Clean Technology


One piece of the Better Buildings Challenge - Milwaukee (BBC-MKE) program is to inform building owners, property managers, and contractors about trends in energy-efficient equipment and technologies while promoting Wisconsin and American made energy efficiency products. The Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) and the Environmental Collaboration Office have partnered to develop a resource for building owners, managers, and contractors looking to make the best choices on building upgrades.  The technology page is built to help you find energy efficient technologies, support local manufacturers, and inform on building retrofit practices. 

Milwaukee's commercial ECO Design Guidelines provide further insight regarding designing for environmental impact and savings.   

Energy and Your Building

Commercial buildings account for 18% of the energy use in the United States, using a tremendous amount of energy annually for lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation, and plug-in equipment such as appliances, computers, and printers.  Installing modern lighting,  HVAC, and building control technologies to commercial buildings cuts energy use 38% on average, saving $0.61 per square foot annually. The Milwaukee Better Buildings Challenge can help you identify best practices and state-of-the-art options for locally-made energy-saving technologies.

Commercial Building Energy Use Infographic

Retrofit Technologies


The BBC is focused on retrofits within nine categories for energy efficient technologies. 


High Impact Technologies

High impact technologies (HITs) are identified by the U.S. Department of Energy as technologies that are cost-effective, energy-efficient commercial building technologies that are underutilized. These technologies are identified by five characteristics:

  • Energy performance
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Manufacturing capacity
  • Market adoption potential
  • Stakeholder interest

The DOE's current HIT List is developed through extensive evaluation of building technologies and generally represent technologies that reduce energy use at least 10% when compared to common technologies. A full list of HITs, their results, and where and when to use them can be found through the DOE's high impact technology HQ.

HITs listed in the technology categories below are denoted with this symbol.


On average, lighting represents 20% of a commercial building's overall energy use. It is also one of the easiest ways to begin to introduce energy efficiency into your building, as it begins showing savings immediately upon implementation and projects generally show short pay back periods. Upgrading lighting systems to high-efficiency models can save 15-45% on a one-for-one basis and can reach levels of 75% savings with the use of various controls. The Commercial Building Energy Alliance provides LED troffer technical specifications which you can incoperate into your lighting plan.  

Commercial 2x4ft Troffers

For a commercial 2-foot by 4-foot troffer, the required model is cost-effective if it is priced no more than $37 above the less efficient model. The best available model saves the average user more: $61 above the less efficient model.

Industrial High Bay LED Luminaires

For an industrial high bay LED luminaire, the required model is cost-effective if it is priced no more than $180 above the less efficient model. The best available model saves even more: $352 above the less efficient model.

LED CFL Luminaire Replacements: downlight luminaires using conventional incandescent, halogen, and compact fluorescent lamps have lower efficacies and shorter expected lifetimes than comparable LED systems.

  • For use in: Hospitals and other commercial buildings currently utilizing pin-based CFL downlight luminaires. 
  • Potential savings: 60% over standard CFL technology

Adaptive Exterior Lighting Controls: outdoor lighting incorporated into a single system with LED sources and advanced wireless controls.

  • For use in: buildings currently utilizing outdoor lighting systems, including parking, landscape, and façade lighting, which are not governed by automatic controls.
  • Potential savings: 30-75% depending on application and site-specific factors

Rotary-Cooled Solid-State Lighting (RCSSL): a novel solid-state lighting (SSL) architecture that improves thermal management performance enhancing heat transfer nearly 10x compared to conventional heat sinks.

  • Benefits: low luminaire thermal resistance (~0.09 C/W) leads to increased luminous efficacy and lifetime of LEDs without large overall luminaire size, high LED driver efficiency (99.0%), rotational color mixing provides optical insertion- loss-free white light using color LEDs and enables increased luminous efficacy and adjustable color balance with no perceptible flicker, designed to be easily manufactured in volume using established methods and tools
  • Applications and Industries: high-bay lighting, industrial and commercial area lighting

Red-Emitting Phosphors for Solid-State Lighting: transform the cold blue of many current light-emitting diodes (LEDs) into the warm white that could help move solid-state lighting (SSL) into broader applications and market spaces.

  • Benefits: improved white light quality, unprecedented red-phosphor component for blue or UV excitation, reduces the need for stringent emission wavelength control of the LEDs, increases the absorption cross section of the phosphor, exceeds traditional LED color quality, improved energy efficiency
  • Applications and Industries: electronics, solid-state lighting, photo catalysis, ion Conducting
  • Indoor location tracking: sensing through smart phone locations able to locate persons with a 10cm accuracy indoors, able to provide location based lighting.
  • Camera-based lighting control: camera technology is being used for movement sensing, and is much more accurate than infrared, ultrasonic or microwave sensors used now.
  • Self-learning control systems: self-learning sensors that improve occupancy lighting efficiency.
  • Super capacitors: improvements in LEDs and advancing capacitor technology bring up to an hour of emergency lighting backup without batteries, and up to 10 years of maintenance free lighting with batteries.
  • Integrated street lights: street lighting columns are now being coupled with Wi-Fi transmitters, electric vehicle charging points, and surveillance systems providing better use of resources and potential funding sources for street lighting.
  • Inductive power coupling: innovation of the existing technology brings wireless fixtures able to avoid issues brought on by water infiltration.
  • DC power networks: LEDs powered by direct current (DC) maximize transmission efficiency, and can run off Power over Ethernet (PoE) networks.
  • Miniaturization: chip size LEDs are dramatically shrinking the size of fixtures while creating lower manufacturing costs.
  • Li-Fi: Wi-Fi transmitted by pulsating LED light, undetectable to the human eye to provide data transfer 100 times faster than standard Wi-Fi.

Appliances & Food Service Equipment

Upgrading appliances and food service equipment can help maximize operation efficiency and quality and save money in the long run. Upgrading to an Energy Star-certified technology saves 20% of energy use on average.

Building Envelope

While heating, ventilation, and cooling account for a significant amount of a commercial building's energy use, the building envelope is the thermal barrier between the interior of the building and the outdoor environment, giving it an important role in energy use and creating a comfortable occupant environment. Advanced building envelope design can help reduce the need for heating and cooling by up to 60%.


Electronics and Information Technology

Energy efficient electronics can lower power bills by 19% on average.


Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC)

Heating, ventilation, and cooling systems keep occupants of buildings comfortable and account for a significant amount of a building's energy use. Retrofitting HVAC systems to meet the needs of occupants, including properly sizing equipment, having efficient load capacities, and controlling airflow, can save 35% of building energy consumption.


Technical References


Laboratory, P. N. (September 2011). Advanced Energy Retrofit Guides - Office Buidlings. Washington, DC: US Department of Energy.

Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (2015, January 1). STIMULATE THE MARKET . Retrieved from ENERGY.GOV:

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2016, March 18). COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS ENERGY CONSUMPTION SURVEY (CBECS) . Retrieved 12 28, 2016, from eia: commercial/reports/2012/energyusage/index.php

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2016, February 4). In Commercial Buildings. Retrieved December 27, 2016, from

U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2016, December 7). Use of Electricity. Retrieved December 27, 2016, from 

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