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Launch of Rocky Mountain Institute’s RetroFit Depot


Rocky Mountain Institute, a leading think tank that engages with the building, energy, and transportation sectors to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources, recently launched a groundbreaking website to accelerate the retrofit industry in the United States. Through its larger RetroFit Initiative, RMI has been working with its client partners to test the waters for deep retrofits on actual projects. With the launch of the RetroFit Depot, the results of these projects are now available to the public. RMI’s RetroFit Depot is a unique resource that will serve as a clearinghouse for information that builds the business case, how-to best practices, and tools designed specifically to help building sector stakeholders achieve deep retrofits. “With these tools and resources in place,” says Victor Olgyay, RMI Principal, “building industry stakeholders will be in a much stronger position to pursue deep retrofits.”

What exactly are “deep retrofits” and how do they differ from the retrofits we typically see today? In a nutshell, deep retrofits are energy efficiency retrofits that improve the economics of efficiency and achieve bigger energy savings (and other benefits) at equal or lower cost compared with typical retrofits. A deep retrofit can achieve much more dramatic energy savings (more than 50%) than conventional, “shallow” retrofits.

That may sound too good to be true, but the reality is that many building industry professionals report that they are already engaging in deep retrofits and are interested in seeing more of them. That was the result of a recent study that Pike Research conducted on behalf of RMI.

However, the study also revealed that building ownership entities and financial institutions lack informational resources that would help assess the true value of deep energy efficiency retrofits. In addition, the study revealed that the technical limitations of qualified energy modelers and perceived high up-front costs of whole-systems energy modeling are barriers that must be overcome before deep retrofits can be rolled out on a broader scale. (A white paper discussing the findings of the study can be downloaded here (PDF).)

With a clear sense of the market’s needs in mind, RMI developed a set of unique

tools and other resources including an energy modeling toolkit, a tool for lifecycle cost assessments and an integrated design checklist that, together, will help building owners and engineers undertake deep retrofits smoothly and cost effectively.

In addition, RMI has published the results of several successful deep retrofit case studies including the Empire State Building and the Byron Rogers federal office building in downtown Denver. These resources and tools will help building industry stakeholders with not only the “why” of deep retrofits but also the “how”. “As a ‘think-and-do’ tank that not only researches solutions to the building sector’s energy challenges but also puts them into practice in real-life projects,” adds Olgyay, “we both understand the industry’s needs and can develop unique resources to address them.”

These resources are now available to the people that hold the keys to deep retrofits, such as energy service providers, energy modelers, property owners/managers, and others. RMI is also working with a number of industry partners in the building systems and real estate sectors to develop useful content going forward. As RMI engages in a greater number of proof-of-concept, deep retrofit consulting engagements, the tools and resources available on the RetroFit Depot website will continue to grow.

Pike Research projections show that retrofits for commercial buildings in the U.S.

could save over $41.1 billion per year in energy costs. With deep retrofits, the U.S. could save even more energy and money in the long term, and we applaud RMI on the launch of the RetroFit Depot.

Photo by Archana Pandey/flickr/Creative Commons

Article by Eric Woods.