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Building Systems Upgrades

The following are sustainable strategies to consider as your space undergoes a building system upgrade to improve energy or water use and occupant comfort. For Federal facilities, these strategies can also help your building become aligned with or meet the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings. Refer to the Apply Section of SFTool for a representative project case study to discover key practices, benefits, results and checklists.

Need more ideas? Explore the Cost-Effective Upgrades 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.

Sustainable Strategies

Lighting and Lighting Controls
HVAC & HVAC Controls
  • Maintain acceptable temperature and relative humidity
  • Enable occupant control of ambient conditions in their workspace through individual or zone control of ventilation and temperatures
  • Educate occupants when new controls are provided
  • Consider using wireless thermostats for variable air volume (VAV) boxes allowing them to be easily relocated and managed remotely
  • Provide feedback to occupants on energy use through the use of a dashboard or other display methods
  • Retrofit existing cooling systems to run on environmentally friendly refrigerants
Acoustic Systems
  • Use Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) environmental and energy guidelines for product and service purchases
  • Incorporate a blend of design, treatments, and behavioral programming to address acoustic issues systematically
  • Improve acoustical quality through the minimization and isolation of noise levels and vibration relative to the space use to ensure speech intelligibility in conference rooms and speech privacy for offices
  • Provide modular or removable panel extensions to workstations that can be used when more privacy is needed
  • Insure the installation of sound-rated walls and insulation meets end user privacy requirements
  • Install acoustical ceiling tiles with higher noise reduction coefficienct (NRC) in the open office areas
  • Implement sound control strategies and properly tuned sound masking systems
  • Use carpet and sound absorbing materials to dampen sound
  • Reinforce acoustically quiet areas with appropriate visual cues such as opaque walls or signage.


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