Energy efficiency basics
If you’re serious about making your buildings as energy efficient as possible, you need to know some basics. The concepts described below are important to understand and adopt in order to maximize the energy performance in your building.
- What energy efficiency is
- How it applies to the phases of your building’s life cycle
- How to train your employees to be energy efficient
- How to retro-commission and recommission your building
This page delivers that information in a concise format with links to many more sources of information.
Combine energy efficiency with energy conservation
The terms "energy conservation" and "energy efficiency" are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing:
- Energy conservation is when you take an action such as turning down a thermostat several degrees. You'll use less energy, but you might be cold.
- Energy efficiency is when you take an action such as installing a more energy-efficient heater and better insulation. Using the same amount of energy, you can set your thermostat quite a bit higher.
Building owners and managers who are committed to lowering their energy and water consumption will get the best results by combining both approaches. Install a more energy-efficient heater and better insulation, and turn your thermostat down a few degrees. You’ll still be comfortable, but you will be using less energy.
Commit to an integrated design process for new buildings
Integrated design brings together all the parties in a building’s design and operation to create a new, high-performance building or undertake a major renovation. It is a collaborative process that:
- Focuses on the design, construction, operation and occupancy of a building over its complete life cycle
- Allows the building owner and key stakeholders to develop and realize their challenging functional, environmental and economic goals and objectives
- Starts with whole-building system strategies and works through increasing levels of specificity to realize truly integrated solutions
When you commit to an integrated design process, you are making an investment that benefits generations today and tomorrow.
Lower your building’s energy use over its life cycle
Energy is consumed at every stage of a building's life cycle – from design and planning through to operations, deconstruction and decommissioning. Good energy management involves lowering energy use during all phases.
This is when you begin to evaluate your energy efficiency options. An integrated design process ensures that all stakeholders involved are working toward energy efficiency from the start.
Evidence shows that high-quality construction lessens the future maintenance of a building. Also, investing early in energy efficiency is less expensive in the long run.
Most buildings have a life span of 50 to 70 years or more, so it makes sense to use energy-efficient materials, systems and equipment from the start.
The commissioning process involves:
- Careful checking to ensure that all building systems work together as they should
- Training to ensure that operations staff know how to use all equipment
- Planning for the next commissioning process to ensure that efficient operations are maintained throughout the building’s life
Read about how to commission your building to ensure that its systems are working as they should.
4. Operations and maintenance
Most of the energy your building consumes will be used during this phase. Therefore, it is important even if your building was not originally built to a high-efficiency standard.
5. Deconstruction and decommissioning
Deconstruction is a method of disassembling a building to safely and efficiently reuse and recycle materials. While windows, doors and light fixtures are routinely salvaged, deconstruction also aims to save and reuse flooring, siding, roofing, and framing where these materials have retained their value.
Energy management best practices
Energy management best practices focus on more than just investing in technological changes such as retrofits to improve energy performance. They recognize the huge impact that the culture of an organization and the behaviour of a building’s occupants have on overall energy use.
Understanding your organization's energy consumption is where you start to become more energy efficient. Energy benchmarking identifies poorly performing buildings so you know where to invest. It also:
- Provides a common platform for multiple market transformation tools (e.g. codes, programs, policies)
- Identifies poorly performing buildings for targeted investment
- Demonstrates a building owner's environmental commitment
- Enables verifiable claims about the increased market value of energy-efficient green buildings
- Establishes a standard, national system managed by a third party to measure energy use improvements
Take advantage of the savings that energy benchmarking has to offer by benchmarking your energy data with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Visit our Energy benchmarking page or access ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager directly.
Energy management training
Energy management training is an essential element in your energy management toolbox. Effective training programs pay for themselves many times over through annual energy savings between 4 and 20 percent.Footnote 1
Commissioning, recommissioning and retro-commissioning
Commissioning and recommissioning are key to optimizing your building's overall energy performance by ensuring that your building is operating as intended and designed. Commissioning generally applies to new buildings, while recommissioning and retro-commissioning are processes you can use on existing buildings.
After a commissioning or recommissioning project, ongoing commissioning can make sure that a building continues to work optimally. It prevents a building's electromechanical systems from degrading and maintains the benefits of commissioning and recommissioning.
More information about commissioning, recommissioning and deconstruction
- ecoENERGY Efficiency for Buildings: Building Commissioning and Recommissioning, NRCan (2012)
- What is Commissioning of Existing Buildings?, NRCan (2011)
- Building Recommissioning for Commercial and Institutional Buildings Opportunities for Owners and Property Investors, NRCan (2011)
- Commissioning Guide for New Buildings, NRCan (2010)
- DABO™ A Fault Detection and Diagnosis Software Application
- Dollars to $ense Energy Management Workshops
- Advanced Building Recomissioning Course, CanmetENERGY, NRCan
- Recommissioning Pre-Screening Tool, CanmetENERGY, NRCan
- New Construction Building Commissioning Best Practice, Building Commissioning Association (2011)
- Z320-11 – Building Commissioning Standard & Check Sheets, Canadian Standards Association (2011)
- Best Practices in Commissioning Existing Construction, Building Commissioning Association
- Canada Green Building Council
- Building Commissioning Association
More information about integrated design
- Integrated Design Process Guide, Canada Mortgaging and Housing Corporation
- Integrated Design Process: Manitoba Hydro Place - A Climate Responsive Design Model,
Tools and reading for building design
- Canada’s energy code calls for buildings to be built to a high energy performance standard.
- Natural Resources Canada's (NRCan) CAN-QUEST energy modelling software is a free application that can help you design an energy-efficient building and make sure your design complies with the latest energy code.
- Canada Green Building Council's Experienced Modellers List
Tools and reading for building construction
- Canada's energy code
- Commissioning for new buildings ensures that your building’s systems are operating as they should.
- Canada Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system
- ASHRAE Standard 189.1 (Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings)
Tools and reading for operations and maintenance
- Energy management best practices
- Energy management training is an opportunity you can't afford to miss.
- The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool will help you to monitor and track your energy performance.
- Recommissioning your building re-optimizes your building's energy performance to for better comfort and energy savings.
- Recommissioning Guide for Building Owners and Managers
- Retrofitting your building substantially improves its infrastructure to increase energy efficiency, comfort, safety, health and durability.
- Canada Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system
- Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada's BOMA BEST building certification program
Tools and reading for deconstruction and decommissioning
- Deconstruction of buildings and their related parts provides minimum requirements for processes and procedures connected with the deconstruction of buildings, Canadian Standards Association (2012).
- The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, Preservation Green Lab, National Trust for Historic Preservation (2011)
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