Over the past three years, Southface has conducted research on the small commercial building sector through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Advanced Commercial Building Initiative (ACBI) aims to demystify building systems and remove barriers to resource efficiency.
The small commercial sector (buildings less than 50,000 sq. ft.) has long been a void in the realm of resource-efficient buildings. Yet, it’s estimated they make up 90 percent of all commercial buildings and 60 percent of all commercial floor space. Southface, in partnership with the City of Atlanta, Georgia Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the New Buildings Institute has been working to fill this void and help this sector of the market realize the benefits of resource-efficiency and healthy indoor environments.
Small commercial building operators often lack the staff, time, resources or knowledge to properly analyze and improve the performance of their buildings’ systems, such as lighting, HVAC, envelope and plumbing. In response, Southface has developed powerful resources, including webinars, fact sheets and calculators to identify improvements and work with contractors to get them installed.
ACBI resources include both simple recommendations and more complex prescriptive processes. For example, working with a nonprofit partner we were able to help them achieve a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption by installing and programming web-enabled thermostats. We have also developed building-type specific recommendations for fire stations and recreation centers.
The EarthCraft Light Commercial certification program, designed for small commercial buildings in the Southeast, has developed the Deep Energy Package, which helps projects achieve performance 30 percent better than code compliance. The prescriptive design and operations recommendations take the guess work out of the process.