Energy-efficient Commercial Buildings

Whole building commercial design considers all components and subsystems throughout the life of each project and is the most important step in achieving energy-efficient buildings. The Commercial Building Initiative (CBI) conducts its research using a whole building design approach.

Integrated Design Is Critical

Whole building design takes into consideration site, energy, materials, indoor air quality, acoustics, and natural resources. The design team must be fully integrated early in the process, during the Scoping and Predesign phase, to address how these elements work together. The team should include architects, engineers, building occupants and owners, and specialists in areas such as indoor air quality, materials, and energy use.

Integrated building design changes the way architects, engineers, and project teams design buildings and leads to much higher energy performance. To be successful, project teams must:

  • Set specific and measurable energy goals
  • Develop strategies to meet the goals by planning from the top down and evaluating from the bottom up, by using resources such as energy modeling software or design guides from the early stages of a project
  • Create a structure that encourages communication among team members through methods such as charrettes (workshops) early in the process
  • Make each team member accountable for successfully implementing the strategies
  • Evaluate progress toward the goal frequently.


Compared to conventional buildings, whole building design reduces the amount of energy required to operate a building by incorporating energy-saving technologies. Benefits include:

  • Significantly reduced energy use
  • Decreased maintenance and capital costs
  • Less environmental impact
  • Increased occupant comfort and health
  • Improved employee productivity.

Invest Design Savings into Energy Efficiency

Architects, engineers, and project teams can make design decisions that reduce theEnergy-efficient Commercial Buildings financial impact of energy-saving technologies. For example, siting a building to maximize daylighting reduces the cost of lighting for the lifetime of the building. In addition, optimizing building envelope design will reduce heating and cooling costs. Savings from these design strategies can then be invested in higher quality windows or controls, which will also reduce energy use.

The High Performance Buildings Database provides business cases for projects across the United States
and around the world. The energy, economic, and environmental performance of high-performance buildings is substantially better than standard practice.


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