Energy Exchange

This year’s Greenbuild works to make sustainable buildings accessible to everyone

This is my fifth year attending Greenbuild and I am excited that my hometown of Chicago will again host the green building conference. I have come to appreciate the educational value and community that Greenbuild provides more and more each year, and I’m delighted Chicago will get to add to the tradition once more.

Greenbuild’s theme this year, Humans by Nature: The Intersection of Humanity & the Built Environment, covers a wide array of topics that define how we relate to the world we live in. One of these topics is enhancing building efficiency and performance, an ongoing mission that is at the very core of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Greenbuild.

Moreover, the mission statement highlights the importance of making sustainable buildings and environments accessible to everyone. As one of the founding cities of the BIT Building energy efficiency program, Chicago reflects these ideals, and the BIT Building program is a clear example of accessibility in action.

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Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Illinois / Comments are closed

How to measurably improve existing buildings' energy, water, and waste impacts

Buildings are responsible for a third of harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from U.S. electricity use, with that percentage rising dramatically in urban centers. Chicago is no exception: Buildings account for approximately 70 percent of the city’s GHG emissions. Moreover, many buildings use more energy than they need to, which is unnecessarily expensive and damaging to the environment.

Although there are programs like Energy Star, LEED, and Green Globes that help buildings manage energy use, they don’t always meet the needs of every building. A large portion of the built environment doesn’t have the resources to pursue complicated certifications. In fact, it’s estimated that less than 1 percent of buildings can achieve LEED certification.

To address this opportunity gap, a group of dedicated built environment professionals – with backgrounds in environmental science, policy, business, and commercial real estate – developed the BIT Building Program (BIT). BIT is a framework that drives the adoption of sustainability best practices in existing buildings, specifically those whose age, resources, and operations put other industry standards out of reach. By following BIT’s guidelines, buildings can achieve measurable improvements in energy, water, and waste impacts. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, General / Comments are closed

Pilot program will use data to transform the efficiency of Chicago buildings

Over the past few years, Chicago has established itself as a leader in energy-efficient buildings.

The city’s landmark energy benchmarking program, for which properties measure and report on their energy use, has already saved Chicago over $17 million, while supporting high-paying jobs and healthier air. Relatedly, for the second year in a row, Chicago had the highest percentage of buildings with LEED certification (the most widely-used green building rating system in the world).

Industry pioneers have worked hard to make each building’s equipment as efficient as possible. The next opportunity is to work with those innovators to determine, how do we get the teams that use the equipment to make more energy-efficient decisions every day?

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in partnership with local utility ComEd and the Accelerate Group, is building on Chicago’s leadership to find a solution by launching the Smart Building Operations Pilot. An innovative program that uses real-time energy data to incentivize energy-efficient choices, the pilot aims to inform the day-to-day decisions of equipment operators at 10 large Chicago buildings. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency / Comments are closed

3 Reasons We Can Feel Good about Where Energy Efficiency is Headed

Buildings2“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.

As a child, that line from the classic Dr. Seuss book struck a chord in me, far beyond the giggle it caused when I thought of trees having tongues. The quote clearly imprinted the idea that – when a situation needs attention – those who can speak, should. For me, one of those situations is sharing the good news that energy-efficient buildings are cleaner and smarter than ever.

Buildings can be big polluters: 70 percent of the world population will live in cities by 2050, adding 40 percent to the current world building stock. As energy-efficient structures develop in growing countries, the U.S. can help stay competitive by retrofitting its existing buildings. Plus, improving building efficiency can contribute to reductions in global CO2 emissions from buildings by 83 percent below business-as-usual by 2050, reports the World Resources Institute.

I believe we are well on our way to creating a cleaner, smarter energy future. My optimism is fueled by efficiency trends in three important arenas: people, places, and partnerships.

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Posted in Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Grid Modernization, Illinois / Comments are closed

Valuing Energy Efficiency: The Case for Consensus

money building pixabayIn my time immersed in commercial real estate energy management, I have met a multitude of building owners, managers, and engineers whose love for their properties is clear.

Last month at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Summit in Washington, DC, I was lucky enough to once again spend time in the company of these inspiring commercial real estate professionals. This particular group takes that passion one step further. By publicly pledging to be industry leaders in energy efficiency, driving efforts to accelerate investment, and sharing success stories and lessons learned, the summit’s attendees are maximizing their operations and the value of their buildings.

Despite this shared commitment, I still find a common thread lost in translation between the industry’s stakeholders: the value of energy efficiency. These groups don’t always speak the same language and, when it comes to financing and implementing energy efficiency, this disconnect is often even more pronounced.

It’s time for the real estate market to collectively decide that it values energy efficiency, and make it an integral, uniform part of all core business decisions. Without consensus, the building-efficiency industry is just going to tread water – and miss out on a whole lot of savings.  Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Illinois / Comments are closed

Filling the Gap: How Efficiency Standards could Save Billions in Commercial Real Estate

office building unsplashNo one ignores an opportunity to save billions of dollars. Numbers of that size are enough to make an audience take notice, even in a business like commercial real estate, where deals in the hundreds of millions and billions are commonplace.

Each year the U.S. spends over $400 billion on energy for our buildings, many of which were constructed before modern energy codes existed and, as a result, use more energy than they should. This efficiency gap has led to the creation of a $20 billion retrofit industry, designed to help building owners and managers overcome barriers that deter them from tackling energy costs, like lack of information, misaligned financial incentives, or insufficient capital. In my hometown of Chicago alone, buildings could save up to $184 million in energy costs if they pursued more aggressive energy management – and those are just the ones reporting data. Read More »

Posted in Energy Financing, Illinois, Investor Confidence Project / Read 2 Responses