Small and Medium-Sized Office Buildings

While city skylines tend to be dominated by tall skyscrapers and large office buildings, those don’t reflect the vast majority of buildings across America. In fact, almost 94% of the U.S. commercial building stock consists of properties under 50,000 square feet. And while the average commercial building wastes 30% of the energy it consumes — representing a prime opportunity to invest in cost-cutting energy-efficient measures — it’s often the case that owners and operators of these smaller properties have limited time and resources to dedicate to these efforts. 

The information and resources below were designed to help owners and operators of small- and medium-sized office buildings capitalize on the benefits of energy efficiency, by implementing cost-effective solutions and maximizing the return on investment through a streamlined approach. 

Why should you seek to improve your office building’s energy efficiency?

By taking measures to improve the energy efficiency of programs and operations in your buildings, you can:

  • Increase tenant attraction and retention rates. Aside from financial savings, tenants of sustainable office buildings can potentially benefit from opportunities to improve organizational branding, community relations, and employee health and comfort. For example, high performing, energy-efficient buildings are more likely to have improved indoor air quality, temperature management, and occupant comfort than their peers.

  • Reduce energy-related costs and generate savings. Reduced energy consumption can lead to increased savings on utility expenses. By implementing low- or no-cost measures, owners and managers can reduce the energy consumption of their buildings by up to 30%, considerably increasing energy-related savings.

  • Contribute to a cleaner, healthier community. Buildings are responsible for 18% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions are derived from the burning of fossil fuels to provide heating, cooling, and power to commercial buildings. By reducing your building’s environmental impact, you can help support local sustainability efforts and a healthy environment in your community.

  • Prepare for upcoming energy reporting laws and regulations in your locality. Many cities and states across the U.S. are implementing mandatory energy benchmarking and reporting ordinances for commercial buildings as small as 20,000 square feet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet local sustainability goals. Some jurisdictions also require buildings to achieve a specified level of energy performance, or they are subject to mandatory energy efficiency improvements. Learn more about building performance standards.

Ready to enhance the value of your office building and help the environment along the way? ENERGY STAR has the tools and resources to help you get started today.

Resources to get started with benchmarking in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

The first step toward improving the efficiency of your building and reducing associated energy expenses is to track your building’s energy performance using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, EPA’s free energy measurement and tracking tool. In doing so, you will be able measure and analyze performance and cost data, compare your building’s performance to others in your portfolio and similar buildings nationwide, and set baselines and efficiency goals to inform your energy management plan.  As you become familiar with the tracking tool, you can also explore other the features that allow you to track waste and water consumption, as well.

Low- and no-cost energy management guidelines

Industry Best Practices

Many of the most effective energy efficiency measures for small- and medium-sized office spaces can be implemented at little or no cost to building owners and tenants. Many relate to improving the building’s operations and maintenance (O&M) processes, such as by ensuring HVAC equipment is clean and running properly, and scheduling it to turn down during off hours. Others are quick fixes based on behavioral changes among office employees, such as reducing lighting and electricity usage.  Check out these industry best practices (PDF, 169 KB) to help kick-start your energy management efforts.

Energy Treasure Hunt for Office Buildings

A great way to find hidden energy savings in your office building is to conduct an Energy Treasure Hunt. During an Energy Treasure Hunt, individuals or teams walk around a building looking for low- and no-cost ways to save energy. This organized approach offers a way to identify and document quick fixes that can all add up to big savings. Hundreds of organizations have used Energy Treasure Hunts to reduce their facilities’ energy use by up to 15 percent. Check out EPA's ENERGY STAR’s Treasure Hunt resources to start planning your energy Treasure Hunt, and the Treasure Map for Office Buildings (PDF, 200 KB) that can be used as a roadmap for identifying key improvements.

Leverage incentives and experts

Before you begin to implement energy efficiency measures, there are a few key considerations that can help you maximize the impact of improvements and achieve the greatest financial return on your investments. Local utilities and energy programs in your area may offer incentives for implementing efficiency projects. For example, many utilities around the country offer incentives and discounts to purchase and install energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs or linear tubes, which already have significant impacts on reducing energy consumption, and can provide a quick return on investment through lower electric bills.

If you’re interested in outside help or want to bring in an expert with experience in this area, there are numerous Service and Product Providers that offer technical assistance and financing options. Some may also offer incentives such as free or discounted energy audits, to help you improve the energy efficiency of your building. ENERGY STAR maintains a convenient search tool that allows anyone to find an ENERGY STAR Service and Product Provider in their area.

For more information on how to locate incentives and how to engage with service providers, check out these guidelines for leveraging experts and incentives (PDF, 152 KB).

Marketing, leasing, and tenant engagement guidance

Many tenants of sustainable office buildings report lower utility costs and improved employee health and comfort levels. These positive factors can lead to increased tenant retention and assist in attracting future tenants with similar needs and values. However, it can be challenging to effectively communicate the value of sustainable office spaces to prospective tenants if they are not already familiar with these benefits. Use these these leasing and marketing (PDF, 169 KB) to promote your efficient office building, attract new building tenants, and increase retention rates.

Additional resources for office building owners, operators, and tenants

Through ENERGY STAR, EPA has a variety of additional tools and resources specifically designed to help small-to-medium sized office building owners and their tenants with small businesses save money on utility costs and reduce their impact on the environment.