Building Tune-Ups Poised to Deliver Low-Cost Energy Savings

New Research Suggests Energy Savings Potential of 14-32% for Seattle Area

Seattle commercial buildings could cut their annual energy use by 14 to 32 percent once the City of Seattle’s new Building Tune-Ups requirement is in full effect, according to a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory study.

The new ordinance will require commercial buildings that are 50,000 square feet or larger (excluding parking) to have a tune-up every five years. To support building owners, compliance deadlines will come in phases, with the largest affected buildings (200,000 square feet or greater) being the first ones needing to comply in 2018. Buildings will also need to report every five years after their initial tune-up.

The building tune-ups that the new ordinance calls for were inspired by PNNL’s building Re-tuningTM process, which identifies and corrects operational problems that cause buildings to use more energy than necessary and cost little to nothing to fix.

For the above-mentioned study, PNNL researchers analyzed the tune-up actions that will be required for a range of building types in Seattle’s climate. Savings were estimated for three building categories: efficient buildings, buildings with typical or average energy use, and inefficient buildings. Overall energy savings ranged from 14-32%, with electricity savings between 4-20% and gas savings between 20-65%.

PNNL researchers provided technical support as the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment developed the city’s tune-up requirements. PNNL is further assisting today by being a partner in the city’s new Building Tune-Up Accelerator Program, which aims to help small to mid-sized commercial buildings jump-start their tune-ups. Additional partners in the program include the Smart Buildings Center, University of Washington Integrated Design Lab and Seattle City Light.

For the Accelerator Program, the city is recruiting up to 100 buildings with less than 100,000 square feet (excluding parking). Enrolled buildings will benefit from enhanced technical support and Seattle City Light financial incentives for a tune-up that meets the new city requirement. Funding will sunset after 2018, meaning buildings that need to comply in 2020 or 2021 should sign up soon to participate.

As part of the city’s program, PNNL staff will teach about PNNL’s building Re-TuningTM process at upcoming Accelerator trainings for service providers and facility engineers. PNNL adapted its existing Re-tuning training for small to mid-sized buildings without building automation systems to help support the market for conducting tune-ups in smaller, less complex buildings. The first training will be held June 15-16 at the Smart Buildings Center. The Accelerator Program is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.