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One of the tool's value-added features lets owners and operators track weather-normalized energy-use intensity. The tool accounts for the weather in a building's particular climate and normalizes the data to account for a particularly hot summer or cold winter. Additionally, a building in Washington state can compare its performance to its sister building in Florida, taking the effects of regional climate and different weather patterns out of the equation. The tool also calculates changes in greenhouse-gas emissions and in water use and can automatically generate reports in one short document.
As carbon becomes regulated, this type of data likely will become more important to real estate owners, buyers and sellers. Some jurisdictions already require sellers to disclose a building's energy performance to prospective buyers. Savvy brokers and buyers can use this information to assess a prospective property and adjust their offers accordingly.
Some portfolios have seen common-area energy-consumption savings of 10 percent to 20 percent within one year from a minimal investment of 3 cents to 5 cents per square foot. Most of these reductions come through stressing the importance of wise energy management and instituting no- and low-cost measures with quick paybacks.
Although upgrades to high-efficiency windows, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, and roofs may have large savings, they also have large price tags. Smaller, everyday activities also will lead to significant savings. Brokers should understand the importance of energy management to an asset's financial performance.
Managers of a high-performing and well-maintained building from an energy-management perspective likely have implemented fundamental no- and low-cost best practices to improve their buildings' energy-efficiency, including:
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Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps;
Retrofitting linear fluorescent lights with high-efficiency T5 or T8 lamps;
Installing light-emitting-diode exit signs;
Installing programmable thermostats;
Setting back temperatures in model and vacant units;
Installing occupancy sensors in fitness centers, business centers, boiler rooms, electrical and telecommunications rooms, and model units;
Reducing pool and spa temperatures;
Conducting preventive maintenance on climate-control systems;
Installing timers on common-area hot-water heaters, pool pumps and water features;
Locking thermostats in common areas;
Reducing irrigation run times and irrigate during cooler times of day;
Using window shades, glazing or blinds to reduce solar gain in summer; and
Checking with local utilities for energy-efficiency rebates and incentives.
Energy-efficiency is the backbone of any green-building project. All else being equal, high-performing buildings will perform highly in the market from a financial standpoint, as well.
By understanding strategic energy management and identifying borrowers who understand and incorporate energy-efficiency into their buildings, brokers stand the best chance of being involved with high-return real estate transactions.
program manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR program, leads outreach and coordination efforts with commercial real estate and financial-services industry associations and organizations. She works with property-owners and -operators and other financial stakeholders to identify the financial and environmental value of whole-building energy-efficiency and climate stewardship. Quarforth has a master's degree from Duke University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia. Reach her at email@example.com or (202) 343-9604.
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