Race to Reduce: National Building Competition 2011

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Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America. It was first created as a United States government program during the early 1990s, but Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have also adopted the program. Devices carrying the Energy Star logo, such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances, buildings and other products, generally use 20%—30% less energy than required by federal standards The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program has launched the 2011 National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings.

Teams from 245 buildings around the country are going head-to-head to improve energy efficiency and determine who can reduce their energy use the most. Nearly five million commercial buildings in the United States are responsible for approximately 20 percent of both the nation’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion annually. Through energy efficiency improvements, competitors are working to save energy, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of Americans.

The competition includes 26 different types of commercial buildings, such as retail stores, schools, hotels, and museums, some of which are more than 100 years old. Competitors will be able to exchange ideas and strategies through various social media applications, including a live Twitter feed and a Facebook forum. Information about all competitors, including photos and facts about each, will be featured on the competition website in addition to tips and links to consumer-friendly information about saving energy where Americans work, play, and learn.

Competitors will measure and track their building’s monthly energy consumption using EPA’s Energy Star online energy tracking tool, Portfolio Manager. Of the initial 245 competitors, a small group of buildings will be selected as finalists in July. The finalists will be required to submit Statements of Energy Performance (SEPs) on their utility data for the entire competition period, which must be signed and stamped by a professional engineer or licensed architect. Among the finalists, the building with the largest percentage reduction in energy use will be recognized as the winner in November.

New homes that meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency can qualify for Energy Star certification. An Energy Star qualified home uses at least 15% less energy than standard homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code. They usually include properly installed insulation, high performance windows, tight construction and ducts, energy efficient cooling and heating systems, and Energy Star qualified appliances, lighting, and water heaters.

The United States has established several sustainable design organizations and programs in green building.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. The USGBC is best known for the development of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and Greenbuild, a green building conference that promotes the green building industry. As of September 2008, USGBC has more than 17,000 member organizations from every sector of the building industry and works to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. To achieve this it has developed a variety of programs and services, and works closely with key industry and research organizations and federal, state and local government agencies.

USGBC also offers a host of educational opportunities, including workshops and Web-based seminars to educate the public and industry professionals on different elements of the green building industry, from the basics to more technical information. Through its Green Building Certification Institute, USGBC offers industry professionals the chance to develop expertise in the field of green building and to receive accreditation as green building professionals.

The National Association of Home Builders, a trade association representing home builders, remodelers and suppliers to the industry, has created a voluntary residential green building program known as NAHBGreen. The program includes an online scoring tool, national certification, industry education, and training for local verifiers. The online scoring tool is free to builders and to homeowners.

The Green Building Initiative is a non-profit network of building industry leaders working to mainstream building approaches that are environmentally progressive, but also practical and affordable for builders to implement. The GBI has developed a web-based rating tool called Green Globes, which is being upgraded in accordance with ANSI procedures.

Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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