5 Cost-Saving Steps to an Energy-Efficient Commercial Building

An Assessment of Your Key Needs Determines Your Path to Zero Energy

Like energy-efficient homes, energy-efficient commercial buildings are grid-integrated buildings capable of low energy consumption and generation through advanced efficiency technologies and onsite generation systems, such as solar power.  

The process starts with a Needs Assessment to understand how energy efficiency and conservation measures can be deployed and then by adding onsite renewable energy generation (or offsite as in community solar) to reach your goals.  

Alternatively, the ultimate design of your building can be delivered across an energy performance spectrum.  This could start at required building code standards (negative energy), progressing through ZE, all the way up to advanced designs (delivering positive energy).

1. Start with a Professional Needs Assessment

An Assessment of your key needs helps determine your path to Net Zero; factors include:

2. Get a Building Energy Audit

Achieving commercial ZE objectives requires a combination of best-practice energy efficiency measures and renewable energy production, which is surprisingly achievable.  

Working under an “integrated design process”–bringing different specialties together to produce sustainable designs–the first steps require establishing your efficiency goals and cost budget. 

During a professional energy audit, an energy auditor analyzes your energy bills, completes visual, health, and safety inspections, and may use special equipment—such as a blower door and an infrared camera–to detect sources of energy loss.  

An energy audit will provide you with a comprehensive home energy report that shows which energy efficiency upgrades are best for your potential energy savings.   

Be sure to look for a BPI (Building Performance Institute) certified contractor who is specially trained to conduct a whole building assessment to best determine how efficiency improvements will work together.  

3. Implement Energy Efficiency

Next, the design team will develop the most efficient building “envelope” by employing energy-efficient technologies such as lighting, HVAC and controls, as well as ZE-compatible construction materials, reduced plug loads, and proper siting of the building to take advantage of passive heating and cooling. Achieving a reduced energy consumption design makes it possible to meet your building’s energy needs with the appropriate renewable energy source(s). Energy Efficiency is known as the 5th fuel through the implementation of energy conservation measures (ECMs) to reduce your overall energy consumption or carbon footprint. Energy efficiency should be leveraged first because it’s the most cost-effective way to lower energy costs. The goal is to reduce the amount of energy required to provide comfort, products, and services.

4. Improve Your HVAC and Lighting, Heating


HVAC has the highest energy impact for commercial and industrial.


Mechanical, architectural, electrical, and equipment.

The outcome should be a list of Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) which show energy savings and a simple payback period. The overall analysis should model the life cycle of the project (s), which will determine the first cost (initial investment) versus the savings over the life of the project.

5. Convert to Onsite Renewable Energy

Renewable energy can dramatically reduce the costs and the overall carbon footprint of your building.   

For example, a one-time capital investment in solar energy can cover the electricity needs of your building for decades at a fixed cost.  This one-time renewable energy fixed cost can save you considerable money over its 25 to 30-year lifetime compared to conventional energy generation and fossil fuel costs.  

In addition, it’s smart to implement Energy Efficiency before considering renewable energy since it will significantly reduce the overall investment.  

Renewable Energy costs have dropped dramatically, falling nearly 80% over the last couple of decades.  At the same time, solar performance has improved significantly.   These improving factors create accelerated renewable energy price performance, known as Swanson’s law.  

One-time capital investment (no fuel costs) and longevity of the investment combined with improving performance over price create an unbeatable new energy economy opportunity for building owners.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jump STart Your Journey

Get your FREE copy of 9 Steps to Saving Money with Zero Energy when you sign up for “The Current” official newsletter of The Clean Energy Life.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.