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Building Systems Upgrades

Follow these sustainable strategies as your space undergoes a building system upgrade to improve energy or water use and occupant comfort. Federal projects should meet or exceed the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings. Refer to the Apply Section of SFTool for representative project case studies to discover key practices, benefits, results and checklists.

For sustainable strategies specific to non-office workspaces, such as cafeterias and labs, refer to the Explore Section.

Need more ideas? Use our tool to identify potential upgrades and energy conservation measures.

When considering upgrading building systems, such as lighting, HVAC, or plumbing, calculating cost savings associated with different products can help you make the best choice. The Department of Energy’s Cost Savings Calculatoropens in new window compares products based on relevant specifications and compares the savings to both the Federal Energy Management Programopens in new window (FEMP) baseline and top-of-the-line models.

Also consider predictive maintenance technologies, an emerging systems upgrade. Read about some of the most useful types, such as thermography and ultrasonic analysis, in the Operations and Maintenance Guideopens in new window released by DoE.

  • Enable optimized performance, energy efficiency and improved decision-making for O&M activities
    • Define submetering objectives and how the data generated will be used to meet those objectives
    • Focus submeters on targeted or high-use consumption areas, such as chiller plants, renewable energy systems, and detailed plug-load levels
    • Evaluate metered data to recognize system inefficiencies and energy anomalies
  • Ensure metered data supports verification of utility accuracy, accurate allocation of energy costs, and identification of energy-consuming loads
    • Select revenue grade electric meters with web integration functionality
    • Integrate submeters with building automation system
    • Consolidate and standardize data in one place or platform
    • Reconcile front-end metering and monitoring system with manual readings
  • Enable the effective and reliable operation of submetering systems
    • Size submetering equipment based on actual design loads instead of switch gear outputs
    • Ensure supplemental submetering added to existing buildings systems is brand compatible with existing equipment and network platforms
    • Tailor submetering information and feedback mechanisms to intended users, focusing on breakdown of resource use and historical data
    • Ensure that building managers, system operators and vendors/contractors are trained and up to date on building technologies and cost-effective meter and invertor maintenance
    • Conduct continuous performance evaluations
  • Enable metered data to influence occupant energy- and water-use behavior
    • Educate occupants about systems, controls, and energy and water savings strategies
    • Provide feedback to occupants on energy and water use through the use of a dashboard or other display methods
    • Document energy reduction efforts
Mechanical (HVAC and HVAC Controls)
  • Design HVAC systems, including after reconfiguration and renovation, according to the most current version of ASHRAE Standard 62.1 “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality”
  • Locate outdoor air intakes away from pollutant sources, such as exhaust vents and idling vehicles
  • Design for, and install, filtration media with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of 13
  • Install CO2 sensors in densely populated areas to monitor ventilation rates
  • Consider high-efficiency water fountains, with a wider range of acceptable temperature
  • Incorporate taps into the design to make them user friendly
Acoustic Systems
  • Reinforce acoustically quiet areas with appropriate visual cues such as opaque walls or signage


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