Planning for Building Energy Costs

For many of our new building projects, Owners ask about the expected energy costs of the proposed building so that they can financially plan for those costs. Benchmarking against the industry averages is a good first step. The table below, by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), outlines the expected energy costs for code-compliant buildings of various occupancy types.

Table 1: Energy Cost Index (ECI) and Energy Cost Savings of Code Compliant Buildings

For existing building energy costs, the table below outlines the Energy Cost Indices (ECI) for several building types based on the CBECS 2012 existing building survey.

Table 2: Energy Cost Index (ECI) of Various Existing Building Types

It is important to realize that there is a wide variation of costs based on many factors like building type, location, age, maintenance, occupancy use, etc. A large, all-electric, high-performing office building (Energy Star score of 95 out of 100) in Atlanta costs approximately $2 per square foot, per year. Typically, larger office buildings use more energy and buildings with electric heat cost more than buildings utilizing natural gas. Therefore, to get a more accurate estimate of energy costs, we recommend performing an energy model early in the design and is updating the model throughout the design phase. The early phase energy model also evaluates system alternatives and different energy conservation measures (ECMs), so the Owner can make educated decisions as to where to spend project dollars.

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