Save Money and Increase Comfort: The Basics of Commercial Building Re-tuning

Published 08.31.2023

Lindsey Harner and Zach Gump

CEC Blog
CEC Commercial
Clean Energy

Are you looking for ways to reduce energy costs in your commercial facility without investing thousands of dollars in new equipment?

Do you receive thermal comfort complaints from occupants in your building?

Investing in Commercial Building Re-tuning skills training for your on-site facilities staff can help you tackle these problems for years to come.

What is Commercial Building Re-tuning?

Re-tuning is a systematic process to identify and implement no- or low-cost operational changes in a commercial facility to reduce energy waste.

Buildings become less energy-efficient with each passing year. Re-tuning can return a building to its initial efficiency, or in some cases, better than original efficiency. According to an analysis of 151 buildings that underwent re-tuning, annual energy savings ranged between 5% and 20%, and buildings with Building Automation Systems (BAS) realized up to 30% energy savings! One example includes the LBJ Department of Education Headquarters in Washington, D.C., which saved 14.2% on electricity usage in the two years following re-tuning.

What Types of Buildings Can Be Re-tuned?

Commercial buildings of any type and size can be re-tuned, including office buildings and schools. The process also includes multiple pathways for re-tuning, depending on if your building does or does not have a Building Automation System.

Phases of Observation-Driven Re-tuning

All commercial buildings can benefit from observation-driven re-tuning. There are four phases of this re-tuning process:

  1. Data Collection
  2. Investigation
  3. Documentation
  4. Implementation

The Data Collection phase involves taking the time to really get to know your building. Some of the information collected in this phase include:

  • Size, age, and type of building
  • Types of equipment within the building
  • Logs of tenant complaints
  • Building occupancy & equipment schedules
  • Meter data of all utilities (electricity, gas, etc.)

The next phase is the Investigation phase. This phase requires at least one walkdown of the building to identify operational problems and energy savings opportunities. A thorough walkdown focuses on the following areas of a building:

  • Building envelope
  • HVAC Systems and Controls
  • Lighting Systems and Controls
  • Hot Water
  • Office Equipment
  • Air Distribution Systems
  • Meter Profile
  • Compressed Air

Next, during the Documentation phase, all possible measures identified during the Investigation phase are documented. This list can then be sorted to determine where the time, money, and effort would best be spent addressing these issues.

Finally, during the Implementation stage, the identified issues are corrected, and the associated energy savings are calculated.

Additional Steps: Buildings with BAS

If your building has a Building Automation System (BAS), the re-tuning process includes both simple and data-driven re-tuning processes to review, evaluate, and correct operational control issues. Some common re-tuning measures in buildings with BAS systems include to add discharge temperature and static pressure resets, to enter proper schedules for exhaust fans and air handling units, and to add occupancy-based controls for common areas.

How to Get Started with Re-tuning

A great place to begin with re-tuning is by completing a course with a nationally-recognized training provider. The Clean Energy Center at Penn College offers a 10-hour Commercial Building Re-tuning class both in-person and online. In this course your facilities staff will be given the tools and confidence to spot and implement low- and no-cost energy saving opportunities in commercial facilities. The strategies learned can significantly reduce a facility’s utility costs, improve a building’s energy score, and reduce tenant complaints.

Interested in signing up for an upcoming class? Check out our list of upcoming courses online: