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Smart Management of Closed City Buildings Saves Energy and Money

Electric Plug With Wire GraphicClimate Initiatives and Facilities Management are working together to ensure that shut down buildings aren’t turning into energy vampires

On March 15, city buildings temporarily closed for business in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the buildings aren’t being used, they still need energy to power heating and cooling, security and other systems.

Without intervention from building managers, the buildings would have operated at normal energy levels, powering unnecessary heating and cooling, excess lighting, empty refrigerators and quiet copy machines.

That’s why Climate Initiatives and Facilities Management have been working together to reduce the energy load in the city’s temporarily closed buildings. Facilities managers have:

  • Set lower set points for heating
  • Turned off cooling
  • Searched for and unplugged non-essential energy users like office equipment, vending machines, ice machines and refrigerators
  • Turned off all lighting except for emergency and safety lighting
  • Emptied pools and turned off pump motors until opened
  • Ensured the buildings continue to benefit from on-site and off-site solar production

While the city won’t know the precise energy savings of these steps until billed, conservative estimates anticipate at least a 40% reduction in energy and $85,000 lower energy costs in March alone. These savings are especially important as the city faces reduced budgets as a result of the financial implications of the pandemic. Facilities Management and Climate Initiatives staff are working with multiple departments to assess ongoing utility savings to help meet necessary budget reductions.

Steps You Can Take

The city has also engaged with commercial property owners within the city to share best practices since so many building managers are facing similar challenges. The city’s partners at PACE have developed steps you can take to save energy in your temporarily closed buildings:

  1. Adjust programmable thermostats and building automation systems to operate at “unoccupied” settings
  2. Turn off all lighting, except for essential egress and security lights
  3. Turn off non-essential exhaust fans (e.g. kitchen exhaust hood ventilation, bathroom exhaust and parking garage exhaust)
  4. Reduce heated water supply temperatures
  5. Unplug unnecessary appliances (coffee pots, strip heaters, chargers, monitors and copy machines)

Learn more at:

Buildings and Climate Change

Saving energy isn’t just about reducing costs. It’s also about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the city’s 2018 greenhouse gas emissions inventory, buildings and facilities account for 29% of the city organization’s emissions. Since 2008, the city organization has reduced its emissions by 38%. The city seeks to reduce these emissions by 80% by the end of the decade.

Community-wide, Boulder’s 46,000+ buildings account for two-thirds of the community’s total energy use.

Learn more about the city’s efforts to reduce emissions from the building sector at

Posted May 1, 2020

Media Contact

Emily Sandoval, Climate Initiatives: 970-210-1225