Many energy efficiency upgrade decisions are based on a simple calculation of how much money can be saved for every dollar spent on improving the energy efficiency of a building, but that’s just the starting point. Weighing whether or not there’s an increase in overall value for a property and considering what will happen to the property value and structure’s viability if nothing gets upgraded also needs to be carefully considered.

There are also downstream effects of doing nothing more than replacing no-longer-functioning systems with what’s already there, without upgrading to more energy efficient alternatives. With an estimated $21 billion being spent on building retrofits to meet carbon goals through 2030, there’s an opportunity for knowledgeable contractors to best serve building owners by becoming experts in energy efficient solutions and strategies for cost-effective performance.

Navigate the cost and value of energy efficient upgrades.

For building owners, the benefit of green improvements can be measured in many ways. Lower annual utility bills, lower maintenance costs of older systems, lower carbon emissions, and an increase in rents and property value are just some of the ways owners can justify the investment of upgrading an older commercial building or multifamily building. With green improvements, office space rents rise 3 to 33 percent and multifamily rents are 4 to 40 percent higher, according to LaSalle Investment Management.

While sustainable improvements often involve reusing the carbon-footprint-intensive building envelope and foundation, the building systems are rarely kept as-is during an energy upgrade. Still, upgrading HVAC, electrical, plumbing, windows, and lighting can carve out a huge chunk of a budget, and there are ways to help reduce the overall cost burden so that your clients can afford the upgrades the building needs. For example, local energy providers like National Grid are invested in helping their clients reduce their overall energy use to reduce the load on the grid and make renewable energy sources more viable to more customers.

As a customer of National Grid, commercial retrofits benefit from their Retrofit Program’s energy experts who help perform inspections of existing equipment to replace aging systems, and help with incentives, technical assistance beneficial energy efficient technologies.

Decisions made during the design and planning is essential.

Not all buildings are ideal candidates for all types of energy efficient retrofits. Depending on the age, property type, and architecture, some existing buildings may require more extensive investigation before determining the best energy efficient upgrade plan. As anyone who works on older buildings knows there is a lot that can be hidden inside the walls, and it often takes time to assess what’s best for the structure and the owner’s investment.

It’s important to include energy efficiency as part of the initial design meetings, so there’s not only room in the budget for upgrading building systems and details like air sealing, high-performing insulation, and smart thermostats, but that there is also room within the structure and schedule to investigate possibilities and to also time to implement them.

The road to energy efficient retrofits is packed with potential.

Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. office buildings were built before 2000, and the average age of U.S. commercial buildings is 43 years. Our nation’s buildings are more-than-ready for an energy-efficient focused retrofit. According to the International Energy Agency, about 1 percent of existing buildings are retrofitted each year. It’s a rate that’s far below the needed 2.5 percent per year in order to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Building contractors who are focused on good customer service may best serve owners with a realistic cost-benefit analysis of the overall value that energy efficient upgrades offer each project. However, as more building professionals become engaged in actively retrofitting older buildings to reduce carbon emissions and meet net zero goals, it will be harder for contractors to distinguish their expertise among the field of professionals.

The best time to start offering energy efficient expertise is now, before competition becomes more common. Those who are early accomplished leaders usually benefit as a reliable and trusted partner, earning a steady stream of referrals.

To learn more about energy efficient upgrades for retrofits, visit