Oct 29, 2009

Improving Energy Efficiency of Existing Commercial Buildings

About 50 businesses were approved by an Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority committee today to enter the second year of a program designed to bolster the energy efficiency of downtown buildings.

The businesses, large and small, represent about 560,000 square feet in downtown Ann Arbor — roughly 200,000 square feet more than last year, when the DDA launched its Downtown Energy Saving Grant Program and had 40 downtown businesses participate.

Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, says the program has clear environmental benefits.

“More importantly, this is about saving money,” she said. “If we can get our businesses and our building owners to rein in some of their overhead costs, some of their energy costs, that may be some of what helps to keep them going. ... This is absolutely about helping businesses and building owners get through this tough time.”

Participating companies receive a free energy audit from a city-approved contractor, worth anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for large buildings, according to Pollay.

The auditor will identify a custom list of improvements that would boost energy efficiency.

After consultation with the DDA, landlords then pick which energy efficiency improvements to make. After the improvements are made, the DDA rebates half of the landlord's cost, up to $20,000.

The DDA budgeted $150,000 for audits and $250,000 for improvements.

More than 370,000 square feet across 31 buildings were audited in last year's program. Those audits recommended about $880,000 worth of energy-saving improvements, which collectively would save an estimated $180,000 in annual energy costs, according to DDA figures.

Jim Curtis, co-owner of Curtis Commerical L.L.C., enrolled in the program after reading about it last year in the now-defunct Ann Arbor News.

His property management firm owns eight buildings in the 200 and 300 blocks of South Main Street. A total of roughly 50,000 square feet was audited, Curtis said.

Curtis agreed to front about $45,000 in energy efficiency improvements spread throughout his properties, mostly by updating lighting and windows. Even though Curtis' firm has made energy efficient investments in the past, he credited the DDA's program for spurring these improvements.

“We would not have done them … had it not been for the support of the DDA,” Curtis said. “There's no question that we have accelerated and prioritized the energy efficiency programs provided through the DDA as our capital improvement projects for this year and next.”

Crains Detroit Business
POSTED: 4:29 p.m., Oct. 14, 2009
Ryan Beene

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