We bet these facilities are even older, and they’ve managed to make great strides in energy management and water conservation.

U.S. Treasury Building, Washington, DC
Built in 1842
The green building features incorporated into this facility have saved taxpayers more than $3.5 million per year in energy, water, and leasing costs. Several of the changes that led to the building’s LEED Gold certification included process improvement: changing its landscape maintenance program, implementing a comprehensive recycling program, and adding 164 workstations to the building (allowing more work to be done while using the same amount of electricity).

West 135th Street Apartments, New York City
Built in 1910
This 198-unit, 10-building multifamily complex accomplished its LEED certification by investing heavily in energy-saving products, such as energy-efficient corridor lighting, occupancy sensors, solar panels, high-efficiency boilers and toilets, and well-insulated exterior doors. These upgrades resulted in 25% energy savings, and now help save residents money on monthly utility bills.

University of Tennessee’s Ayres Hall, Knoxville, TN
Built in 1921
A two-year renovation helped bring this century-old building forward in terms of energy efficiency, and earn LEED Silver certification in the process. Although the building went through a major modernization, more than 97% of the existing building materials (walls, floors, roofing elements) were maintained, refinished, and kept in place. Low-flow toilets were installed, along with a high-efficiency central HVAC system (only window units existed prior to the renovation). Because of this new HVAC system, the building’s fourth floor can now be used again as well.

How old is your building? Do you think it’s more difficult to improve the energy efficiency of buildings as they age?

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