Cutting down on energy waste within a commercial building will impact both the environment and operating costs.

The average commercial building wastes 30 percent of the energy it consumes, according to Energy Star. In addition to positively impacting the environment, investing in energy upgrades can cut operating costs and monthly utility bills, improving the building’s indoor environment. Energy efficiency upgrades can increase your building’s portfolio value—and with increasing competition among commercial tenants, it is more important than ever for building owners to offer sustainable spaces.

Because of their high-energy consumption, commercial buildings offer plenty of opportunities for energy savings, including:


Electric lighting is one of the largest consumers of energy, and is responsible for one-quarter of the energy used in commercial buildings. Retrofitting the lighting, such as changing the controls, switching to LED light bulbs and installing occupancy sensors not only saves money on your electric bill, but it also makes your building easier for employees to work in, as brighter, natural light has proven to increase productivity in the workplace.

Water Supply

Water usage in office buildings accounts for almost nine percent of total water use in commercial buildings, with the three largest culprits being restrooms, heating and cooling and landscaping. Taking steps like installing low-flow plumbing fixtures, insulating hot water piping and adding a rain sensor to irrigation systems will conserve water supply, as well as reduce your building’s carbon footprint.


With building owners spending around $40 billion on air conditioning alone, green roofs can reduce commercial building energy use by cutting down the need for cooling in the summer months. By adding a cool roof coating, insulation or solar reflectors, commercial building owners will improve occupants’ indoor comfort, lower peak electricity demand and extend roof surface life. 

Automation Improvements

Commercial buildings use Building Automation Systems to control various energy systems, lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Investing in building automation components in your building can drastically reduce energy, produce fewer CO2 emissions and offer better working conditions. 

According to the US Green Building Council, green building owners reported that they saw their ROI improve by 19.2 percent for existing building upgrades, and 9.9 percent for new projects. One local example of green improvements is PNC Plaza. Last year, they invested $3.2 million in upgrades to transform the 24-story building into a greener space. Improvements were made to the building’s roof, lighting, air controls and water supply – all of which are expected to provide 15 percent in energy cost savings per year.

The good news is that you don’t need to make a large investment to conserve energy. Begin with smaller, low-cost improvements and allocate future budget for larger upgrades. By improving different aspects of the energy operations of their buildings, both business and building owners can make a positive impact on their environment and community.

Jean Carter Ryan is the President of the Columbus-Franklin County Finance Authority, which provides long-term financing to businesses, non-profits and local governments. The Finance Authority provides loans for energy efficiency and alternative energy improvements. Since its inception in 2006, the Finance Authority has provided more than $1.4 billion in financing. The Finance Authority has also been awarded a BBB+ bond fund rating from Standard & Poor’s Rating Services.