Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings

Small Buildings

Small commercial buildings represent a massive and largely untapped opportunity for new energy savings.  A breakthrough study provides analysis and guidance on how these savings can be realized. 

A new study produced by the Preservation Green Lab, a project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, finds that an array of energy savings in small commercial buildings could profitably yield more than $30 billion in annual cost savings and improved financial performance.   Summarizing three years of PGL research into the energy performance of small commercial buildings, Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings was developed in support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national roadmap for energy efficiency in the Small Buildings and Small Portfolio (SBSP) sector. The report defines elements and recommends key actions needed to realize energy savings across seven million business establishments operating in 4.4 million small buildings nationally.

The report was produced in partnership with the New Buildings Institute and funded jointly by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.  The market analysis and characterization of the small building sector and many of the recommendations presented in the report are based on research and analysis that were conducted by PGL between 2009 and 2012.

Key research findings include:

  • Small buildings are responsible for 47 percent of the energy consumed by commercial buildings overall.
  • Small businesses or firms with fewer than 500 employees own 84 percent (3.7 million of 4.4 million total) of small buildings.
  • Potential energy savings in small buildings range from 27 to 59 percent, depending on the building type. This represents 1.07 quadrillion Btu annually or 17 percent of commercial energy use.
  • Small, neighborhood businesses such as restaurants, grocers and retailers can improve profitability by more than 10 percent through smart investments in energy savings.

Key Recommendations include:

  • Identify Waste and Measure Results: To realize the full energy saving potential of small buildings, energy policy makers must support solutions that measure, motivate and monetize real energy performance.
  • Plan for Improvement: To optimize energy efficiency in small buildings, investors must align the timing of energy saving improvements with natural opportunities in the life cycle of a building
  • Encourage Innovative New Business Models: Utilities and local energy regulators must collaborate with industry champions in
pilot projects, demonstrating how new technologies can more easily and cost effectively reach small businesses in different types of buildings.

Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings

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