Successful Better Buildings Challenge Expands to 4.2 Billion Square Feet

In 2011, President Obama launched the Better Buildings Challenge to drive greater energy efficiency in 298buildings as part of his multi-pronged Climate Action Plan.

Under the Challenge, building owners pledge to reduce energy (and often water consumption) across their portfolios by at least 20% within 10 years. They also commit to share best practice strategies that can be substantiated with energy data.

In 2013, the program was extended to multi-family residential buildings and three “Accelerators” that support ongoing efforts by state and local governments to reduce energy use.

Accelerators have been so successful that new ones are launching: helping local communities use combined heat and power; lower energy costs in low income communities; and upgrade wastewater infrastructure.

If elected, Hillary Clinton says she would expand this program, setting a national goal of cutting building energy waste by 33% within 10 years. It would paid for through a National Infrastructure bank and a series of government challenge grants.

better buildings

Results So Far

So far, the initial 120 organizations (2 billion square feet) have saved $1.3 billion from energy upgrades and are on track to reduce energy demand 20% by 2020.  And 2.3 billion gallons of water has been saved.

Since then, more partners have joined. There are now 310 partners representing 34,000 buildings and facilities, for a total 4.2 billion square feet. They are decreasing energy use by an average of 2% a year.

“Making our buildings more energy efficient is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, combat pollution and create jobs right here in the United States of America,” says Obama.

Some of the initial partners are the City of Chicago, Pacific Gas and Electric, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Walgreens, Alcoa, Nissan North America, major property owners such as Prologis, Cleveland Clinic and other health care institutions, and universities like Michigan State.

New partners include UC Berkeley, Iron Mountain Data Centers, Nike, The Wendy’s Company, CenturyLink Global Data Center Operations and New York City Housing Authority.

35 partners have already achieved the goal of cutting energy/water use 20%, such as the City of Atlanta, GA, State of Delaware, Arby’s, Cummins, eBay, Nissan North America, and United Technologies Corp.

An online tool, Better Buildings Solution Center, includes over 400 solutions, 100 implementation models, 150 showcase projects, and hundreds of supporting case studies, fact sheets, presentations, and webinars.

Another way people are sharing solutions is through a “reality-style” web series, the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP. Viewed by hundreds of thousands of energy professionals, it features the work of partners Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market. They actually swapped energy teams to work on each others’ buildings.

EPA’s Energy Star also challenges buildings to do better through its Battle of the Buildings. Teams at five or more buildings work together to reduce their collective energy use over the coming year and compete against others,  such as Team Staples (17 stores) versus Team Whole Foods (15 stores). In 2014, 5500 buildings competed.

Yet another program is the City Energy Project, where 10 cities are working together to increase energy efficiency in buildings.

Bringing Better Buildings to the Public

CoStar Group, which provides online property databases for the commercial real estate industry, already indicates LEED and Energy Star-certified buildings.

Now, it will also include information from Better Buildings and from cities that require building owners to measure and report on energy and water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Here is the Better Buildings website:

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