In August 2011, the New Buildings Institute and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance published A Search for Deep Energy Savings, documenting more than 50 buildings that achieved savings of 30 percent or better. Seven of the buildings described in the report save 50 percent more energy than the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey. Faced with complex market, structural, and financial conditions, each project team created its own comeback story.

  • The Aventine is a 253,000-square-foot (23,500 sq m) office building in La Jolla, California, designed by architect Michael Graves. In 2006, the building owner, Glenborough LLC, was facing a challenging leasing environment and significant performance issues just 16 years after the building was constructed. Though the building was occupied, Glenborough implemented a series of investments that included a new cool roof, new chiller compressors, and comprehensive lighting retrofits that have made the property 75 percent more energy efficient than the national average. The Aventine retrofit has reduced operating expenses by more than $100,000 in the first year alone and has achieved an Energy Star rating of 100—the highest attainable—helping return the building to Class A status.
  • In Priest River, Idaho, the historic Beardmore Building, built in 1922, fell into disrepair after decades of neglect. In 2006, new ownership purchased the 28,800-square-foot (2,700 sq m) office and mixed-use property and began a comprehensive renovation. Tackling issues such as historic leaded-glass transom windows (which have little insulating value), structural reinforcements to the roof, and complex standards for historic preservation and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the team deployed myriad real estate and sustainability strategies. Upon completion of the retrofit, the building is one of the few in the country that is both LEED Gold certified and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is performing 66 percent better than the national average for energy use.
  • The Joseph Vance building in Seattle was bought by the Jonathan Rose Companies in 2006 with the intent of repositioning the property to take advantage of the city’s growing clean-tech job sector. For the 134,000-square-foot (12,500 sq m) office building, the project team deployed several innovative energy approaches, including introduction of a natural ventilation strategy combined with a managed phase-out of all air-conditioning units. Also, a focused set of tenant-improvement guidelines centered on reducing energy use through behavioral changes and management of the use of such energy consumers as appliances, computers, and other devices under the tenant’s control. The result was an increase in occupancy to 96 percent from 68 percent and energy performance 58 percent better than the national average.

Each of these projects was able to capitalize on unique financial and marketing opportunities. The integration of deep retrofits with shrewd real estate strategies created a more compelling comeback story, and one that more readily resonates with today’s tenants and investors.

See Energy-Saving Deep Retrofits for more on this topic.