EcoFactor Raising $4.5M for Smarter Thermostats

EcoFactor Raising $4.5M for Smarter Thermostats
By Katie Fehrenbacher
Posted December 30th, 2009

When we profiled three-year-old startup EcoFactor in November the company said it was in the process of raising its Series A round. Well, today the company filed a document with the SEC that says it is in the process of raising $4.5 million, and has already raised $2.39 million partly from Claremont Creek Ventures (CCV’s Nat Goldhaber and Paul Straub are listed on the form).

EcoFactor has developed a service based on smart algorithms that can continuously manage a home’s connected thermostat throughout the day, tweaking the settings ever so slightly to shave off energy consumption, but maintain a comfortable temperature. In November the company emerged out of stealth, announced its first customer, Texas utility Oncor, as well as won the California Cleantech Open.

Now topped with closing part of their first funding, all those wins are a pretty good way for EcoFactor to end 2009. In 2010, the company is working on deals with broadband service providers who will likely be dabbling in the energy management market (see my GigaOM Pro report). EcoFactor will also continue to sell into the demand response market, where it can save utilities like Oncor many megawatts of peak power.

Claremont Creek Ventures has invested in a variety of smart grid, energy efficiency and green IT companies, including Adura and Sentilla. Goldhaber also spoke at our Green:Net 2009 conference, which is focused on the intersection of greentech and information technology.


First Integrated Green Construction Code Poised For 2010 Debut

First Integrated Green Construction Code Poised For 2010 Debut
Source: ECOHOME 2009
Posted on: December 22, 2009 11:47:00 AM
By:Jennifer Goodman

The first-ever integrated green code for commercial buildings is set for public release in March.

The International Green Construction Code is designed to integrate and coordinate with the other international codes already being enforced by governmental code officials at all levels, said Richard P. Weiland, CEO of the International Code Council (ICC), which developed the green code along with several groups.

“This will be the first time code officials, owners, and designers will have an integrated regulatory framework to put into practice that meets the goal of greening the construction and design of new and existing buildings,” said Weiland. “Only a code that is useable, enforceable and adoptable will have the capability of impacting our built environment in dramatic ways.”

The creation of the IGCC brought together diverse sectors of the industry to develop the first integrated, regulatory framework for green commercial buildings, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA), ASTM International, and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Green Globes Initiative.

“We are not an industry or advocacy organization, but rather the same folks who have written the building codes used throughout the United States and around the world for decades,” said ICC board member Ravi Shah.

The last drafting meeting for the IGCC will be in January in Austin, Texas, with the first public version to be published in March. Public comments will be solicited in August before the IGCC undergoes another round of review, comments, and public hearings in 2011. The green code is scheduled for publication with the 2012 ICC Family of Codes.

In terms of home building, the ICC’s National Green Building Standard, known as ICC-700, has provided guidance to green residential builders since January 2009. The council developed the standard with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) for both new and renovated single-family to high-rise residential buildings. A number of other local and national green standards exist for home building, including the USGBC’s LEED for Homes and Energy Star Homes.

The International Code Council is a non-profit membership association dedicated to building safety, fire prevention, energy efficiency, and sustainable building construction and performance. All 50 states and more than 20,000 U.S. jurisdictions use the organization’s codes for safety and sustainability. These codes also serve as the basis for construction of federal properties around the world, and as a reference for many nations outside the United States.

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor Online for EcoHome.

Energy Independence is all about oil demand, not supply

Energy Independence is all about oil demand, not supply
Author: Rob Day
September 4, 2008 at 8:52 AM

‘Tis the political season, and so we’re treated to scenes of one group happily chanting “Drill, baby, drill!” while another group pledges more support for solar and wind power, while clean coal industry lobbyists throw convention parties for delegates and an oil billionaire buys ads to promote wind and natural gas.

It’s generally great to see all of this attention on energy issues, which have been too long neglected. But all the rhetoric about “Energy Independence” has been focused predominantly on finding new sources of supply, whether it be incumbent types (fossil fuels) or alternatives (solar, wind, etc.).

That’s the wrong way to look at it.

A focus on supply won’t get us to energy independence. We import a significant portion of our energy supplies. But most of that is oil. We get 60% of our oil, only something like 15% of our natural gas, and a very small amount of other energy sources (coal, etc.) via imports. So when people say “energy independence” they really mean oil imports.

The problem with a supply-side fix to this is that oil is fungible. Which means that a barrel of domestically-produced oil is roughly interchangeable with a barrel of foreign-produced oil, and in fact also with a barrel of domestic or foreign-produced biofuel for many applications. So increasing our domestic production of oil and oil subsititutes doesn’t feed directly into satisfying U.S. demand, it feeds into the larger world market and thus only has a minor and indirect impact on our dependence on oil imports. Unless and until someone comes up with a labeling scheme so that we can expensively track “domestic” vs. “foreign” oil from the ground all the way to the pump, you’ll never know whether your car was filled up with gas derived from Saudi, Alaskan, Venezuelan, Louisianan, or some blend of all of the above and then some.

This is NOT true for other energy types, such as natural gas to a certain extent, and electricity to a significant extent. When you consume these (or their derivatives), you’re largely consuming domestically-supplied energy.

There’s no argument here that we don’t need all sorts of energy supply to support future growth, as many joules as we can dig up (pun intended), done as responsibly as possible. And I also think we should be as concerned with environmental and climate-related effects of energy consumption. But if the goal is ONLY to pursue Energy Independence, leaving aside any other considerations (as the current overheated rhetoric would suggest), then the single most important thing would be to reduce our consumption of oil. NOT to expand production of it, for reasons listed above.

First things first, a pursuit of energy independence needs to focus on a reduction in the types of energy consumption that tends to come from oil. That means mostly transportation (70% of oil consumption), but also heating and industrial processes. The single most effective way to make a dent on all this is via improved efficiency. More efficient cars and trucks. More efficient homes that require less energy to heat. The single most “Energy Independent” barrel of oil is the one not consumed.

This isn’t about shivering in the dark. McKinsey & Co. did an analysis of carbon-reducing approaches to see what would be the most cost-effective way to reduce our carbon emissions, and the results were pretty telling. Changes made to save 0.4 gigatons of CO2e per year by 2030 in car fuel economy would actually SAVE consumers nearly $90 per ton. With light trucks, it wasn’t quite as good—only $60 in net savings per ton of CO2e reduction! Significant net savings, as compared to many energy supply options they considered which would actually entail net costs. They also pointed to significant net savings from changes to industrial processes, and residential buildings’ insulation/ “shell improvements”.

We in the U.S. consume a lot of energy. A lot. Over 8 metric tons of oil-equivalent per person per year. That’s almost double the per capita energy consumption in Europe and Japan, and of course much higher than in developing regions. That’s not by itself a bad thing, we get a lot of economic benefit from all that consumed energy. But it implies there might be some ways to—maybe just maybe—find some areas of wasted energy consumption and make improvements. Basically, if done correctly, efficiency improvements to the way we consume oil should make us significantly better off, not worse off.

But of course, there’s a limit to how far efficiency gains alone can take us. So shifts in consumption are also important. Home heat can be done via electricity, natural gas, or oil. Transportation can be done via oil, natural gas, and soon via electricity and biofuels (really a blend of all of the above plus some photosynthesis when you look at the inputs). As pointed out above, if as a secondary priority to efficiency gains we can shift oil consumption toward natural gas consumption, cellulosic and next generation biofuel consumption, and—especially—electricity consumption, then we’re completing the Energy Independence picture.

So to everyone arguing and fighting for Energy Independence, know that it’s not about finding new sources of oil supplies. That’s just a typical election year useless “wedge issue”. Instead, it’s about reducing our dependence on oil altogether. We should be putting better incentives in place to help people drive their cars and heat their homes more efficiently. And we should be putting much more emphasis on shifting both activities more toward electricity as a primary energy source.

The Light Bulb Turns 130—And Heads to the Grave

The Light Bulb Turns 130—And Heads to the Grave

Thomas Edison showed off his incandescent lamp to the public on this day in 1879. Now it’s finally saying goodbye.

I come not to praise the incandescent light bulb.

I come to bury it.

The familiar incandescent Edison bulb debuted 130 years ago today, on December 31, 1879. (The first test occured October 22, but unveiling took place on the last day of that year.) It changed the world. And tomorrow, its death spiral will begin. Australia has imposed regulations that will phase the bulb out in 2010. Importing inefficient incandescents and selling the bulbs at retail has already started. The European Union will follow in 2012.

The U.S. meanwhile, will get rid of them through new efficiency regulations in stages. 100-watt incandescents will vanish in 2012, followed by 75-watts a year later and 60-watts a year after that.

Although the bulb has had tremendous impact, it is about time that hearty household fixture went to the tar pits. Incandescent bulbs are incredibly primitive compared to the other items in your life. They generate light with a hot wire in a sealed glass jar, making them one of the oldest and last vestiges of the vacuum tube era. Computers started with vacuum tubes in the late 1940s and transitioned to transistors by the 1950s. Radios, stereos and TVs all went digital over the course of the last several decades.

What else happened in 1879? Frank Woolworth opened his first stores in Utica, New York. Russia and the United Kingdom signed the treaty of Gandamak to establish a new state called Afghanistan. Six years later, the car would be invented by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Damlier. If you brought Rutherford B. Hayes back to life, he’d probably be a little nervous about getting into a 787 or eating Jello shots, but he’d likely understand your porch light.

Other types of bulbs, which will go by the wayside someday too, have similarly unusual long lives. Georges Claude invented the neon light in 1911 while the fluorescent was invented in 1927 in Germany.

Age necessarily isn’t bad. The problem is that age in this case means inefficiency and waste. Incandescents only use about five percent of their electric power to produce light. The remainder turns into waste heat. That’s why you see these bulbs in Easy Bake Ovens, reptile farms and highlighting the baron of beef on buffet tables.

A few die hard “Get the Government and its Black Helicopters off My Back” people try to convince me that the regulations would impinge on their lifestyle: they use incandescent bulbs to heat their home. You only have to remind them that heat rises: unless they are walking on those bulbs, they are just creating a tropical environment for roof spiders.

Light also tends to get indiscriminately deployed. Look at pictures of the Earth at night. Areas like Tokyo, London and the Eastern Seaboard seem just as bright at night. Unless you are planning a bombing raid from Neptune, there’s no reason to illuminate the edge of a continental shelf. Those offices you see in urban night skylines? The only person burning the midnight oil in most of them is the janitor. Putting lights on networks would be a great idea, except that only around 1 percent of lights.

That wasted energy adds up. Lights consume about 22 percent of the electricity in the U.S. and about ten percent of the total energy. Transportation only consumes about 26 percent. Traditional lights are IOU-inefficient, old and ubiquitous.

But is there anything coming around the bend to replace them? Manufacturers finally seem ready to release light emitting diodes on a broad scale. LEDs, which are essentially computer chips that suck in electricity and spit out light, consume about 1/10th of the power of incandescents. Just as important, they can last 50,000 hours, or 19 years under regular scenarios, before they burn out. Put another way, don’t buy a five pack of LED bulbs for the lamp on your nightstand: you’ll probably be dead before you use them all.

Until now, LEDs have largely been held back by two factors: high prices and a light color that can best be described as “alien autopsy.” A year ago, Toshiba came out with a dimmable bulb that put out about as much light as a 100 watt bulb. It cost $360. Now, Panasonic, Sharp, and a host of start-ups like Lemnis Lighting (founded by the grandson of the man who started Philips Lighting) are coming out with LED bulbs that cost $40 to $50. That’s higher than your usual bulb, sure, but LED bulbs can save $12 to $20 in power a year. Some companies may even concoct lease-on-light programs and others still say they can drop the price to $25 in a few years.

And the color? E.T.’s finger is vanishing. Because LEDs come in colors, some manufacturers, like Sylvania Osram, will come out with lamps that can blend different colors. Incredible Hulk coming for dinner? Turn a knob for a green tint to make him feel at home. Incandescents do have nice light. That’s why in Australia there was a rush to buy the last ones.

There are other novel lights coming too. Luxim makes a light that is about the size of a Tic Tac but it puts out as much light as a streetlamp. Researchers from the University of Illinois, meanwhile, have started a company called Eden Park Illumination that makes a flat, energy-efficient and completely recyclable bulb. You could put it in kitchen counters.

So when you finally get around to saying good bye to your old bulbs, don’t feel too sad.

Second Best Year Ever for Cleantech VC Investments

Green VC Total: Second Best Year Ever

VC plunked $4.85 billion into 356 green deals.

Here’s a quick look at Venture Capital investment in Greentech over the last year. We’ll dive into the details next week.

VC investment in green technologies totaled $4.85 billion in 356 deals in 2009. Although the dollar total is down from 2008’s $7.6 billion, the number of deals total actually exceeded last year’s total.

Consistent with the last four years, solar power was once again the leading investment segment at more than $1.4 billion in 84 deals followed by biofuels at $976 million in 44 rounds. As forecast by GTM Research – investment in Smart Grid, Energy Storage and Automotive is gaining momentum along with overlooked sectors such as Wind, Water, and Lighting. Water has finally made it onto venture capital radar screens with more than $130 million invested in 33 deals

Notable and sizeable deals in 2009 included:

-Silver Spring Networks’ $100 million investment from Google Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Northgate Capital.

-Solyndra’s $198 million VC investment from Argonaut Private Equity, et al. for the Fremont, Calif.-based thin-film solar firm and a $75 million C round for crystalline silicon solar vendor, Suniva.

-Synthetic Genomic’s $300 million multi-year commitment from Exxon for the development of algae-based biofuels.

-eMeter’s $32 million investment from Sequoia Capital and Foundation Capital and Tendril’s $30 million round from VantagePoint and Good Energies for smart grid management software and hardware

-Tesla Motor’s $82.5 million round from Fjord Capital and Daimler Motors and Fisker Automotive’s $85 million round from Kleiner Perkins et al. for their groundbreaking electric vehicles.

-Serious Materials’ $60 million round from Mesirow Capital et al. for green building materials.

Some of the most active VC investors in greentech this year included NEA, CMEA, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, NGEN Partners, DFJ, Foundation Capital and the Quercus Trust.

Although entrepreneurs have expressed some frustration with the difficulty in closing middle stage rounds at less-than-profitable companies – there is a marked trend of a return to early stage deals with more than 110 Series A and seed rounds this year.

Also remarkable was the increasingly global nature of greentech investment this year. Approximately 20 per cent of greentech deals came from outside the United States with plentiful deals from the U.K. and France.

In the words of Marianne Wu, Partner at Cleantech investor, Mohr Davidow Ventures, “We saw tremendous innovation in 2009 as entrepreneurs addressed pressing opportunities across the cleantech spectrum. We continue to see talent turn to the massive opportunities in this new industrial revolution combating climate change. Some of the early market leaders are poised to go public in 2010 and companies are getting increasingly sophisticated in their approach to both the capital and industrial markets.”

We’ll take a deeper look on Jan 4. See you in 2010!

The Top Ten Stories in Green Building in 2009

The Top Ten in Green Building in 2009

Stimulus funds, new technologies, a few old ideas and programs to change the economics of retrofits some clever prodded green building forward. Lights, camera, action and bricks.

Construction was down, but green building wasn’t entirely out. Developers reported that green buildings garnered higher rents than conventional ones. The State of California and the Federal Government also committed billions to retrofits. Here are some of the big stories and events from the year:

1. A Green Building Overview: One of the more intriguing articles on the green building landscape this year, at least according to the author.

2. The Big Dimmer: Adura Technologies and Lumenergi marketed systems to dim fluorescent bulbs, those energy-gobbling things right above your head. Both have shown how power going into lights can be trimmed by 70 percent plus without the occupants freaking out. (Lighting consumes 22 percent of the power in America and a lot of it gets wasted or dispersed indiscriminately.) These sort of systems can ultimately be ported to light emitting diodes and heating/air conditioning systems. Other building management companies to watch: EcoFactor, Tendril, and EnerNoc.

Some of the control freaks listed above could make a lot of money.

Speaking of lights, LED lights dropped in price and bulb equivalent units may cost $25 in a few years, bringing the payback to a little over a year. Regulations in any event will encourage adoption (see Road Map to New Lighting for more).

3. PACE Picks up the Pace: Property assessed clean energy loans (PACE) went from an obscure acronym in the green building market to a popular policy initiative championed by several states and Vice President Joe Biden in less than a year. In Pace loans, the money gets paid back through supplemental property tax assessments. That small twist brings a host of benefits. The owner doesn’t have to worry about losing the value of any retrofit if the home gets sold because the new owner assumes the payments. The payments, ideally, can also be lower than the amount saved on energy bills, making the retrofits free. Local communities see job activity in the area and moribund banks get to write loans.

Fourteen states including Florida, Texas and Maryland as well as 30 municipalities have already passed PACE programs. Berkeley, Calif. became the first governmental body to issue PACE bonds in January. Renewable Finance, founded by PACE co-creator Cisco DeVries, got $12.2 million in VC funds.

4. Green Building Materials Still Coming: Serious Materials, the green drywall guys, raised $60 million more and went to the White House. A legion of other companies – Aspen Aerogels, Integrity Block, Calstar Products, Arrx, E2E Materials – became more visible too. But the market still mostly exists in theory rather than fact. Calstar just started putting out its bricks.

5. The Big Green Market – Schools: Schools have received billions in stimulus dollars to retrofit for energy efficiency. Just as important, they don’t suffer from the split responsibility problem that can often hurt commercial buildings: the owner and tenant are the same person. Limbach Energy Solutions is taking a school retrofit program that pays for improvements out of energy efficiency used in Ohio nationwide.

Homeowners didn’t get shorted either. California has earmarked $3.1 billion for energy efficiency retrofits over the next three years and a lot of that money will get spent in the form of rebates from utilities. Help may come on the federal level too. Matt Golden of Recurve (formerly Sustainable Spaces) is one of the people behind a Cash for Caulkers retrofit and job creation program being circulated in Washington.

6. Air Conditioners Get Hip: Unless you’re a charter member of ASHRAE, you don’t think about air conditioning too much. That’s changing and a host of new technologies are on the the way. AC consumes a lot of power and people in offices often complain about frigid offices in summertime. Some policy makers and utilities have also begun to contemplate programs under which utilities would pay customers to swap out old systems for new ones powered by ice that don’t require much peak power.

7. Skyscrapers and China Go Green: $20 million for things like 6,500 thermal windows will result in energy savings worth up to $4.4 million a year. If you turned that into pennies and threw them off the observation deck, well, let’s not think about the consequences.

Another interesting project: The Shanghai Center, destined to become the world’ second largest building, will consist of neighborhood stacked on top of each other complete with “open air” parks.

8. Cavemen: The New Thought Leaders. Did you know there is some archaeological evidence that caves were in part selected for their lighting? Neither did I and I prefer not to delve too deeply into finding out whether it’s true or not. I prefer to believe. In any event, passive design techniques-harmonizing a building with its surroundings-continues to gain credence. Alcoa and its Kawneer division, among others, began to more actively promote two products for passive control: light shelves (i.e., white boards that reflect sunlight in) and operable windows (i.e., windows that open).

“You used to build skyscrapers like aquariums. Now we realize that there are a lot of good things outside,” said Eddie Bugg, director of sustainable solutions at Kawneer. “Twenty years ago, [owners] never wanted operable windows. Now we are seeing more and more installed.

Ohlone College, meanwhile, installed enthalpy machines that can pre-cool or pre-heat air from the outside (depending on the time of year) with the energy in the indoor air to cut down the power needed for the ventilation system.

9. TVs Go Green in California: We include TVs here because electronics consume about 8 percent of the energy consumes in U.S. homes. Computers only account for 1 percent. The California Energy Commission passed regulations that will force TV makers to reduce power consumption by 33 percent by 2011 and 49 percent by 2013. It was a long, hard-fought battle. Ontario and other places may follow.

10. Net Zero Looks Doable: When the State of California said it wanted to see all new homes become net zero structures by 2020 and commercial buildings to follow by 2030, many guffawed. But Zeta Communities built a net zero prototype in Oakland and Project Frog is building an energy efficient warming hut on San Francisco’s Crissy Field. The U.S. Army commissioned net-zero duplexes for one of its bases in December.

Photo via Zeta Communities.

4 Green Building Trends to Watch in 2010

4 Green Building Trends to Watch in 2010
By Justin Moresco
Source: Earth2Tech
Posted December 23rd, 2009

The market for new construction is still struggling to pick itself up, but the growing trend of green building promises a sort of renaissance for the centuries-old industry. That’s the hope, anyways, and if you believe (as we do, though with a healthy pinch of skepticism) the mountain of reports and data pointing to the growth of the green building industry, then 2010 looks to be a pivotal year for transitioning the built environment into one that consumes significantly less energy, water and other resources.

Below we present four of the most important trends that we see shaping the industry in 2010. Since energy use, at least so far, has been the primary focus of innovators and investors, we’ve largely limited our view into the green building crystal ball to that slice of the industry.

Modular Green Homes Go Mainstream: When Warren Buffet makes a bet in energy-efficient modular homes, it’s a good sign the market is set to grow. Clayton Homes, one of the largest builders of manufactured housing in the U.S. and a subsidiary of Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway, launched its i-house earlier this year. The homes, which will be constructed as modules in a factory and then assembled in the field, are billed as “affordable luxury in a green, energy-efficient package.”

Besides Clayton, a number of startups like Zeta Communities and Blu Homes are getting into the prefabricated market. So far, these companies have built a relatively small number of “prefab” homes, but 2010 could be the year that this industry finally becomes a serious player. “It’s going to change — there is no question,” Michelle Kaufmann, whose firm, Michelle Kaufmann Studio, designs prefab homes, tells us. “The technology is there, it’s just about embracing it.”

The industry will really take off once the country’s largest home builders start using modular construction. That time is probably not too far off, as Kaufmann says she’s been approached by two of the nation’s five biggest home builders (she wouldn’t give names because of nondisclosure agreements) to advise them on modular construction.

Besides cost savings in labor and materials compared with conventional building, modular construction can help developers reduce risk, Kaufmann says. A developer can build homes on a large site as sales come in rather than investing a large amount of money upfront to build all the planned homes at once and before most are sold. This should prove attractive at a time when financing is hard to come by and the market for new construction is lagging.

Building Materials Get Smarter: Tech-oriented innovators and investors are finally starting to embrace the building industry, and one of the most exciting areas is smarter, more energy-efficient building materials. Serious Materials, which raised a $60 million third round of venture funding in September, already has built a bustling business out of energy-saving windows and environmentally friendly substitutes for sheetrock.

But a host of “revolutionary innovations” are in the pipeline, according to a report earlier this year by venture firm Nth Power and the research firm Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems. High-efficiency insulation systems such as walls with micro-encapsulated phase change materials are being developed, according to the study. These materials could help stabilize the indoor temperatures in buildings by, say, releasing heat absorbed during the day at night when the outside air cools.

A number of companies (such as the stealthy Soladigm) are using electrochromic technologies that can darken or lighten the tint of a window when in contact with an electrical current and manage the sunlight that passes through. The study also points to the development of ventilated double-skin facades, systems that use inner and outer glass walls with a thin gas cavity in between for the exterior shell of a building. The facades provide insulation, and heat absorbed within the cavity can be used to warm cooler areas of a building. Double-skin facades have already found a fair amount of traction in Europe, but they’ll need some tweaking before they’re widely adopted in the U.S.

Energy Retrofits Become Big Business: “Efficiency” may have been the most popular word for 2009, and nowhere was its meaning so loud and clear as in the building industry. The country’s building stock is largely old and wastes energy, and the measures needed to make structures run more efficiently — say by adding more insulation in the case of homes or replacing aging heating and cooling systems in office buildings — often pay for themselves in reduced energy bills in a handful of years. Add to that the buzz in Washington (and likely financial incentives to spur them on) about creating jobs through these projects, and you’ve got a powerful force driving this industry.

Geoff Chapin, chief executive of home energy retrofitter Next Step Living, tells us he expects his business to grow 300-400 percent next year. Chapin said electric utilities are giving the industry a boost by offering more rebates for homeowners on measures like energy audits, insulation and duct sealing. The U.S. home energy retrofit market will grow about 15 percent per year to $35 billion by 2013, up from $20.7 billion in 2007, according to SBI Energy.

And look out in 2010 for movement at the national level to help correct what are widely seen as three major barriers to the industry: limited information for consumers about the energy performance of homes, difficulties accessing finance for energy retrofits, and a lack of skilled workers in the field.

The market for nonresidential building retrofits is also set to explode. Research and publishing firm McGraw-Hill Construction published a widely circulated report earlier this year that said nonresidential “green building retrofits” represent in the near-term a better opportunity for designers and builders than new construction. The market for these retrofits -– defined in this report as over $1 million in total cost and employing at least three aspects of green building such as energy, water and resource efficiency –- could grow to as much as $15 billion by 2014 from less than $4 billion this year.

Retro-commissioning, the practice of optimizing a building’s operation and maintenance activities such as around its heating and cooling systems, has become a sort of mantra for the industry. While the practice should be seen as just one piece of a comprehensive energy retrofit, retro-commissioning’s rise in popularity is for good reason since it can often lead to energy savings as high as 30 percent, says David Leathers, senior vice president of energy services for mechanical contractor Limbach. Leathers says that any commercial building in the U.S. five years or older can likely benefit from a retrofit with payback for most measures taken in less than five years.

Energy Codes Will Demand Greater Energy Efficiency: Ever since the energy crisis of the 1970s faded out of memory, energy codes adopted by states and other jurisdictions across the country have been making small, incremental steps toward demanding more efficiency out of buildings. But a consensus is forming that there needs to be more strict standards for building energy efficiency, says Jim Edelson, who runs the codes program for the New Building Institute, a nonprofit that promotes improved building energy performance.

The new versions of the “model codes” currently under development — ASHRAE 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which are typically but not always adopted by jurisdictions — will likely require a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency, what Edelson calls the “most significant” increase in a generation. ASHRAE 90.1 is planned to be available in 2010, and the IECC is targeting a 2012 release.

But just because ASHRAE or IECC develop new codes doesn’t mean jurisdictions have to adopt them, and that’s led to a patchwork of energy standards across the country. (For a full description of the map, see this page on the Department of Energy’s web site.)

One issue to look out for in 2010 is if Congress decides to mandate that all states raise their standards to the newest codes. The American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House this year includes a provision that would effectively create a baseline national building energy code by mandating the adoption of a standard set by the Department of Energy, which would presumably point to ASHRAE or IECC. Consistent codes across the country would be good for anyone selling products or marketing services related to building energy efficiency, but it’s unclear if this provision will be part of the Senate’s version of the bill or if it will make it through any compromise legislation.