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Resource Center: Tools to Improve Building Efficiency

Increasing a building’s energy performance is a continuous process of improving both building operations and systems. The first step to examining and improving your building’s performance is to measure your energy performance with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. From there, the process of improving energy efficiency will be somewhat different in each building, depending on current energy management practices and the age and efficiency of building systems. However, all buildings that improve their energy efficiency will do some combination of the following: See our Energy Efficiency Checklist for a summary.

The Energize Denver Energy Efficiency Awards were given to the three office buildings, three apartment buildings and three hotels that improved their energy efficiency the most from 2016 to 2017.  Here are the winners! please see the CREJ special Energize Denver supplement.


1st Place: Tamarac Plaza, 1, 7555 E Hampden Ave. Cut energy use by 35 percent.

2nd Place: Havana Gold, 4880 Havana St. ENERGY STAR score improved from 26 to 43.

3rd Place: Market Center, 1624 Market St. ENERGY STAR score improved from 78 to 96


1st Place: The Lodge, 4710 E. Mississippi Ave. Cut energy use by 31 percent.

2nd Place: 1000 South Broadway, 1000 S. Broadway, ENERGY STAR score improved from 77 to 99.

3rd Place: The Denver House, 1055 Logan St. ENERGY STAR score improved from 86 to 96.


1st Place: Hampton Inn and Suites, 1845 Sherman St. ENERGY STAR score improved from 52 to 98.

2nd Place: Doubletree by Hilton, 3203 Quebec St. Increased ENERGY STAR score from 67 to 71.

3rd Place: Crown Plaza Denver, 1450 Glenarm Place. Cut electric use by 8 percent and natural gas by 13 percent.

Operating a building efficiently means:

  • Regularly checking that heating, cooling and ventilation systems are only running when needed
  • Lights are off after hours or when sufficient daylight is present
  • Thermostats, sensors, and controls are correctly calibrated and programmed
  • All other equipment in the building is working as designed.

These operational efficiencies can be maintained on a continuous basis using technology that automatically detects issues and fixes them.  If technology isn’t in place to automatically detect issues, a building can periodically go through a re-tuning, or retrocommissioning process, to systematically evaluate and find opportunities for operational improvements.

Learn about Xcel's Recommissioning programs. 


The first step in planning an upgrade to equipment and systems is to have an energy audit.  An audit will specify the energy savings and payback period that might be expected from replacing building equipment and systems.

Get started with an on-site energy audit from Xcel Energy, they will usually pay 90% of the cost of an ASHRAE Level 1/2  audit. Find an auditor and discuss next steps with Xcel Energy's business solutions center, 1-800-481-4700.

Learn about the types of energy audits available in this Building Owner Guide to Energy Audits.

info about audit levels 

Equipment and systems can be replaced at the end of their useful life or ahead of schedule.  It may make financial sense to replace some building systems and equipment immediately, as newer equipment has an attractive payback period based on the estimated energy savings.  For other equipment, it may make sense to wait to replace the unit when it reaches its end of useful life, at which time more energy efficient equipment can be selected.  


What is the Payback on Typical Energy Efficiency Improvement Strategies?

Source:  "United States Building Efficiency Retrofits: Market Sizing and Financing Models." Rockefeller Foundation and Deutsche Bank Group. 2012. Payback periods are estimates, there are no assurances that payback periods will be achieved.

Through Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), property owners and developers across Denver will be able to access a new financing tool to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation improvements. The voluntary program lowers the cost of third-party financing, which is repaid through the property tax assessment process. Participants receive capital to finance eligible improvements, and repayment is collected through the property tax assessment process (a voluntary assessment is placed on the building owner’s property tax bill). The assessment can provide long-term financing of up to 20 years and stays with the property at the time of sale, removing traditional barriers to financing projects with payback cycles longer than two to three years.
The of advantages of PACE for owners of commercial real estate include:

  • No down payment or personal loan guarantee needed from the owner
  • Energy cost savings can be cash flow positive to the owner
  • Building asset value is increased by the value of the new equipment
  • When the property is sold, the lien transfers to the new owner (like a sewer tax)
  • Long-term (up to 20 year) financing is available at low fixed rates from local and national capital providers

The of advantages of PACE for the people of Denver include:

  • New jobs created by every C-PACE project
  • Energy consumption reduced through more efficient buildings
  • Greenhouse gas emission reductions


The following case study buildings are leading the way in improving energy efficiency. Learn how buildings like yours are staying ahead of the curve and seeing an attractive return on investments in energy efficiency. 

If you have recently undertaken or completed an energy efficiency project, we want to hear about it! Write a case study about your project or host an event with us to showcase your building. Please send suggestions for energy efficiency case studies and buildings we might showcase to Read basic case study requirements.

Performance Contracting

From 2014 to 2017, General Services worked on a Performance Contract at fourteen City facilities, including libraries, recreation centers, and fire stations. The General Services Sustainability Fund received a total of $113,769 worth of rebates from Xcel Energy for investing in energy-saving equipment at these locations. Between January and November of 2017, an estimated energy use reduction of 17 percent was realized at these fourteen facilities.

Energy Star Certified Buildings

In 2017, nine City facilities received Energy Star certification. In general, Energy Star certified buildings release 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and use an average of 35 percent less energy than typical buildings. To earn Energy Star certification, a facility must operate among the top 25 percent of similar facilities nationwide, without sacrificing occupant comfort or building quality.

Better Buildings Challenge

In December 2011, Mayor Hancock committed the City and County of Denver to the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge initiative. Its goal is to reduce energy use per square foot by 20 percent by the year 2020. Despite increasing occupancy at City owned buildings, the City realized a 9 percent reduction in energy use per square foot in 2016, compared to our 2011 baseline energy use per square foot.

American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy – Top Ten Ranking for Denver

Denver was in the top ten in the 2017 ranking of community energy efficiency, done by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, and was identified as a “leader in efficiency in local government operations” within a group of five cities with policies to increase the energy efficiency of municipal buildings.