- Cities are driving building energy efficiency with new initiatives.
- Successful initiatives require commitment and leadership.
- Incentives should be provided early in the process.
Across the United States, cities are driving building energy efficiency with new regulations and initiatives. Austin, Texas lays claim to the first city green building program in the world (1990). The city created the country’s first green building rating system for homes a year later. All public building projects with a construction budget of $2 million or more are required to achieve LEED Silver certification.
Other cities have followed Austin's example. For instance, Los Angeles mandates that all city-owned and city-funded construction projects, 7,500 square feet or larger, to earn LEED certification.
So how do your city achieve such savings? Success is possible by following these five strategies:
1. Make a commitment and set goals. Obviously you must 'walk the talk' and establish green building codes and policies. A survey of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group found that two-thirds of these cities have made a commitment to such codes and 61 percent have enacted policies. In 2014, Washington DC became the first major city to adopt the International Green Construction Code in an effort to help achieve the goal of reducing city-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2032.
A serious commitment from participants results in:
- Prioritizing energy efficiency projects at the building level
- Receiving public recognition for becoming energy efficiency leaders
- Generating interest among property owners, managers and tenants
2. Provide leadership and partner with all sectors. The mayor must promote and support cross-sector collaboration (public and private entities, nonprofits and utilities) to be successful. This support and collaboration are critical for overcoming key commercial market barriers and demonstrating concrete, measurable results. Under the mayor's guidance, a diverse network of professionals come together to provide outreach and maximize available resources.
3. Speed up the process. With support from all partners, resources are identified early and provided to participants at the onset, allowing them to take advantage of incentives and achieve early success. Surveying partners can help identify these resources, as well as reveal new ways of support. Cities like Chicago and Seattle also offer expedited building permits and reviews for projects involving energy efficiency upgrades or LEED certification. New York City's Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency Program committed $39 million over ten years to fast track energy capital projects.
4. The more incentives the better. 'Show me the money' should be a key feature of any initiative. For instance, Houston supplies capital to cover 40 to 60 percent of the up-front labor and material costs up to $500,000 per building, upon completion of the project. Philadelphia offers a tax credit for installing green roofs. Utilities should also provide incentives early in the capital planning process. This helps build a reliable business case for energy efficient improvements, as well as increases participation in utility programs.
5. Provide one-on-one and peer support. Because each participant's situation is unique with regard to resources, experience and expertise, there is no 'one fits all' solution. Support must include both individual and peer assistance. Chicago conducts one-on-one calls with each participant so the appropriate incentives, programs and tools are provided. Peer meetings enable participants to exchange information about efficiency opportunities, successes and overcoming market barriers. In-person support on benchmarking is also provided.
To drive even further gains in energy efficiency, you may want to design your initiative to encourage competition. Portland's Kilowatt Crackdown does just that and provides free training, technical support and data review to track energy performance.
Image source: Morguefile