Recap of the Congressional briefing – Reinventing existing buildings: the path to increasing energy productivity – September 17th 2015, Hart Senate Office Building with ADBC members Lockheed Martin and Danfoss.
The US needs to double its energy productivity and efficiency by the year 2030, which will not only bring with it environmental benefits, but also save approximately $371 billion and create approximately 2 million new jobs through the next 15 years. The answer partly lies in redoing the infrastructure of existing buildings, be it private or corporate. President of the Alliance to Save Energy Kateri Callahan opened the congressional briefing on reinventing existing buildings with these opening remarks. Not only one, but two members of the American-Danish Business Council were represented on panels at the briefing; Lockeed Martin, who was also one of the main sponsors, and Danfoss. Both companies had speakers focusing on different aspects of the briefings agenda.
John Gaylen, President of Danfoss North America, was one of the prominent speakers on the subject of Reinventing Existing Buildings through Technological Innovation and Integration. Mr. Gaylen started by telling the audience how Danfoss strives to achieve energy efficiency in buildings and sees a potential of reaching energy efficiency in 99% of existing corporate buildings. In his opinion most buildings are suited for reinventing, but there are four key factors, which are either obstructing or complicating the process. Overall it comes down to a combination of policy and marketing efforts. Mr. Gaylen pointed out that the first hurdle lies in the standards which need to be set by the different regions throughout the US. The more environmentally progressive states have very high ambitions about increasing energy efficiency in all types of buildings, but the regulatory standards and barriers are difficult to streamline for nationwide energy efficiency. The second issue is that in the US the infrastructure in buildings has to be modernized in a very extensive way, as much of it is old and not well adapted for reinvention. The above is, in most cases, doable. However it brought John Gaylen to the third and fourth hurdle – incentive. Most companies and private consumers have no knowledge of their energy consumption and even less about how their buildings could be more efficient. With this lack of knowledge, the incentive to invest in more energy efficient solutions drastically decreases. To sum up Mr. Gaylen’s direct advice and solution to energy efficiency, therefore, lies in creating innovative solutions to reinvent existing infrastructure systems, to make them more energy efficient with a minimum of alterations. Furthermore, marketing of savings, benefits and costs of current energy use should be prioritised in order to create incentive to invest in new, more energy efficient systems.
Cathy Snyder, Vice President of Lockeed Martin Washington Operations, spoke on the topic of Reinventing Existing Buildings through Innovative Financing. The issue, in regard to financing of new technology designed to save energy in existing buildings, is that owners/buyers of buildings seldom keep the buildings for more than five years before selling. If a company were to invest in a more energy efficient solution this investment would most likely not be paid off within this period of time. Therefore the round table addressed different ideas of financing energy efficient solutions. Overall it was discussed how best to transfer the benefits and costs of reinventing buildings: a deduction or set off when selling/transferring the building to a new owner. Just as incentives must be made and marketed properly, financing solutions too must be clear and appealingly put forward to businesses.
To sum up, reinventing existing buildings has huge potential to meet reduction of costs, waste of energy and being climate friendly in the future. To achieve this, it is essential that innovation, regulation, financing or marketing be available and relevant. Luckily many organisations and companies are aware of the potential for existing buildings and will no doubt work tirelessly to meet the efficiency goals for 2030.