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Building Optimization for a Greener Future: Navigating Energy Codes

Updated: Apr 15

With the evolution of energy codes and emergency of emissions regulation, energy consumption requirements are becoming more and more strict over time. Many of which have goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the conversion to all electric systems by no longer using any fossil fuels. For the city of Boston, the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) Phase 3 was officially adopted on December 20th, 2023. BERDO’s emission standards for large buildings, buildings that are 20 thousand square feet or more and residential buildings that have 15 or more units, will require their emissions to decrease over time with the expectation that all buildings will reach net-zero emissions by the year 2050. Figure 1 below shows the projected decline in emissions based on the type of building, with Multifamily being the first and industrial being the last to reach net zero emissions.



Figure 1: Emissions Standards by Building Use

Figure 1: Emissions Standards by Building Use.


The Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance (BEUDO) is another ordinance that is used in Cambridge, MA and was enacted on July 28th, 2014. BEUDO is a similar ordinance to BERDO where it aims to reduce Cambridge’s greenhouse gas emissions. This ordinance requires owners of large buildings to report their energy usage to the city annually, like BERDO. However, the key difference between BEUDO and BERDO is that BEUDO is requiring all large non-residential buildings to achieve net zero emissions by 2035. This is significant because large buildings in Cambridge will need to reach this goal 15 years earlier than the large buildings in Boston. As for small non-residential buildings, BUEDO will require them to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Figure 2 below shows the penalties based on the type and square footage of the buildings that do not meet the BEUDO schedule.  



Figure 2: Failed Emission Reduction Fees (City of Cambridge)

Figure 2: Failed Emission Reduction Fees (City of Cambridge)


New York City’s Local Law 97 is another ordinance similar to BERDO and BEUDO aspiring to have most buildings over 25,000 square feet to reach net zero emissions by the year 2050 and to have emissions be reduced by 40% by 2030. Figure 3 shows the Local Law 97 maximum allowed emissions for each type of building over time.

 


Figure 3: Building Type Emission Limits Over Time (Urban Green Council)

Figure 3: Building Type Emission Limits Over Time (Urban Green Council)


To comply with these ambitious reduction goals, there are many different paths to compliance that building owners can choose from. Though in the end, significant investment into a building’s infrastructure will be required. However, this does not necessarily require the replacement of all building infrastructure right away. Through various methods of building optimization, such as RCx and existing service upgrades, that will need to be implemented to allow buildings to properly reduce their emissions. Instead of just tearing out existing HVAC equipment and making large renovations, building optimization can be an extremely useful tool for many building owners. Retro commissioning can be used to assure that existing buildings are functioning properly and getting adequate ventilation air, CO2 control, and humidification. RCx can provide an investigation into the buildings’ HVAC systems where they can be tested to assure their functionality. Making sure that the existing systems are working effectively and efficiently can improve indoor air quality as well as reduce emissions.

Retro commissioning should be one of the first steps considered when looking to optimize the performance of a building. Some of the benefits of RCx are better temperature control, indoor air quality, and life span of equipment. Through RCx, the performance of a building’s HVAC systems may be improved. This would allow for the systems to meet their designed air change rates, temperature, and humidity setpoints. For applications in a healthcare or laboratory setting this could be extremely beneficial since there are strict requirements on ventilation, temperature, and humidity based on the use of the space. Over time, the building’s HVAC systems may no longer be able to meet the requirements they were designed for but though RCx it is possible to make minor adjustments to meet these requirements again rather than tearing out and replacing the systems. Even if the systems are working correctly, retro commissioning could improve their efficiencies allowing a reduction in energy costs. In many applications, HVAC equipment may need to run continuously or cycle frequently to meet certain design requirements. This will cause the equipment to wear out a lot sooner. Retro commissioning can allow for these systems efficiencies to improve, increasing the lifespan of the equipment and cost savings instead of prematurely buying a replacement. Doing this may also allow your building to meet the new BERDO, BEUDO, and Local Law 97 emission and energy regulations.  

 

Without a doubt, one of the most appealing aspects to retro commissioning and building optimization is that it allows for costly energy savings. On average, optimizing your building will lead to 10% energy savings. However, the energy savings are not limited to 10%, it all depends on what improvements to the buildings’ current systems can be made. Overall, retro commissioning for building optimization can lead to increases in efficiency and better functioning equipment and systems. It can also reduce energy costs as well as emissions which will be necessary for buildings to meet new codes such as BERDO, BEUDO, and Local Law 97.   

 

Like most things, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection equipment have expected life spans, and their performance will degrade over time. When inefficiencies in performance rise, energy consumption and operating costs increase as well.  Retro commissioning (RCx) for building optimization is often the best solution when it comes to making cost effective upgrades while meeting occupant satisfaction and newer building codes. Many new energy codes and emission regulations are being established, all in the attempt to have net zero emissions in the near future. RCx is also important to ensure that your building’s systems are working correctly and efficiently and on average has proven to yield 10% in energy savings.  


Keep an eye out for our upcoming guide which dives deeper into when retro-commissioning should be considered, breaks down the process, outlines the anticipated outcomes, and explains the benefits.


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Written By:


Trevor Doolan

Trevor Doolan

Mechanical Designer

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