By: Klint Finley
Riding your bike to work is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. But how green is the place you ride your bike to?
Buildings use an enormous amount of energy. According to a Department of Energy report, they accounted for 39 percent of primary energy consumption in the U.S. in 2010. Commercial buildings, such as office and retail space, used about 46 percent of that, for a total of about 19 percent overall.
The top three uses of all that energy are lighting, heating, and cooling. Much of this is wasted on running air conditioning in empty rooms, or heating spaces with old windows and bad insulation. California’s Title 24 energy efficiency regulations, all new non-residential buildings and some remodeled buildings will be required to meet certain standards, and many states are following suit with similar laws. But this still leaves millions of older buildings squandering power heating empty conference rooms with drafty windows.
The irony is that investments in energy efficiency should pay for themselves in the long run by slashing utility bills. But the up-front costs are often a barrier, says Jesse Foote, an analyst at Navigant Research. “A building manager might not be able to lay out capital for those sorts of upgrades, even if it has a fairly good payback period,” he says. “They might be capital constrained, or there might be rules about how money can be spent, or there might not be someone willing to stick their necks out and do it.”
Joe Costello, the CEO of a startup called Enlighted, puts it more bluntly. “Facilities and real-estate people are the last on the budget,” he says. “They only get money when something breaks.” But Enlighted wants to fix this problem.