When thinking about a new project and its energy systems, ROI is of utmost concern. But even with the best systems, a leaky envelope can run bills higher than necessary since it will take more energy to heat, cool, and light the building. As designers and developers of multi-family and commercial projects, you are well aligned to take advantage of improving ROI and delivering occupant comfort by focusing on these measures before selecting energy consuming systems.

1. Insulation
Have you ever experienced a draft indoors when all the windows and doors were closed? This is often due to faulty insulation installation. If properly installed, insulation is intended to deliver added occupant comfort and up to 15% in energy savings by preventing heat flow from conduction, convection, and radiation – both solid selling points to owners and renters. Typical insulation focuses on slowing conductive heat flow, while under roof radiant barriers and reflective insulation products reduce radiant heat gain. In climates with significant heating or cooling periods, the best practice is to wrap the building with continuous rigid foam insulation (roof to foundation), completely reducing thermal bridging from the exterior to interior spaces. How can you ensure proper installation? Third-party Quality Insulation Installation (QII) can be completed by a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater and can help guide construction teams to better installation practices.

2. Cooler Roof
Now that we’ve got our building all wrapped up, let’s talk about protecting the area that’s 100% exposed to weather – the roof. While a standard dark roof can reach temperatures of 150∞F or more, a cool roof membrane with high reflectance under the same conditions could stay more than 50∞F cooler, needing less air-conditioning and saving both energy and money. Some roof tile and shingle products also have cool roof ratings to provide extra thermal protection. Furthermore, a decrease in roof temperature essentially means an extension in roof life and fewer potential repairs.

3. Fenestration
Since day lighting is such an important factor in indoor environmental quality, let’s talk about windows. Fenestration impacts building energy use through thermal heat transfer, solar heat gain, visible transmittance, and air leakage. Good windows will reduce the need for electric lighting by letting light in and reduce the need for air conditioning by reducing heat gain. When selecting windows, look for favorable (lower) solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) values and a high visible transmittance (VT). Keep in mind that quality dual pane windows with overhangs or shading devices deliver better comfort and performance results.

4. Green Icing
Finally, with growing trends and consumer awareness, the biggest return on investment is having a full house. When you choose to certify your project through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Point Rated (GPR), National Green Building Standard (NGBS), etc., you not only build or renovate a building that will consume less water and energy and will have better indoor quality, you will have the opportunity to market these features to attract tenants.

In a survey titled “Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth,” McGraw Hill Construction reported that more and more tenants are understanding the benefits of a green space, and with that, lease-up rates for green buildings are typically 20% above average. The survey also said that green building owners identified improved ROI on average of 19.2% for existing buildings and 9.9% for new construction while building values increased by 10.9% for new construction and 6.8% for existing building projects. As we fast forward to 2018, our experience at VCA Green is that these numbers are continuing to climb upward.

– Article by Barbara Gonzalez, Project Manager, VCA Green