In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama presented his vision for improving energy efficiencies in commercial buildings by launching the Better Buildings Initiative. This initiative challenges chief executive officers, university presidents, state and local government leaders, and others to make a public commitment to improve the energy efficiencies in their buildings by systematically upgrading their facilities.
The challenge’s overall goal is to make buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. The end result for commercial buildings is a reduction of energy usage as well as the associated energy savings. Those taking the challenge and partnering with this initiative are asked to publicly pledge their organization’s energy savings goals, disclose the pre-and post retrofit performance of their building portfolios, and demonstrate transparency in their use of energy efficiency implementation materials.
Within six months of signing a Partner Agreement, building owners must publicly pledge to reach an organization-wide energy savings goal that spans a two- to five-year period. They must also commit to collaborate with the Better Buildings Challenge support team and share information about their progress. Not only will the support team review the progress achieved relative to the individual’s pledge target, they will also review the energy efficiency implementation models that were used to achieve the successes. These implementation models include the tools, technologies, and processes that were used. As part of this initiative, the Department of Energy and the Appraisal Foundation are working together to ensure that appraisers have the building performance information, practical guidelines, and professional resources they need to evaluate energy performance when conducting commercial building appraisals.
The Department of Energy is working with Congress to redesign the current tax deduction for commercial building upgrades, transforming the current deduction to a credit that is more generous and that will encourage hotel owners and real estate investment trusts to retrofit their properties. These changes could result in a tenfold increase in commercial retrofit take up and, in addition, leveraging job-creating investment.
The Department of Energy and Small Business Administration are working to increase and accelerate financing opportunities for energy improvements in commercial buildings, which will help small hotel owners. The DOE is requesting legislative authority in FY12 to issue up to $2 billion in loan guarantees for portfolios of commercial building energy efficiency efforts.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) is partnering with the Council on Environmental Quality of the Executive Office of the President to educate its members on this important energy efficiency initiative. AH&LA is also encouraging all of its members to sign the Energy Efficiency Partnership Agreement with an overall goal of making hotel buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.
Over the last three years, the AH&LA Green Task Force has developed a series of comprehensive, sustainable greening guidelines that are designed to create an environmentally friendly and sustainable hotel. The guidelines have given hotel owners and operators opportunities to reduce their operating costs and environmental impacts through reduced utility consumption, recycling programs, employee training, and supply chain management. Hotels have improved both their fiscal and environmental performance by adhering to these guidelines, as well as seeing benefits in corporate environmental management, housekeeping, food and beverage operations, conference and meeting functions, and engineering.
AH&LA originally started out with 11 minimum guidelines to help improve hotels’ fiscal and environmental performance. They range from monitoring your electric, gas, and water usage to replacing showerheads to digital thermostats and replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs. These guidelines can be found at www.ahla.com/Green.aspx?id=24562.
They further developed additional guidelines that range from replacing exit signs with LED exit signs to installing smart vent hoods in kitchen areas to lowering your power factor penalty. These guidelines also include a case study to show the potential savings and ROI. They can be found at www.ahla.com/Green.
Partners that accept the challenge will be listed on a public website and have access to the Better Buildings Challenge marketplace. Their progress will be publicized in the media and showcased by senior administration officials. Better Buildings Challenge Partners who meet their targets will be nationally recognized for their achievements.
Pat Maher is partner at The Maher Group LLC, which evaluates an organization’s facilities, recommends eco-friendly products and procedures, conducts energy audits, reviews an organization’s carbon footprint, and develops opportunities for cost savings, along with other benefits. He also serves as AH&LA’s “Green Guru.”