Although the rising cost of heating and cooling commercial office buildings is often passed along to tenants, the developers, operators and architects of those buildings are increasingly conscious of energy consumption.

That conservation spirit used to be of the pioneer variety -- now it's an established trend. This energy-consciousness has led to developments and innovations among the big office buildings in and around the District that just a few years ago looked like specifications from a Buck Rogers episode.

Now they look like money in the bank. One system seeking energy efficiency saved $20,000 in the first year of operation, against a $25,000 investment.

Most new office buildings have less window area, and all of it is double- or even triple-glazes with an insulating air space between the panes of glass.

Washington area developers and architects say this technique can cut in half the loss of heat and cooled air in a building, although double-glazing requires an initial investment at least twice as large as conventional glazing. r

Exterior wall insulation also gets a larger share of attention in plans for new buildings, according to standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers.

"It's an eagerly accepted program that involves many technicalities, including specified insulation, glazing, ductwork, energy recovery from interior lighting and moving air inside a building for efficiency," said Ronald Goode, a commercial development official of the Oliver T. Carr Co.

And in this age of technological control, energy management systems are being computerized by firms to provide a new service to building owners and operators. Essentially, all uses of energy are monitored and then controlled by a "game plan" that seeks to avoid energy expenditure in peak-load periods by diminishing nonessential services and trimming total energy use.

For example, on extremely hot days, office workers are likely to get less cooling in late afternoons.

According to the Department of Energy's annual report to Congress, about 40 percent, or 5.7 million barrels of oil a day, of the energy being used in most American buildings in being wasted.

Increasing energy effenciency in these buildings is the purpose of DOE's Buildings and Community Systems program.

A main component of that plan is the repair and retrofitting of existing structures which would bring 90 percent of existing homes and new buildings up to minimum energy efficiency standards.

The other goals of the program include: reducing oil and gas consumption in new buildings by 35 percent over the 1975 consumption level by 1985 and by 60 percent by the year 2000; a reduction of oil and gas use in existing buildings by 20 percent by 1985 and by 30 percent by 2000 over 1975;

The program also calls for the continued development and adoption of building energy performance standards. "Through the 1980s, as an increasing percentage of the building stock becomes comprised of buildings constructed to meet these standards, energy savings will increase.By 1985, savings equivalent to 325,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent could result," the report said.

"Our survey showed that an estimated 21 percent saving in total energy use in buildings was the result of a number of changes in housekeeping procedures and minor technical improvements," said John T. O'Neill, executive of the area-wide organization of apartment and office building owners and managers.

For instance, fans have been installed in elevator shafts to prevent heated or cooled air from escaping. "An elevator shaft is like a chimney and can lose a lot of heated or cooled air," O'Neill added.

Even the operation of elevators is managed. If a building has a bank of six elevators that are used heavily in peek hours, three of the elevators might be taken out of service during the mid-morning and midafternoon periods when traffic is far less.

Illumination levels are being lowered in most new and existing buildings. "We merely try to avoid wasting lighting can be a source of heat that can be circulated on a floor from interior to exterior spaces." In older buildings, one of three fluorescent tubes is often removed.

Asked to comment about several new office buildings having interior atriums with large glassed-in areas, Black said such desirable design elements can be included to provide light and excitement in exchange for smaller window areas on exteriors. "The atrium must be tight and double-glazed. Energy loss cannot be ignored."

Although use of both active and passive solar heating systems is gaining more adherents in custom residences, that application is relatively rare in new office buildings. But Eastern-Liberty Federal Savings and Loan on Capitol Hill is highly pleased with the result of an active solar collector panels on the roof of a five-story building completed five years ago at 600 Pennsylvanis Ave. SE.

"We spent about $25,000 to install solar (heating) and our monitoring system indicates that we are producing our hot water for domestic use and 30 percent of our heat at a worthwhile saving," said Chairman Thomas Harrison. He added that the brick building has triple-glazed windows, heavy insulation and use electric heat pumps in conjuction with the solar heating.

Joseph Widmayer, head of Donohoe-owned Complete Building Services that uses computers to manage energy consumption in buildings, said the Eastern-Liberty energy expenditure was minimized to the tune of $20,000 the first year that it was employed. Similar monitors are being installed on other buildings by Honeywell and Johnson Controls. Some school buildings in Montgomery County have energy management programs.

One national firm heavily involved in energy management in buildings is Honeywell Inc. Of the firm's $4.21 billion in revenues in 1979, about $2.7 billion came from various controls systems and much of that figure was related to energy management systems, according to James Renier, president Honeywell's control systems division.

Honeywell's system is called BOSS. The company says that energy savings realized with the system can be as high as 30 percent and that payback periods for the start-up and running costs generally range between two to four years.

Architect Alan Lockman estimated that expenditures for insulated glazing increased 100 percent in five years in all large buildings and that tinted glass is used more frequently. "Before the energy pinch, wall insulation was almost zero. Now four inches is not uncommon," Lockman said.

Leasing specialist Steve Goldstein of the Julien J. Studley office in downtown said energy costs also have dictated a trend to separate metering of individual floors.