Federal agencies lead energy efficiency initiative

U.S. government officials are hoping that property owners will follow their lead in improving energy efficiency in their buildings. If they don't, the government is prepared to provide them with a financial incentive to do so. Commercial inspections may provide these businesses with the knowledge they need to pursue improvements with federal dollars.

The Better Buildings Initiative, launched in February 2011, mandates that all federal buildings make at least $2 billion worth of energy improvements in the next two years. An additional $2 billion will be funneled into improving energy efficiency in private commercial properties across the United States. The plan calls for improved energy efficiency that is 20 percent better in 2020 than it is currently.

President Barack Obama discussed the tenets of the program this week from Washington, D.C.'s Transwestern Building, which will be able to pay, in full, for its own energy investments in about four-and-one-half years due to decreased energy costs. Estimates call for the building to save $200,000 annually due to its retrofitted improvements.

"Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways for us to create jobs, save money, and cut down on harmful pollution," Obama said. "It is a trifecta, which is why you've got labor and business behind it."

Although the Better Buildings Initiative is also intended to create jobs, its most significant long-term benefits could lead the American infrastructure to achieve widespread energy efficiency, which could save U.S. businesses up to $40 billion annually, according to the president. This initiative comes on the heels of the Commercial Buildings Initiative, which extends tax credits to businesses that invest in renewable energy for their properties.

But, in order to realize these benefits, businesses first need to determine which components of their buildings can most benefit from technological improvements. Companies that perform commercial inspections can help property owners determine methods to integrate energy upgrades.