Doug Foy, prominent Massachusetts-based environmental strategist, caught my attention with this quote at the Harvard Business School Think Tank on Energy, Environment and Business. Doug’s point was that the 100 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. are a key lever for addressing carbon emission reductions. He cited that while nationally, 40-50% of carbon emissions come from buildings, in cities, that number goes up to 70%.
Ken Hubbard of Hines, an international real estate firm, expanded further on the building energy efficiency marketplace citing that there are 74 billion square feet of existing building stock, which is replaced at 1% per year. Hence, he emphasized that to address the issue of building energy efficiency, the focus has to be on retrofits and other supporting strategies, such as financial incentives that are tied to longer term building performance and metering.
In Environmental Defense Fund's efforts to catalyze the marketplace for sustainable urban development, we have taken our cues from this data and focused on both an urban and a business focused strategy, demonstrating that building energy efficiency is both good for the environment and cost effective. A compilation of lessons learned from our urban work, housed in our Living Cities Initiative, is found in this report: Green Renaissance — Guide to Healthy, Sustainable urban Development: A View from Harlem.
At the same time that we are executing on this urban strategy, we are also creating a business movement for energy efficiency embodied in our EDF Climate Corps program. EDF Climate Corps places MBA students with companies for summer fellowships focused on energy efficiency. Much of what these students focus on involves retrofits, which is in line with Ken’s comment. Last year EDF Climate Corps Fellows found energy savings to avoid more than 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year, all at a net benefit to participating companies of $54 million!
You can find out more about the HBS Think Tank event, including presentations, readings and video, here.