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green building for businesses - faq



What can be done in my business to conserve energy and water, and help protect the environment?


The following information can help your business conserve energy and water, and help protect the environment. Many of these steps can also help your business save money or even allow you and your employees to feel more comfortable in the workplace and be more productive.

Energy Efficiency - Most appliances, equipment and heating or cooling systems are powered either by electricity or by natural gas. In James City County, electricity and natural gas are provided by Dominion Virginia Power or Virginia Natural Gas. Energy savings can be achieved through a number of different means, including electricity use habits; appliances and electronics; insulation and air sealing; lighting and day lighting; windows, doors and skylights; heating and cooling; landscaping; and water heating.

There are many everyday practices that business owners can do that cost little to no money and will help improve energy efficiency and save money, like raising the thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer, keeping window shades closed while the air conditioner is on, turning off lights, unplugging equipment not in use, and lowering water heater temperature setting. Other ways to improve energy efficiency and save money may involve putting a new product in place in the business or completing some type of improvement project. For example, your business might wish buy a new appliance like an EnergyStar refrigerator for the employee kitchen, weather strip doors and windows, add an insulation blanket to a water heater, or put in new landscaping to shade the business or create a wind-block. Some of these products or projects cost very little money, while others may take more of an investment – either way, they will likely save your business money over time (see the section on Audits below for more information).

If you are looking to make your business more energy efficient, there is no shortage of ideas available to you. There are many websites that have great information on things you can do to make your business more energy efficient. For a few sites recommended sites, see below:

Energy Audits and Cost-Benefit Considerations - While the good news is that there are a lot of practices and measures that can help save energy and money for a business, the drawback is that it is sometimes hard to know where to start and what will make the most difference for the money. There are several websites that include information about either going through an on-line calculator yourself, or hiring a professional energy auditor that can give you a better picture of where to start.

Dominion Virginia Power customers are now able to specify that they would like to buy renewable energy.  Dominion Power launched the Dominion Green Power program on Jan. 1, 2009, which allows customers to voluntarily support the production and development of electricity generated from renewable sources (wind, solar, biomass). This program offers convenient and cost-effective options for customers to match all or part of their electrical usage with renewable energy.

Water Conservation

In James City County, businesses receive water from the JCSA, Newport News Waterworks, or from a private well. Regardless of the source, saving water is an important goal, and may also help you and your family save money.

In 1994, the Hampton Roads Water Efficiency Team (HR WET) was established to develop and implement a regional approach to promoting efficient water use throughout Hampton Roads. The HR WET website has information for business and industry on efficiently using water.

Other green building measures

Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation are two of the major factors in Green Building, but there are other aspects of building and maintaining greener buildings. These other aspects include use of renewable resources for materials in the business, choosing products that can improve indoor air quality, and paying attention to what happens to the waste that is created when a business is renovated. These steps not only help protect the environment, but some of them can help protect the health and enhance the productivity of employees. Whether your business will be replacing a carpet, painting, buying new office furniture, or renovating the whole business, the following information may be helpful. For more information about where these products are available to purchase, see the “Where Can I Purchase Green Building Products?” section below.

Materials from Renewable Resources and Using Recycled Products - Green building often includes using products from renewable resources and/or products that are made from recycled material. Products made from renewable resources include Bamboo flooring; Cork flooring; Wool Carpets; Natural Linoleum; Natural Stone; Solid Wood Cabinetry, Furniture, and Doors; and Clay and Copper roofing tile. For wood products, look for certification of the Forest Stewardship Council to help ensure that the forest the wood came from is being responsibly managed. In terms of recycled or reclaimed products, look for reclaimed wood flooring, ceramic tiles with recycled content, and carpet or carpet pad with recycled content.

Indoor Air Quality and Chemical Reduction - Many indoor products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This family of chemical compounds negatively affects human health. The “new car smell” can be attributed to VOCs, as well as the smell of many paints and finishes. Foam furniture, carpet pad and particleboard often contain urea-formaldehyde, which off-gases VOCs. Conscious choices can be made to minimize the amount of VOCs in a business environment. Paints are available in low VOC and no VOC varieties by major paint manufacturers. Urea formaldehyde furniture can be avoided. Particleboard furniture can be avoided or the particleboard sealed to keep the VOCs from off-gassing. (This information is from the EarthCraft Homes Renovation Guidelines.)

Waste Management - Building waste can be recycled (wood, metal, drywall, etc.) or salvaged for reuse (bathtubs or sinks, wood floors, doors, etc.) which saves space in our landfills.


Where can my business purchase Green Building products?


Green building products are available at a wide variety of stores.  Some stores have taken the extra step of providing information on their websites, and some have included labeling products to help their customers distinguish green building products.

One example is Home Depot, which has an “Eco Options” label. The Home Depot website explains that “Every product with an Eco Options label has less of an impact on the environment than competing products. Specifically Eco Options products offer one or more of the following benefits: Energy Efficient, Water Conservation, Healthy Home, Clean Air and Sustainable Forestry.” For example, if you wanted to paint a room using paint with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), purchase a door or moldings from a responsibly managed forest, or buy an EnergyStar appliance, Home Depot has an Eco Options label on those products.

Another example is Lowes, which has an “Efficient Home” section on its website that provides information on products that help save water, energy and money.

Another source is a company called Green Building Supply, which sells products, but can also be a useful resource in researching products that are available.


Can I carry green practices throughout the operations and maintenance of my business?


There are also resources that can help business owners evaluate and put in place features that cover the green building spectrum.  One example is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for Existing Buildings – Operations and Maintenance. The LEEDwebsite states that this system “helps building owners and operator’s measure operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. LEED for Existing Buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades.”


Are there any financial resources that can help and what incentives and tax credits are available?


The following are some resources that could help offset the costs of making improvements to your business. Please check back again for more information, as additional resources may be added to this page in the future. In addition, you may wish to visit the website for the Tax Incentives Assistance Project, which has flyers and other materials summarizing tax incentives available to businesses.

(Federal Tax Deduction for Commercial Building Owners)

  • Businesses can take a tax deduction for new or renovated buildings by reducing the energy costs associated with three components - lighting system; building envelope; and heating, cooling and water heating equipment. Buildings must exceed the ASHRAE 90.1-2001 standard and be placed in service between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2013 in order to be eligible. (See IRS Notice 2006-52 and IRS Notice 2008-40 for details). The deduction is available in two levels:
  • Buildings that save 50 percent or more of projected annual energy costs across all three system components are eligible for a tax deduction of $1.80 per square foot.
  • Buildings that save a percentage of projected annual energy costs for one of the three components - building envelope (10 percent energy savings), lighting (20 percent), and heating and cooling (20 percent) - are eligible for a partial deduction of $0.60 per square foot.
  • The organization that makes the expenditures is generally the recipient of the deduction, which can be taken in the year the building is placed in service. In the case of a public building, the designer may take the deduction. The building must be certified by a qualified individual (a licensed engineer or contractor) as meeting the energy cost savings goal.
  • Tax Incentives for Solar, Wind and Geothermal Systems: The incentives apply to solar and wind systems placed in service from Jan. 1, 2006 until Dec. 31, 2016, and to geothermal heat pump systems placed in service from Oct. 3, 2008 until Dec. 31, 2016. The incentives are worth 30 percent of the installed cost of the solar or wind system, and 10 percent of the cost of the geothermal system. The economic stimulus legislation also provides the option for businesses to take a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department during 2009 and 2010 in lieu of the investment tax credit. Credit Claimed on IRS Form 3468.
  • Tax Credit or Grant for Geothermal Systems: Qualified geothermal systems are ground source heat pumps with related equipment used to produce, distribute, or use energy derived from a geothermal source. Commercial customers can get an investment tax credit of 10 percent of the installed cost, available through 2016. The ARRA legislation also provides the option of taking a grant in lieu of the credit, worth 10 percent of the installed costs for equipment placed in service during 2009 and 2010.
  • Tax Credits for Solar Systems: Qualifying equipment will use solar energy to (1) generate electricity, or heat/cool or provide hot water to a structure, or (2) illuminate the inside of a building by means of fiber-optic distributed sunlight (tube systems and passive solar are not eligible). For more information visit For solar water heating, systems must be certified for performance by the Solar Rating Certification Corporation (SRCC) or a comparable entity endorsed by the State government in which the system is located. At least half of the energy used by the system to heat the water must be solar energy. Expenses for heating swimming pools or hot tubs are not eligible.

Other Types of Incentives:

  • Renewable Energy Credits – Available through some solar and wind installers, these are available for at least solar hot water, solar PV, and wind systems, and provide an annual cash payment. Estimated payment for an $8-$9,000 solar hot water system is $800 annually (in addition to 30 percent tax credit on installation of system). One source for more information is: Solar Services, Inc. 757-427-6300.
  • Virginia Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Rebate Programs – Applications for the first round of rebates closed in mid-November 2009, however, a second round of rebate funds is expected to be made available at a later date to be determined.  Visit the following website to sign up to be notified of the second round: These rebates cover energy audits, central air conditioners, air source heat pumps, natural gas or propane furnace, commercial lighting upgrades, high efficiency motors and drives, and much more. Visit this section of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy website for the complete list:
  • Performance Contracting - This is starting to emerge as an option for retrofitting existing buildings to improve energy performance. A performance contractor will evaluate your building and propose to make improvements to your building envelope and systems, and will help obtain financing, with the payments to make the improvements to be paid for by improvements in energy performance that will be guaranteed by the contractor. This industry is somewhat in its infancy, but state energy performance contracts are in place now that allow governmental entities to avail themselves of this option, and George Mason University recently completed renovation of campus buildings using this form of contract with great success.

State ESCO forms/guidance
Information on performance contracting at GMU


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