Need to put some fire back into your energy efficiency goals? Perhaps a public commitment can provide the motivation to shave some kilowatts off of your utility bill. Join the Better Buildings Challenge, a program that provides facility managers with the tools and support they need to improve their operations. The pledge is simple – achieve a 20% energy reduction across your entire portfolio within 10 years. Are you ready for a decade of savings?
A Call to Action The Better Buildings Challenge was birthed in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, which cited a need to curtail commercial energy consumption. The challenge is just one of many campaigns under the Better Buildings Initiative that incentivize efficiency in order to reduce carbon emissions and conserve resources. There are over 250 organizations participating, which amounts to 3.5 billion square feet, notes Maria Vargas, Director of the Better Buildings Challenge. Another 650 manufacturing sites have joined the Better Plants Challenge, which is similarly structured for industrial users.
““What sets the Better Buildings Challenge program apart from other programs is that there’s no label or designation that you earn,” Vargas clarifies. “The goal is to promote organization-wide change for portfolios rather than just one building.”
In addition to the 20% energy reduction commitment, participants report on their progress every six months. According to the challenge overview, this includes “square feet of floor space, site energy use, source energy use, weather-normalized energy intensity, energy intensity adjusted for space attributes and operating characteristics, total energy cost and energy cost per square foot.”
Another requirement is to complete two case studies. The Showcase Project gives an inside look at improvements made to a specific property and the Implementation Model shares best practices and technologies in place to support the overall pledge goal. These elements encourage idea sharing so others can learn from proven efforts and replicate the same approaches in their own portfolio. They are available publically so all building professionals can access them. There is also a yearly summit so organizations can network, attend educational sessions and connect with solution providers.
“Nothing sells like success. Organizations want to find examples like them, someone who they can relate to and follow their lead,” Vargas says. “The challenge has broad penetration into different markets and geographic regions. A school will be able to find a comparable educational facility to model. The same goes for hospitals, dorms, retail, offices, municipal buildings and so on.”
In its four years, the challenge has attracted a wide range of participants, including household names such as Whole Foods, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, Arby’s, Walgreens, Staples, MGM Resorts International, Florida A&M, Penn State University, and University of California, Irvine.
“We found that the efficiency areas we were already working on and the goals of the Better Buildings Challenge were shared,” says Bill Latta, Assistant Vice President Operations, Administrative Services with Michigan State University (MSU). “We were also attracted to the opportunity to share best practices and network with private and public partners.”
Shorenstein Properties was one of the first real estate firms to join in 2011, with a portfolio that spans 24.8 million square feet.
“Every building program provides unique value proposition, but we selected the Better Buildings Challenge because it presents an opportunity to set an aggressive yet attainable long-term energy efficiency goal,” explains Jaxon Love, Sustainability Program Manager. “One of the hardest things for real estate is deciding which key performance indicators to use, particularly when there are so many variables that we don’t have control over, such as weather, occupancy and operating conditions. This challenge has helped us zero in on our performance at a technical level by normalizing these factors.”