Commercial and Public Building Energy Efficiency

Energy expenditures in privately-owned commercial and public buildings average more than $2 per square foot, making energy use a cost worth managing.[1]  Policies that improve the way buildings use energy throughout the building lifecycle, from construction through operation and renovation, are a priority in communities across the country.

Photo of a commercial building

Key Focus Areas

Improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses a variety of market needs.  To promote solutions for whole-building improvements, SEE Action has identified four key focus areas in commercial and public building efficiency:

  • Increase demand for energy efficiency. Improve information through building benchmarking, identify retro-commissioning and retrofit opportunities, facilitate ratepayer-funded programs that address whole-building energy savings, and increase use of public-private partnerships. 
  • Support data access to drive decision making. Fill potential gaps between benchmarking tools and accessing the utility data necessary to use those benchmarking tools through regulatory policy.
  • Enable efficient operations and investment. Adopt comprehensive energy management programs, integrate energy efficiency in leasing practices, and increase the use of successful financing mechanisms.
  • Move the market. Implement procurement reform and showcase emerging technologies through public-private partnerships.  

Key Initiatives

SEE Action provides technical and policy decision making information to state and local governments and utility regulators on organization-wide, performance-based policy and program strategies for energy efficiency in public and private commercial buildings.  These include:

  • Educating policymakers on existing and new policy tools that are informed by and directly tied to actual energy performance - including outcome-based, lifecycle-oriented policies; performance incentives; property valuation and appraisal policies; and utility policy and partnerships. 
  • Providing policy design guidance on benchmarking and disclosure. Benchmarking is a market-based policy tool which requires the building owner, operator, or manager to measure the building’s energy performance, similar to a fuel economy rating on a vehicle. This information is then used to identify cost-effective opportunities for improvements, and is also made available to the marketplace through a direct disclosure to stakeholders (such as a tenant or a prospective lessee, investor, or lender) or by publication on a publicly accessible web site. This approach helps create a market for efficiency by making building energy performance transparent.
  • Providing policy design guidance on energy audits and retro-commissioning. Audits identify a range of opportunities for energy improvement in a building (e.g., operational improvements, simple retrofits and capital improvements) but do not guarantee implementation. Retro-commissioning includes the implementation of the necessary “re-tuning” measures.
  • Educating regulators on policy tools to enable commercial and public building owners and operators to access utility data in order to effectively evaluate and seize energy and cost savings opportunities. 

[1] http://newbuildings.org/sites/default/files/Energy_Performance_of_LEED-NC_Buildings-Final_3-4-08b.pdf

Connect with Us about Commercial and Public Building Energy Efficiency

Contact our Experts
  • Andrew Burr, U.S. Department of Energy,
    Existing Commercial Buildings Working Group, Staff Lead
  • Tracy Narel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
    Existing Commercial Buildings Working Group, Staff Lead