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Office building in Greensboro, North Carolina

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Built in 1971 and located in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, this office building is one of a number of commercial buildings constructed for local banks during the 1970s. Self-Help has owned and operated the property since 1998, and it currently houses 21 office tenants, all of which are non-profit organisations. The building is a representative example of the large stock of B-class commercial office buildings that make up the skyline of most U.S. cities. As such, it offers lessons for how cost-effective retrofits can enhance value without negatively impacting rents for value-conscious tenants.

The property's performance showed a noticeable improvement upon conclusion of the implementation of efficiency measures. Weather-normalised energy use in 2012 declined 19% from the prior year, producing over $8,111 in annual energy savings. These savings are a result from both the lighting and HVAC upgrades.

While the building falls short of an ENERGY STAR certification, the improvements represent a significant down payment on achieving that performance level and lift the building into the top half of its peers. As the building owner continues to make investments in the property, it expects to reap additional savings from new retrofits and realise synergies between new fan motors and controls already put into place.


Building information

Owner: Self-Help

Location: Greensboro, North Carolina

Building Type: Mixed-Use Retail and Office

Size: Ten stories; 88,000 square feet

Year Built: 1971


Efficiency measures

Lighting upgrades, including reduction of overall fixtures, installation of T5 fixtures, occupancy sensors in restrooms and common spaces, as well as photos sensors in conference spaces.

HVAC retrofits, including controls for basement and penthouse air handling units, high-efficiency AHU return fan and controls, and variable air volume kits in some office spaces.


Key results

Weather-normalised Energy Use Intensity (EUI, or site energy use per gross square foot of building area) decreased by 19%.

Reduced energy costs (6.4%) with additional savings possible with completion of Variable Air Volume (VAV) retrofits.

Annual energy savings of $8,111.



The retrofits to Self-Help’s 122 North Elm Street facility demonstrate that building performance for 1960s and ’70s-vintage construction can be improved, as evidenced by the building’s 6.4% energy cost savings and significant improvement in its ENERGY STAR score. The annual energy savings of $8,111 contributed significantly to asset value in excess of the cost of the retrofits, leading to a more productive asset. Self-Help intends to replicate the success of this project at this building and elsewhere in the portfolio.


For further information and details, you can download the relevant report elaborated by the Institute for Market Transformation (ICM) here.

Lessons learnt

This office building is a leading example of how energy modeling can be used to identify and plan retrofits over time. The project demonstrates that significant progress on efficiency is possible through steady improvement in the context of capital improvement plans and operating budgets. Furthermore, it shows that In secondary and tertiary markets, cutting utility costs has a significant impact on the bottom line. When market conditions prevent robust rent growth, energy efficiency can present the best opportunity to improve bottom-line value.

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