How To Improve Energy Efficiency For New Constructions?

Topics: Energy Efficiency, green construction, building performance

Jahnavi Sajip
Author : Jahnavi Sajip on September 27, 2019

There is a wide range of viable energy efficiency measures for buildings. These measures target different types of equipment, but all reduce the ownership cost of buildings. It is important to note that energy efficiency requires a customized approach for each property: a measure that is effective in one building may have little use in another one. Therefore, the starting point of any energy efficiency project should be analyzing the feasibility of different measures with an energy audit.

Energy efficiency can be deployed effectively in both new constructions and existing buildings. However, if you are planning a new project, you can reap increased benefits. Energy efficiency measures become less expensive and easier to deploy planned along with the construction process of a new building.

Upgrades Are Simpler Before Starting Construction

Assume you are considering high-efficiency LED lighting as a measure to reduce your power bills. The approach is very different for new buildings and existing properties - consider the steps required in each case:

EXISTING BUILDING

NEW CONSTRUCTION

1)Planning for the required downtime, which may involve a temporary relocation of personnel.
2)Assessment of the existing installation and specifying a suitable upgrade.
3)Getting the design approved.
4)Removing the existing lighting installation. The process is simpler if you only upgrade lamps, more complex if the whole fixtures will be replaced.
5)Installing the new lighting system.

1)Including the efficient lighting system as part of the project design.
2)Getting the design approved.
3)Installing the lighting fixtures normally during the construction process.




Much less work is required to use efficient lighting in the new construction, and there are three important details:

  • You have to get the design approved, even you use less efficient lighting.
  • You have to purchase lighting fixtures anyway.
  • There is an installation cost in both cases.

In the new construction, the real “upgrade cost” is only the price difference between the baseline lighting system and the proposed upgrade. Installation costs may actually be lower, since many LED fixtures are simpler to install compared with equivalent older fixtures. For example, linear fluorescent lighting involves wiring ballasts and installing up to four lamps per fixture, while modern LED equivalents have all the necessary components built in.

If you wait until the building is operating, the upgrade becomes more complex, requiring its own design, approval and installation process. Keep in mind you will also disrupt operations as building areas are left without lighting temporarily. Installing average-efficiency lighting in a new construction with the idea of upgrading it later is a very inefficient use of resources.


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We discussed lighting as an example, but the same principle holds for any building system. Making installations efficient from the start is simpler and costs less, compared with installing average-efficiency equipment first and upgrading it a few years later. Also consider that lighting is a relatively simple building system - upgrades for HVAC systems and the building envelope become much more difficult after initial construction!

Meeting Future Energy Codes Before They Are Published

New York City has demanding building codes and standards, and the NYC Energy Conservation Code is no exception. Although new constructions are subject to the energy code anyway, exceeding the requirements can work in your favor in the long run. The NYC Energy Code is updated every few years, and some requirements are made retroactive through Local Laws.

  • If you meet the minimum performance established by the current energy code, you may be forced to carry out upgrades in the future.
  • On the other hand, if you equip your building with the most efficient equipment available, your property will be ahead of energy codes. Decades could pass before the code requirements catch up with your building performance.

Local Law 88 of 2009 is an example of this: All existing buildings covered by the LL88 must upgrade their lighting systems to meet the NYC Energy Code, even if lighting fixtures were installed before the code was first published. Normally, energy code requirements are only for new constructions and major renovations.

NYC buildings will also have energy grades starting from 2020, and public disclosure will be mandatory. Grades are based on the ENERGY STAR scoring system: you get a “B” for energy performance above the median for your building type, and an “A” for performance in the top 10% of buildings. Considering how high energy expenses are in NYC, getting an energy grade of “A” makes your property very attractive for tenants.

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