Unlocking efficiency: The power of energy retro-commissioning

January 31, 2024

The commercial real estate sector is constantly evolving, with an increasing emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency. One of the most effective strategies for achieving these goals is energy retro-commissioning. This process not only aligns with environmental objectives but also enhances the operational efficiency of buildings, leading to significant cost savings and improved asset value.

Understanding energy retro-commissioning

Energy retro-commissioning is a systematic process aimed at improving an existing building's performance by identifying and implementing operational improvements to save on energy. This process can be conducted alone or in conjunction with retrofitting projects. Generally, energy savings from retro-commissioning range between 5-20%, with payback periods often within a year​​.

The process typically begins with a walk-through analysis, where an energy auditor inspects the building and interviews stakeholders to identify energy-saving opportunities​​. This is followed by a detailed energy assessment and analysis, leading to recommendations for low cost/no-cost measures like recalibrating sensors, adjusting control settings, and repairing faulty components​.

Key benefits of energy retro-commissioning

Energy retro-commissioning is a forward-thinking approach that yields numerous benefits for commercial real estate properties. Here are some of the key advantages:

Reduced energy expenses

One of the primary benefits of energy retro-commissioning is the significant reduction in energy costs. By addressing inefficiencies and ensuring systems operate as intended, retro-commissioning can lead to energy cost reductions by up to 30%​​. This reduction is vital in today's energy-conscious world, where operational costs are a major concern for building owners and managers.

Increased property value

Buildings that operate efficiently are more attractive in the real estate market. Energy retro-commissioning enhances a building’s economic value by making it more appealing to potential buyers or tenants who prioritize sustainability and low operational costs. This increase in property value is a compelling reason for investing in energy retro-commissioning.

Environmental responsibility

Energy retro-commissioning demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship. By reducing a building's energy consumption and carbon footprint, it aligns with broader goals of environmental sustainability. This commitment is not only beneficial for the planet but also enhances the brand value of a company, as more customers and clients seek out environmentally responsible businesses.

Enhanced tenant comfort and productivity

Improved building conditions as a result of energy retro-commissioning lead to increased comfort for occupants. This, in turn, can result in higher productivity and better health. Efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation systems contribute to a more comfortable work environment, which is crucial for tenant satisfaction and retention in the commercial real estate setting.

Legal compliance

In many regions, legal regulations mandate energy audits and retro-comissioning for commercial buildings. For example, NYC's Local Law 87 requires periodic energy audits and retro-commissioning for buildings of certain sizes​​. Compliance with these regulations not only avoids potential legal penalties but also ensures buildings are up-to-date with the latest energy standards.

Addressing challenges in energy retro-commissioning

Addressing challenges in energy retro-commissioning involves a strategic approach to overcome various hurdles:

Budget constraints: One of the primary challenges in initiating retro-commissioning projects is securing the necessary funding. Convincing stakeholders to invest can be difficult, especially without clear evidence of the benefits. To address this, performing detailed cost-benefit analyses that highlight the potential for long-term energy savings is crucial. These analyses can effectively demonstrate the financial viability of the project and help in garnering the support needed from decision-makers.

Stakeholder resistance: Another significant challenge is resistance from building owners or managers. Often, stakeholders may be hesitant to adopt new practices or change existing systems due to various concerns, including disruptions to operations or doubts about the benefits. To overcome this obstacle, it's essential to engage in effective communication that emphasizes the advantages of retro-commissioning. Highlighting the tangible benefits, such as energy savings, improved occupant comfort, and positive environmental impact, can play a vital role in persuading stakeholders.

Complex building systems: Dealing with older buildings that have intricate and potentially outdated systems presents its own set of challenges. These complex systems may require more sophisticated approaches for monitoring and optimization. Leveraging modern technology and control systems can significantly simplify these tasks. Advanced monitoring tools provide real-time insights into system performance, making it easier to identify areas for improvement and implement changes.

Data collection and analysis: The collection and analysis of data is a cornerstone of the retro-commissioning process. Utilizing advanced sensors and AI tools can streamline the collection and analysis of data, making it more manageable and efficient. These technologies provide comprehensive insights into system performance, enabling property managers to make data-driven decisions and implement targeted improvements.

By addressing these challenges with thoughtful strategies and leveraging modern technologies, energy retro-commissioning can be effectively implemented to improve the efficiency and performance of commercial buildings.

Best practices in retro-commissioning

Implementing energy retro-commissioning in commercial real estate requires a strategic approach. This section outlines best practices that property managers and facilities managers should consider to ensure the success of their energy retro-commissioning projects.

  1. Initial energy audit: Begin with a thorough energy audit to identify areas of inefficiency. This should involve detailed inspections of all systems, including HVAC, lighting, and controls.
  2. Setting clear objectives: Establish clear goals for the retro-commissioning process. These might include specific targets for energy savings, indoor air quality improvements, or operational efficiencies.
  3. Scheduled retro-commissioning cycles: Establish a routine for periodic retro-commissioning to keep systems operating at peak efficiency.
  4. Continuous monitoring: Implement a system for regular monitoring of building performance to ensure that improvements are maintained over time.
  5. Collaborating with experts: Work with energy consultants, engineers, and other professionals who specialize in retro-commissioning to ensure that the process is carried out effectively.
  6. Promoting maintenance and optimization culture: Fostering this culture among management and occupants helps prevent major issues​​.

Maximizing ROI with retro-commissioning

Energy retro-commissioning in commercial real estate is a strategic process that delivers a substantial return on investment. It is well-documented that this method can lead to considerable energy savings, sometimes as high as 40%. This dramatic reduction in energy usage not only contributes to a more sustainable environment but also translates into significant financial savings for property owners and managers.

Understanding payback periods

The payback period for energy retro-commissioning projects can vary, but it often ranges from just a few months to a couple of years. This relatively short payback period is a testament to the efficiency and effectiveness of energy retro-commissioning in reducing operational costs. The upfront investment quickly pays off, making it an attractive option for commercial buildings looking to optimize their energy use and cut down on expenses.

Focusing on key systems

For a successful energy retro-commissioning project, certain systems within the building should be targeted for optimization:

  • Building automation system: The brain of a building, the automation system, plays a crucial role in managing and controlling various building functions. Retro-commissioning can ensure that this system operates at its peak, optimizing energy use across the building.
  • Cooling and heating systems: HVAC systems are major energy consumers in commercial buildings. Through retro-commissioning, these systems can be fine-tuned to operate more efficiently, reducing energy consumption and costs.
  • Lighting systems: Modernizing and optimizing lighting systems through retro-commissioning can lead to significant energy savings, especially when integrating automated controls and energy-efficient fixtures.
  • Humidity control equipment: Proper humidity control is essential for occupant comfort and building health. Optimizing these systems not only saves energy but also enhances the indoor environment quality.


Energy retro-commissioning is a vital strategy for commercial real estate managers seeking to enhance building performance, reduce operational costs, and contribute to environmental sustainability. By adopting this approach, property managers can not only achieve significant energy savings but also improve the overall value and appeal of their properties.

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Kateryna Dmytriyeva
January 31, 2024