Staging Building Energy Retrofits

Open Access
Dahlhausen, Matthew Galen
Graduate Program:
Architectural Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
January 24, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jelena Srebric, Thesis Advisor
  • building energy retrofit
  • energy efficiency measure
  • staging
  • measure package
  • simple payback
  • energy simulation
A significant portion of energy consumption use globally is from providing energy services in buildings. Retrofitting commercial buildings to use significantly less energy is an essential strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve energy supplies. The building energy efficiency market has significantly expanded in recent years and many facility managers and building owners are installing energy efficiency measures to reduce energy use in their buildings. This is primarily driven by a desire to save on energy costs, and energy efficiency measures are subject to a short investment payback period of 3-5 years. As a result, priority is given to the easiest, most reliable, and highest payback measures - lighting, building controls, and HVAC system replacements. As energy conservation goals become more stringent and easy measures are exhausted, professional experience is brought in, usually in the form of an energy audit, to determine further measures. A new set of benchmarking tools and building energy simulation tools have been developed to fill the need for measure identification, especially for smaller commercial buildings that cannot afford the full expense of a professional energy audit. Energy benchmarking and audit tools recommend measures for a building from a statistical comparison of end-use energy consumption to the energy use of a set of similar buildings, recommending measures with the best payback. While this approach allows for rigorous comparison and ranking in relation to the current building stock, it does not consider the technically achievable potential of a building that may be important in the long term given significant societal efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and conserve energy resources for higher-value use by future generations. This work quantifies the impact of alternately ordering energy efficiency measures on total energy cost, consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. This is done by comparing a decision strategy for energy retrofits where best-payback options are installed first to a decision strategy that sets a clear future target for energy savings and back-casts to determine which measures to take. The nature of decision-making for long term energy efficiency is complex, as technological, policy, and energy futures are highly uncertain and interdependent. Such an analysis is needed to avoid current retrofit decisions that may seriously inhibit or preclude future energy savings measures, compromising our societal ability to respond to climate change.