Notes from the 2017 Montgomery County Energy Summit

This year’s Montgomery County Energy Summit, co-hosted by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and USGBC National Capital Region, provided a comprehensive look at the current state of green building in Montgomery County. There was an equal emphasis on the latest trends that increase efficiency and the economic/legislative developments that impact decision making. Below, we’ve summarized a few of the most noteworthy topics discussed at the summit:

Implementation of Montgomery County Green Codes
With more than five years of analysis, planning and feedback from stakeholders, Montgomery County has indicated that it plans to adopt its own version of the International Green Construction Code by the end of 2017. Like all model codes, the IGCC will be locally adopted and amended as a set of minimum mandatory requirements. Topics of sustainability broadly organize it, much like LEED. A key feature of the Montgomery County codes will be the IGCC’s Appendix A, which allows the Applicant to select electives to achieve compliance, but in quantities designated by the County. The Department of Permitting Services has also indicated that it is developing an online compliance tool similar to the model used by the District’s Department of Regulatory and Consumer Affairs (DCRA). The County Council will consider Executive Regulation 21-15 later this year and, if passed, will replace Montgomery County Code, Chapter 8, Article VII. The County has confirmed that a six-month transition period will occur following adoption. Follow the County’s progress here.

Greening Commercial Real Estate in Montgomery County
Building improvements which increase energy efficiency are a high priority in Montgomery County, where many commercial office buildings were constructed in the late 1970’s – early 1980’s. Building owners who perform these improvements can enjoy many benefits such as:

  • Reduced operating expenses & maintenance costs
  • Improved tenant retention
  • Higher occupancy rates & decreased vacant space
  • Improved tenant experience

Studies conducted by The Appraisal Institute and the Institute for Market Transformation indicate that LEED certified buildings enjoy a 10-18% increase in rent premiums, while ENERGY STAR® certified buildings enjoy a 6-10% increase, on average. Feedback from lending institutions surveyed indicated that most saw the value of greening existing buildings, but only half recognized that it was important to hire loan appraisers with energy experience. In order to incorporate green improvements to commercial buildings, owners must demonstrate how adding sustainable features can improve operations, save dollars and ultimately improve the building’s market value. The panel agreed that, by mandating the energy efficiency appraisal be part of the lending process moving forward, the market (and not the government) will be able to drive support for greening commercial real estate. Participants in the event also learned about County-sponsored programs such as C-PACE, which provide low-interest loans to finance building improvements that increase energy efficiency. Contact the GHT team today to learn more about the financing options available to you and your property.

Net-Zero Is Attainable and Affordable (From a Life Cycle Perspective)

With a special presentation from Joshua Kneifel, PhD, Economist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), participants were able to view first- and second-year energy usage results from the pilot Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility, built on NIST’s Gaithersburg campus. The facility models occupancy scenarios based on a family of four and consists of a two-story, 2700-SF single family home which is Smart Grid and Electric Vehicle ready. As a test bed to evaluate emerging building energy technologies, the NZERTF helps provide real-world field data to improve NIST’s simulation models for energy and indoor air quality.

Major findings concluded that:

  • Net Zero can be obtained using commercially available technologies, while still maintaining the desired residential amenities.
  • While renewable energy strategies were required to reach Net Zero, efficient building energy technologies designed into the facility were capable of drastically reducing energy consumption.
  • Owners should consider a life-cycle costing methodology and not just the “Payback Period,” which ignores all costs and benefits after the energy savings offset the additional investment costs.

For more information on the NZERTF project and to track NIST’s findings, click here.

Sustainable buildings trends like these offer countless opportunities to increase the value of commercial buildings. Contact the Sustainable Programs team to discuss a customized approach for your existing building or upcoming project.

As a Sustainable Programs Manager in GHT’s Sustainable Programs studio, Jake Bebee, LEED AP, WELL AP supports clients throughout the design and construction process who seek LEED, WELL, Net Zero and other sustainable program certifications.