Is Greening an Existing Building Worth It?
Greening an existing building is profitable for several reasons. Whether you have a multi-unit complex of 250 apartments or a 100,000 square foot commercial office building-you can make changes that will significantly decrease your monthly operational expenses. Significantly. Not 5%, not 10%, more like 40-70%.
The beauty of incorporating green into your buildings is that the small changes have major impact and then, major savings. When I first began in the business and 'greened' my first few homes, I saved them money but it pales in comparison to what we do with a big project.
1. Most commercial properties are more than 5 years old. Thus their irrigation systems and equipment is not the latest in energy efficiency and often times is not working properly.
2. Most landscaping companies do not know much about water conservation. Their job is to make the property look nice, not worry about how much water / energy it's using. The people seeing the system on a regular bass are not landscape designers-our guys are. They also might not be qualified to give you the best recommendations on smart controllers, sprinkler-heads, etc. They typically recommend what they are comfortable working with which is not usually the best solution. We replace current systems with energy efficient products such as MP sprinkler heads and Solar Synch controllers made by Hunter
3. No clear-cut project manager exists for green efforts. Most properties have 1 company doing the water, 1 handles the electric, 1 handles the HVAC, 1 does the landscaping, 1 does the plumbing fixtures, etc, etc. There is typically not 1 team that audits the entire property as a system. That is why when we come in we're able to discover significant cost savings. We look at everything.
4. Most property owners / managers have little experience navigating through the myriad rebates and incentives programs available. Thus, they pay full price for a toilet instead of getting a low flow unit that has a 90% rebate attached to it. There are plenty of rebates available all over the country, not just California. Believe me, understanding and utilizing the full extent of the rebates available is almost a full-time job.
Let's go through a quick example to illustrate the savings. Assume we have a 250-unit condo complex and the water and sewer bills are $ 30k per year for just the landscaping. After auditing we replace some ventilation equipment, replace fixtures in common area bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. Even though the ventilation system is 15 years old we find energy efficient equipment that will cut the water usage by 65%. The materials for all of the improvements cost $ 10k. The rebate for all of the equipment comes to $ 9500. For example, SDGE offers more than 157 rebates for businesses. The labor cost is $ 5000.
Here's the breakdown: Total cost for improvements (including labor) – $ 15,000. Total rebates- $ 9500. Total net cost- $ 5500. Net Cost savings in Year 1- $ 14,000 (65% of 30k is cost savings, then subtract net cost). Total savings end of Year 2- $ 33,500. Total savings end of Year 3- $ 53,000
So, again, right now it makes sense to green a commercial building. If / when the rebates go away, it might be less of a big opportunity but right now it's a slam-dunk.