“Green” has become a major, inescapable buzzword over the past few years. But most discussions tend to revolve around greening new construction. Panelists at the MFE Conference in Las Vegas last week, however, focused strictly on sustainable retrofits.

Panelists Dori Eden, director of business development at Pasadena, Calif.-based KBKG; Fred Schreiber, vice president of Chicago-based AMLI Residential; and Doug Walker, senior vice president of Highlands Ranch, Colo.-based UDR, offered the crowd 25 ideas to cut costs and turn a profit with sustainable design. After all, simple retrofits can improve energy efficiency by 30 percent to 75 percent depending on the initial state of the building.

Here are the panelists’ 25 green retrofit ideas:

1. Evaluate your building’s performance. Energy Star (www.energystar.gov) offers several benchmarking and analytical tools.

2. Conduct an energy audit, making sure to use a trained auditor. National programs that use the whole-building approach include the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) and Building Performance Institute (BPI).

3. Know the expected utility inflation so you can target the building’s best returns.

4. Measure and communicate the building’s energy usage. Remember, what gets measured gets focused on. Enable and reward property managers who can effectively manage utility usage.

5. Provide residents with context to understand their relative energy usage. Share tips and best practices to reduce resident usage.

6. Partner with your residents by coupling capital improvements with usage reductions.

7. Streamline the permitting process for building, plan, and site permits on projects that achieve a certain level of sustainability. Cities will waive or reimburse application, building, or permit fees for specific levels of LEED and other green building rating systems.

8. Apartment developers of garden-style communities (up to three stories) can obtain a 45L Federal Tax Credit of $2,000 per energy-efficient dwelling unit. Heating and cooling energy consumption must be at least 50 percent below that of a reference dwelling designed according to 2004 energy standards, and the building envelope must provide a level of heating and cooling that is at least 10 percent below reference unit.

9. IRC Section 179D allows for an immediate depreciation deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for commercial buildings that achieve a 50 percent reduction in total energy and power costs.

10. Grants offset development costs. For example, the Energy Independence Act of 2007 and its Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant of 2007 authorize $2 billion in grant money to communities and states.

11. Green loans help small businesses build green and can be especially effective in jurisdictions that do not have established green building programs.

12. Cities and states offer a number of rebates and incentives. For example, through the Pasadena, Calif., Water & Power High Performance Building Program, developers who exceed the minimum certification will receive one month’s electricity savings for each percent efficiency better than code the building performs up to $100K.

13. Municipalities can purchase energy-efficient appliances in bulk and offer discounted prices. Plus, cities can provide a rebate for water conservation and/or energy use.

14. Install high-efficiency lighting. Every 3-watt reduction in lighting power results in roughly a 1-watt reduction in HVAC.

15. Apply super insulating panels to the building’s exterior to increase the thermal insulation of the concrete.

16. Install solar panels and obtain a Section 48 tax credit—a 30 percent tax credit for solar energy property placed in service by Dec. 31, 2016.

17. Doors and windows often cause significant heating and cooling losses so be sure to install glazing, caulk and properly seal, and replace old product with low-e windows when feasible.

18. Use lighting controls that offer dimmer settings, bi-level switching, motion sensors, and timers.

19. Envelope upgrades should include caulking and improving the air sealing, adding insulation, and improving duct sealing.

20. Develop a green maintenance program with a best practices approach to the sustainability of building and systems that includes routine cleaning of evaporative coil; routine filter replacement; and a routine check of the water heater temperature settings.

21. Install low-flow plumbing fixtures including new shower heads, low-flow toilets, aerators, flush valves, and dual-flush systems. Leak detection also is critical.

22. Embrace water and drought-resistant landscaping using reclaimed water, irrigation sensors, timers, and green products for landscaping, pool, and pest control.

23. Reflective roofing reduces the heat island effect.

24. Energy Star programmable thermostats put residents in control of their energy usage and can save up to 33 percent in annual electric bills.

25. Increase recycling. In many municipalities, recycling is either subsidized or collected at a flat fee.

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