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Electrifying Municipal Facilities: Balancing Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings to Drive Net-Zero Goals

April 21, 2023
electrified buildings

Municipal facilities such as schools, community centers, libraries and government buildings consume a substantial amount of fossil fuel reliant energy. In fact, buildings are the primary emitters of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in many communities—accounting for nearly 50 percent of all GHG emissions in large cities, according to RMI.

Transitioning community owned buildings from fossil fuel-based systems to sustainable alternatives is crucial for mitigating the impacts of climate change and complying with local energy performance regulations and community goals. It also provides a great way to demonstrate to the community that
all-electric buildings are safe, healthy and resilient. Municipalities across the United States are embracing electrification to accomplish these goals. We have worked with many municipalities to study electrification and assist in implementing carbon reduction plans such as our energy study for the City of Boulder.   

Electrification is not new to facilities design or retrofitting, as it came to prominence in the 1970s. However, the practical application of the technology lacked the efficiency and pricing that gas-based heating and cooling could deliver until very recently. Since then, vast improvements to electrification technologies have enabled municipalities to shift away from fossil fuels toward a carbon-neutral solution.

Engineers, planners and surveyors have a significant role to play in this transition. Electrifying municipal facilities comes with challenges, from budget considerations to design and infrastructure constraints. However, with a comprehensive facilities electrification roadmap developed by a team of specialized experts at Bowman, your municipality can advance its decarbonization journey and improve indoor air quality for the community.

Building Electrification Challenges

Bowman has been working with the City of Boulder to create and execute a comprehensive plan for electrifying its facilities. The city needed to strike a balance between its budget and the highest possible energy savings to determine when to electrify its municipal facilities and when to prioritize other carbon-neutral solutions to maximize emissions reduction.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to building electrification. Municipal leaders must consider their energy goals and budget, as well as the facility age and design, and existing equipment lifecycle and maintenance requirements. Depending on these factors, electrical upgrades and alterations may be necessary to accommodate increased electricity demand. Triggering an electrical service upgrade is a crucial part of an electrification planning process and must be studied with careful cost-benefit analysis.

The Value of an Energy Audit

Electrifying municipal buildings is a complex process that requires a thorough energy audit. This examination helps determine how much energy is being consumed and where, as well as provides recommendations for improvements that tie into your municipality’s specific goals and needs.

Over the years, Bowman has conducted many energy audits for commercial, residential and municipal facilities. We leverage this experience, and our nationwide resources, to deliver a comprehensive electrification strategy that balances project budget with energy-efficiency and corresponding greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

When auditing the City of Boulder’s municipal buildings, our team analyzed nearly 100 different variables, including plug load, hot water and snow melt systems. The audit provided several options that incorporated increasing levels of energy efficiency, including the achievement of climate action plan goals, with increasing levels of project implementation cost.

While every energy audit has varying results, one fact remains true: municipal climate commitments cannot be met through a traditional approach to rushed mechanical equipment replacements at time of failure. Instead, mapping out major electrification renovations and retrofits are necessary. Based on the findings of an energy audit, Bowman collaborates with municipalities to develop a facilities master plan that assesses capital funds, guides implementation and maintenance.

Securing Funding for Municipal Building Electrification

The cost of facility electrification poses the biggest hurdle for most municipalities. Fortunately, there are several resources available to help municipal leaders finance their electrification transition. These resources range from federal and state grants—like the Public Building Electrification Grant in Colorado—to loans and rebates. At Bowman, we specialize in assisting municipalities in securing the necessary funds for electrification projects. Our deep understanding of the funding landscape allows our team to identify the best financing option for your project and develop competitive proposals that stand out to agencies and lenders.

Electrifying municipal buildings is a critical step towards a sustainable future. Any building can be electrified, but it requires an exhaustive energy audit conducted by proven professionals to ensure it’s done economically and sustainably. As engineers, surveyors and planners, Bowman plays an essential role in helping municipalities provide clean energy for their communities. Bowman works with municipalities across the United States to provide ASHRAE level 1-3 energy auditing for building electrification and beyond. As a self-performing provider, our team will work with you every step of the way on your decarbonization journey—from initial auditing to implementation and maintenance.

To learn more about our sustainable building services and experience, click here or contact Jacob Goodman at

Image Credit: David Lauer Photography