Energy Efficiency in Buildings

Energy Efficiency in Buildings

In buildings, energy efficiency means using less energy for heating, cooling, and lighting. It also means buying energy-saving appliances and equipment for use in a building.

Boulder County is committed to reducing energy use, and has many programs like the EnergySmart and Weatherization programs through which residents and business owners will be able to apply for assistance for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements. The county also has a BuildSmart (Residential Green Building Code) that affects all new residential construction and additions in unincorporated Boulder County.

Pushing the Envelope: Make Your Building Efficient from the Outside In

An important concept for energy efficiency in buildings is the building envelope, which is everything that separates the interior of the building from the outdoor environment: the doors, windows, walls, foundation, roof, and insulation. All the components of the building envelope need to work together to keep a building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Your home's insulation, for instance, will be less effective if the roof, walls, and ceiling allow air to leak in or allow moisture to collect in the insulation.

Various approaches can help improve the building envelope. Storm windows and doors can reduce heat loss when temperatures drop. In warm regions, windows with special glazing can let in daylight without heat gain. Even some simple weatherization techniques, such as weather stripping doors and windows, can significantly improve a building's energy efficiency.

Heating and cooling systems typically use the most energy in a building. In homes, the addition of efficient controls, like a programmable thermostat, can significantly reduce the energy use of these systems. Some homes can also use zone heating and cooling systems, which reduce heating and cooling in the unused areas of a home. And in commercial buildings, integrated space and water heating systems can provide the best approach to energy-efficient heating.

The energy used to heat water can be reduced by both heating water more efficiently and by reducing hot water use. A wide variety of fixtures, such as low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, can reduce hot water use. In a home, an older water heater can be replaced with a newer, more energy-efficient one, and the water heater and hot water pipes can be insulated to minimize heat loss.

Today, most common appliances and electronic devices are available in energy-efficient models—from clothes washers and refrigerators to copiers and computers. Several energy-efficient lighting options, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, are also available.

There are ways to determine how energy efficient a building really is and, if needed, what improvements can be made. Homeowners can conduct simple energy audits on their homes or have professional audits done.

Boulder County Can Help Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

You may be eligible to receive free help converting your home to a more energy efficient building. Longs Peak Energy Conservation, a division of the Boulder County Housing Authority, offers free home energy-conservation retrofits (known as weatherization) for low- to moderate-income residents in Boulder, Larimer and Gilpin Counties. In addition to weatherization services, LPEC also offers a variety of home rehabilitation programs to residents of the Cities of Boulder and Longmont and to residents of Boulder County.

Improving Energy Efficiency In Buildings

Following is an overview of the various opportunities that exist for improving energy efficiency in your buildings. You may also wish to check out our list of specific tips to reduce energy consumption at home; many of these tips also apply in the workplace.

Building Envelope

The building envelope includes everything that separates the interior of a building from the outdoor environment, including the windows, walls, foundation, basement slab, ceiling, roof, and insulation.

Space Heating and Cooling

Energy-efficient heating and cooling of buildings are aided through the use of automated controls, ventilation, improved duct systems, and advanced technologies.

Water Heating

Energy-efficient Water Heating Combined with Water-efficient Appliances and Fixtures Will Save Water, Energy, and Money


Compact fluorescent light bulbs and other efficient lighting technologies save energy and money.


Energy-efficient options are available for clothes washers and dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, ovens, and stoves.

Office Equipment and Building Electrical Equipment

Most office equipment wastes energy as it sits idle; equipment with built-in power management features can greatly reduce energy use by switching to low-energy mode when not in use. Energy-efficient motors and transformers are also available.

Whole-Building Design

Whole-building design takes an integrative approach to building design so that all elements of the building help achieve an optimal energy performance. The building has to interact effectively with the outdoor environment — a concept known as climate-responsive architecture. A variety of design tools are available.

Landscaping for Energy Efficiency

Landscaping can improve a building's energy performance. Trees and bushes can provide shading or block a prevailing wind, as can earth berms.

Urban Heat Islands

In urban areas, building energy efficiency is hampered by higher urban temperatures, an effect known as urban heat islands.


Sustainability Office

Brad Smith
Sustainability Outreach Specialist

Boulder County Courthouse
First floor
1325 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302

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Mailing Address

PO Box 471
Boulder, CO 80306