Building Energy Efficiency into Your Construction Costs

12/07/2011 | By Ted Reguly


For San Diego building owners, it pays to be energy efficient - literally. Over the last two years, nearly 100 building projects have been awarded almost $10 million in incentives from San Diego Gas & Electric through Savings by Design, a utility-funded initiative that supports high-performance building design in new construction or renovations. What’s more, owners of these buildings have collectively earned an estimated $8.6 million in annual utility costs savings.

Incentives are awarded to both owners and design teams for buildings that exceed California’s Title 24 Energy Efficiency Standards by at least 10 percent, with greater incentives being awarded for those that perform at least 30 percent better. The additional incentives can be earned for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, enhanced commissioning and end-use monitoring.

The partnership between business, design and utility professionals has been so successful that the energy savings projected by SDG&E in response to visionary goals set by the California Public Utilities Commission has already been exceeded at 122 percent.  The success is due in large part to the collaborative dynamic between SDG&E, building owners and their design teams.

Not only has participation in the program offset building construction and annual utility costs, but it has been a successful tool in achieving a collective energy savings of almost 48 million kilowatt hours and 1.4 million therms. That’s roughly equivalent to powering 6,987 homes for a year.

Building owners realize incentives when they approach their construction in one of two ways. The “Whole Building Approach” considers integrated energy efficiency solutions, while for less complex projects the “Systems Approach” uses a simplified energy simulation modeling tool that identifies system options, associated savings and qualifying incentives on daylighting; interior lighting; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; service hot water; plus manufacturing, refrigeration and food processing systems.

Incorporating advanced green technol­ogy and automation into its 110,000-square-foot commercial laundry facility, Emerald Textiles earned $500,000 for achieving huge savings of 708,450 therms per year com­pared with standard systems. This also represents ongoing savings to their company of more than $700,000 per year at current energy prices.


“Working in conjunction with SDG&E’s Savings by Design Program ensured that we chose the most technologically advanced, energy-efficient options at every opportunity, resulting in huge energy savings and an efficient and streamlined process,” said Tom Gildred, founder and chief executive officer of Emerald Textiles. “The energy savings allows us to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively, which helps us stay competitive in the marketplace.  The environmental impact we have in San Diego reflects our vision to be sustainable and environmentally responsible.”

Whether the idea of “going for the green” involves money or the environment, energy efficiency programs like SDG&E’s Savings by Design are a good model for how collaborative partnerships offer smart and strategic, forward-thinking solutions to offset the cost of high-performance building design, as well as affect ongoing utility cost savings that can significantly impact the bottom line of any business.

Ted Reguly is Director, Customer Programs & Assistance, San Diego Gas & Electric and can be reached at

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