Energy Department Invests to Save Energy in Small Buildings

July 24, 2013

The Energy Department on July 17 announced an award of $10 million—matched by at least $14 million in private sector funding—for six projects to help operators of small commercial buildings save money by saving energy. These buildings are less than 50,000 square feet in size and include schools, churches, strip malls, restaurants, and grocery stores. The six projects are aimed at developing user-friendly tools and resources that can be easily deployed at any small building.

The six projects are designed to help building owners across the country save money. The New York-based BlocPower will develop a crowd-sourcing website to help market, finance, and install energy efficiency retrofits for 1,500 small buildings including churches, schools, small businesses, and non-profits in low-income communities across the country. EcoCity Partners, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, will lead a pilot program to design and offer pre-packaged technology retrofit options by building type and size, business type, and climate zone to help the owners of 50 small commercial buildings identify the best retrofit approach. Ecology Action of Santa Cruz, Inc. in Santa Cruz, California, will leverage its existing network of contractors to use low-cost, high-impact tools to analyze and implement deep energy retrofits and financing options that are appropriate to small buildings, and is expected to reach about 900 small buildings in northern California.

Also, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is partnering with Architecture 2030 to develop a 2030 District program for small commercial office and retail buildings, including a technical toolkit that provides guidance and resources for building owners and operators, including buildings in Seattle, Washington; Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Los Angeles, California. The National Trust for Historic Preservation will partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to provide low-cost energy efficiency services to small businesses in California, New York, Washington State, and Wisconsin, leveraging the Trust’s National Main Street Center network of communities focused on preservation-based economic revitalization. And Southface Energy Institute will help develop simple, affordable energy efficiency evaluation and upgrade tools that meet or exceed the Architecture 2030 Challenge targets, including a 50% energy improvement in new construction and a 20% energy improvement from upgrades to existing buildings. The institute will also partner with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Georgia Tech to develop training materials that will help local contractors to conduct energy audits for about 240 small buildings in the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area.

In the United States, the commercial building sector, of which more than 90% are small buildings, consumes about 20% of all U.S. energy. According to studies by NREL and the Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, small buildings have tremendous potential to save energy and improve their bottom lines. See the Energy Department's press release.