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. 


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