Skip to the main content.

8 min read

How to Design an Energy-Efficient Building that Cuts Costs for You and Your Tenants

How to Design an Energy-Efficient Building that Cuts Costs for You and Your Tenants

The importance of energy efficiency in commercial buildings today cannot be overstated. Not only does it lead to significant cost savings for building owners and managers, but it also enhances tenant satisfaction and retention while contributing to environmental sustainability.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various strategies and technologies aimed at designing energy-efficient buildings that benefit both stakeholders and the environment. 

Importance of Energy EfficiencY IN Commercial Buildings 

Energy efficiency serves as the cornerstone of sustainable building design. By optimizing energy consumption, commercial buildings can significantly reduce operational costs, minimize environmental impact, and create healthier indoor environments for occupants. 

Overview of Topics Covered in the Blog 

In this blog, we will delve into six key areas essential for designing energy-efficient commercial buildings:


Cutting Energy Costs: Strategies for Building Owners and Managers 

Implementing energy-efficient measures offers many benefits for building owners, managers, and tenants. Key considerations include long-term cost savings, environmental sustainability, and enhanced tenant satisfaction and retention. 

Efforts to reduce our impact on the environment have led businesses to pursue and implement net zero initiatives. Net Zero initiatives are environmentally responsible, and companies can save money over time by implementing efficient mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems. 

Saving on Heating with a Vestibule

Back to top 

Introduction to Vestibules as Energy-Saving Solutions 

Vestibules are often overlooked yet highly effective energy-saving solutions in commercial buildings, especially in regions with cold climates. There are various benefits and design considerations when incorporating vestibules into building designs to minimize heat loss and reduce energy consumption. 

Vestibules are small, enclosed entryways typically located at building entrances. Their primary purpose is to create an additional barrier against outdoor elements, effectively reducing heat loss and preventing cold drafts from entering the building interior. 

Importance of Vestibules in Cold Climate Zones 

In cold climate zones, where winters bring freezing temperatures and increased heating demands, vestibules play a crucial role in maintaining indoor thermal comfort while minimizing energy consumption. By acting as a buffer zone between the outdoors and indoors, vestibules help mitigate heat loss during entry and exit, thereby reducing the workload on heating systems. 

Design Considerations for Maximizing Heating Savings

Back to top

When designing vestibules for maximum heating savings, several factors should be taken into consideration:

Proper Vestibule Size and Configuration Vestibules should be adequately sized to accommodate anticipated traffic flow while maintaining efficiency. Vestibules should be designed so that it is not necessary for the interior and exterior doors to be open at the same time. Proper configuration ensures optimal air circulation and minimizes heat loss. 
Selection of Insulated Doors and Glazing Materials Insulated doors and glazing materials with high thermal resistance help retain heat within the vestibule, reducing heat transfer to the exterior environment.
Integration with HVAC Systems for Optimal Temperature Control Vestibules should be seamlessly integrated with HVAC systems to ensure consistent temperature regulation. This integration allows for efficient heating during colder months and prevents overheating during warmer periods. 


Additional Benefits of Vestibules Beyond Heating Savings

Back to top

Apart from energy savings, vestibules offer additional benefits that contribute to overall building comfort and security:

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Air Quality

Improved Indoor Air Quality and Comfort for Building Occupants: By serving as an airlock between the outdoors and indoors, vestibules help minimize the ingress of pollutants, dust, and outdoor contaminants, thus enhancing indoor air quality and occupant comfort.

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_vestibule in a building


Enhanced Security and Safety at Building Entrances: Vestibules provide an additional layer of security by creating a controlled access point for building entry. This enhances security measures and ensures the safety of occupants by preventing unauthorized access and minimizing the risk of intrusion.


Saving Energy in HVAC Systems

Back to top  

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are integral components of commercial buildings, playing a crucial role in maintaining indoor comfort. However, inefficient HVAC systems can significantly contribute to energy waste and operational costs. 

Importance of HVAC System Efficiency in Commercial Buildings 

HVAC systems account for a significant portion of energy consumption in commercial buildings. Therefore, improving their efficiency is essential for reducing energy costs and minimizing environmental impact. Efficient HVAC systems not only enhance occupant comfort but also contribute to sustainable building operations. 

Strategies for Optimizing HVAC Performance

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Something large

Proper System Sizing and Design

Correctly sizing HVAC systems based on building requirements and load calculations is crucial for optimizing performance and energy efficiency. Oversized systems can lead to frequent cycling and inefficiencies, while undersized systems may struggle to meet demand, resulting in increased energy consumption.

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Maintenance


Regular Maintenance and Tune-ups

Routine maintenance and tune-ups are essential for ensuring HVAC systems operate at peak efficiency. Regular inspection, cleaning, and servicing of components such as filters, coils, and ductwork help improve system performance, reduce energy consumption, and prolong equipment lifespan.

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Improved efficiency


Upgrading to High-Efficiency Equipment

Investing in high-efficiency HVAC equipment, such as energy-efficient furnaces, boilers, air conditioners, and heat pumps, can significantly reduce energy consumption and operating costs. Energy Star-certified equipment meets stringent efficiency standards and often qualifies for incentives and rebates, making it a cost-effective investment for building owners.

Choosing the Most Energy-Efficient Lighting Solutions

Back to top  

In today's environmentally conscious world, selecting energy-efficient lighting solutions is crucial for reducing energy consumption and operating costs in commercial buildings. From traditional fluorescent lamps to cutting-edge LED technology, there are various options available to meet the lighting needs of different spaces.

Scott Rice Behavior Healthcare Trends Hero (1)

Overview of Lighting Options for Commercial Buildings

Commercial buildings require lighting solutions that provide adequate illumination while minimizing energy consumption. Common lighting options include fluorescent, halogen, incandescent, and LED fixtures. Each option has its pros and cons in terms of energy efficiency, lifespan, and light quality.

Advantages of LED Lighting

LED (Light-Emitting Diode) lighting has emerged as a leading choice for energy-efficient illumination in commercial spaces. LEDs consume significantly less energy than traditional lighting technologies, have a longer lifespan, and offer superior light quality. Also, LED fixtures are available in various designs and configurations to suit different architectural and design requirements.

Tips for Selecting the Most Energy-Efficient Lighting Fixtures 

When choosing lighting fixtures for commercial buildings, several factors should be considered to ensure optimal energy efficiency:

Lumens per Watt 

Look for fixtures with high efficacy ratings, measured in lumens per watt (lm/W), to maximize energy savings.

Color Temperature 

Select fixtures with appropriate color temperature to meet the lighting needs of specific spaces, such as warm white for hospitality areas and cool white for office environments.

Dimming Capability 

Opt for fixtures with dimming capability to adjust light levels based on occupancy and natural light conditions, further enhancing energy efficiency.

Integrated Controls 

Consider fixtures with integrated lighting controls, such as occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting systems, to automate lighting adjustments and optimize energy savings.


Harnessing Natural Light with Daylight Harvesting

Back to top

Daylight harvesting is a sustainable lighting strategy that leverages natural daylight to supplement artificial lighting in commercial spaces. By harnessing natural light, building owners can reduce reliance on artificial lighting, lower energy consumption, and create more visually appealing and comfortable indoor environments.

Benefits of Daylighting in Commercial Spaces 

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Energy Savings

Energy Savings

Daylighting reduces the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours, leading to significant energy savings.

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Health

Health and Wellbeing

Natural light has been linked to improved mood, productivity, and overall wellbeing among building occupants.

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Aesthetics_Beauty


Daylit spaces are visually appealing and can enhance the overall design and ambiance of commercial buildings.

Back to top

Design Strategies for Maximizing Natural Light 

To maximize the benefits of daylighting, consider the following design strategies: 

  • Strategic Window Placement and Glazing Selection: Properly position windows and choose glazing materials to optimize natural light penetration while minimizing glare and solar heat gain. 
  • Use of Light Shelves and Reflective Surfaces: Light shelves and reflective surfaces can redirect and diffuse natural light deeper into interior spaces, improving overall daylight distribution. 
  • Integration with Automated Lighting Controls: Integrate daylight harvesting systems with automated lighting controls to seamlessly adjust artificial lighting levels based on available natural light, ensuring optimal energy efficiency and occupant comfort. 

Implementing Building Automation Systems

Back to top

Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS) have revolutionized the way commercial buildings operate, offering numerous benefits for energy efficiency, cost savings, and overall building performance.  

BACS, also known as Building Management Systems (BMS) or Building Automation Systems (BAS), are centralized systems that monitor, control, and optimize various building systems such as HVAC, lighting, security, and more. By integrating these systems into a single platform, BACS enable efficient management and automation of building operations. 

Benefits of BACS for Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings 

One of the primary benefits of BACS is their ability to improve energy efficiency and reduce operating costs in commercial buildings. By optimizing building systems and implementing energy-saving strategies, BACS can lead to significant reductions in energy consumption and utility bills. 

Key Components of Building Automation Systems

Back to top

BACS typically consist of several key components, including:

HVAC Controls

BACS can monitor and control HVAC systems to optimize heating, cooling, and ventilation based on occupancy patterns, outdoor conditions, and building usage.

Lighting Controls

BACS allow for centralized control and scheduling of lighting systems, enabling energy-efficient lighting strategies such as dimming, daylight harvesting, and occupancy-based control.

Occupancy Sensors and Smart Thermostats

By integrating occupancy sensors and smart thermostats, BACS can adjust temperature settings and lighting levels based on occupancy and activity levels, further enhancing energy efficiency.


Best Practices for Designing and Implementing BACS

Back to top

When designing and implementing BACS, several best practices should be followed to ensure optimal performance and efficiency:

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Integration


Integration with Other Building Systems

BACS should be seamlessly integrated with other building systems such as fire alarms, security, and access control to enable coordinated operations and enhance overall building performance.

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Training_Education

Training and Education for Building Staff

Proper training and education of building staff are essential for maximizing the benefits of BACS. Staff should be familiar with system operation, troubleshooting procedures, and energy-saving strategies to effectively utilize BACS capabilities.

4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Monitoring

Monitoring and Continuous Optimization

Regular monitoring and optimization of BACS performance are crucial for maintaining efficiency and identifying opportunities for improvement. Continuous optimization involves analyzing data, identifying trends, and implementing adjustments to improve system performance and energy efficiency over time.


Improving Water Efficiency in Buildings

Back to top

Water conservation is a critical aspect of sustainable building design, especially in commercial buildings where water usage can be substantial. By implementing strategies to enhance water efficiency, building owners can reduce water consumption, lower utility costs, and contribute to environmental conservation. 

Importance of Water Conservation in Commercial Buildings

Water is a finite resource, and its conservation is essential to ensure its availability for future generations. In commercial buildings, where water is used for various purposes such as sanitation, irrigation, and cooling systems, implementing water conservation measures is crucial for reducing water consumption and minimizing environmental impact.

More from Dialectic: The High Cost of Not Conserving Water


Strategies for Enhancing

Water Efficiency 

Installing High-Efficiency Plumbing Fixtures

Upgrading to high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, such as low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads, can significantly reduce water usage without compromising performance.

These fixtures are designed to deliver optimal water flow while minimizing wastage, leading to substantial water savings over time.

Implementing Water Recycling and Reuse Systems

Implementing water recycling and reuse systems allows building owners to repurpose wastewater for non-potable purposes such as irrigation, toilet flushing, and cooling tower makeup.

By treating and reusing wastewater onsite, buildings can reduce demand for freshwater resources and minimize discharge into municipal sewer systems.

Conducting Regular Leak Detection and Repair

Regular leak detection and repair are essential for maintaining water efficiency in commercial buildings. Even minor leaks in plumbing systems can result in significant water wastage over time.

Conducting periodic inspections and promptly repairing leaks can prevent water loss and ensure efficient water usage.


Installing Solar Panels on a Commercial Property

Back to top

As the world increasingly embraces renewable energy solutions, solar power has emerged as a leading sustainable solution for commercial properties. Installing solar panels on commercial buildings not only reduces electricity costs but also contributes to environmental conservation and offers various financial incentives.

Advantages of Solar Panels for Commercial Properties

Solar energy harnesses the power of sunlight to generate electricity through photovoltaic (PV) systems, commonly known as solar panels. The use of solar energy has gained momentum in recent years due to its sustainability and renewable nature. In commercial buildings, solar panels offer a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional energy sources.

Cost Savings on Electricity Bills Over the Long Term4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Money Savings

One of the primary advantages of installing solar panels on commercial properties is the significant reduction in electricity bills over the long term. Solar energy production allows businesses to generate their electricity, thereby offsetting or even eliminating electricity costs from the grid.

Environmental Benefits4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Environmental Benefits

Reduction of Carbon Footprint and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Solar energy is a clean and renewable energy source that produces electricity without emitting harmful greenhouse gases or pollutants. By transitioning to solar power, commercial properties can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to environmental conservation.

Potential Revenue Generation through Net Metering and Feed-in Tariffs4923 - Q1 Blog 3_Energy Consumption in Commercial Buildings and Strategies to Save Your Tenants Money_Revenue Genteration

Commercial properties with solar panels can benefit from net metering programs, allowing them to sell excess electricity back to the grid and earn credits or revenue. Additionally, feed-in tariffs provide financial incentives for commercial solar energy producers, further enhancing the economic viability of solar projects.

Back to top

Solar Financial Incentives and Financing Options

Federal and State Incentive Programs (e.g., Investment Tax Credit)

Federal and state governments offer various incentive programs to promote solar energy adoption, including the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The ITC allows commercial property owners to claim a percentage of the cost of solar panel installation as a tax credit, reducing overall project costs.

Grants, Rebates, and Financing Solutions Available for Commercial Solar Projects

In addition to tax incentives, commercial property owners can take advantage of grants, rebates, and financing solutions to offset the upfront costs of solar panel installation. These financial incentives make solar projects more accessible and affordable for businesses of all sizes.

Advances in Efficiency and Affordability of Solar Cells

Technological advancements in solar cell efficiency and affordability have made solar panel installation more cost-effective and efficient than ever before. Improvements in solar panel design, manufacturing processes, and materials have contributed to increased energy production and decreased installation costs.

Embracing the Future: Advancing Energy Efficiency in Building Design

Back to top

From vestibules and HVAC systems to lighting solutions and solar panels, each aspect plays a crucial role in optimizing energy consumption and reducing operational costs. 

Building owners, managers, and design professionals are encouraged to prioritize energy efficiency in their projects to achieve long-term cost savings, environmental sustainability, and tenant satisfaction. 

As technology continues to advance, future trends in energy-efficient building design may include further integration of smart technologies, enhanced building automation systems, and innovative renewable energy solutions. 

By adopting these strategies and technologies, building owners, managers, and design professionals can play a pivotal role in creating energy-efficient buildings that benefit both the bottom line and the planet. Contact Dialectic Engineering today to find out how we can help your building become more energy efficient.

Robert Harris Named Interim CEO at Dialectic Engineering

Robert Harris Named Interim CEO at Dialectic Engineering

Dialectic's board of directors has appointed Robert Harris, P.E., as interim chief executive officer (CEO). Harris has been with Dialectic since 1993...

Read More
How to Design an Energy-Efficient Building that Cuts Costs for You and Your Tenants

How to Design an Energy-Efficient Building that Cuts Costs for You and Your Tenants

The importance of energy efficiency in commercial buildings today cannot be overstated. Not only does it lead to significant cost savings for...

Read More