You wouldn’t think there’d be much in the way of energy savings hiding in Fitchburg’s municipal buildings. A suburb of the state capital, the city’s 27,000 residents take pride in being “Wisconsin’s Recycling Leader.” Built to last with up-to-date equipment and overseen by experienced public works employees, city buildings reflect this commitment to sustainability.

But even the best-designed, -built, and -maintained buildings waste energy. In fact, virtually all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, lighting, and building automation systems (BAS) compromise efficiency. Regardless of age, buildings over 50,000 square feet can benefit from a process called retro-commissioning (RCx).

Energy audits uncover common problems like outdated fixtures or computers being left on. An RCx begins with an audit but digs further to systematically identify and address inherent lighting, mechanical, and control system inefficiencies. In addition to identifying energy-saving improvements, its goal is to enhance indoor air quality and comfort.

The process is especially potent when these systems weren’t commissioned when the building was new. Even if they were, however, over time sensors fall out of calibration, controls are manually overridden, dampers become misaligned, and — the most-common cause for higher energy use — the building’s function changes. Offices, for example, become meeting rooms.

The process costs 20 cents to $1 per square foot.

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