You are here

Frequently Asked Questions

The Better Buildings Challenge asks corporate chief executive officers, university presidents, and state and local leaders to make a public commitment to energy efficiency. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is highlighting leaders that have committed to upgrading buildings across their portfolio, and providing their energy savings data and strategies as models for others to follow.

The energy to operate the buildings in which we work, shop, and go to school costs the U.S. about $200 billion annually, and on average, 30 percent of this energy is wasted (U.S. Energy Information Administration). The goal of the Better Buildings Challenge is to make American buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. More efficient commercial buildings reduces the nation's dependence on foreign oil, protects the environment, and saves billions of dollars in energy costs that can be spent growing businesses, investing in new technologies, and creating American jobs.

The Better Buildings Challenge involves a network of Partners and Allies that demonstrate national leadership in energy efficiency:

  • Partners are commercial businesses, industrial corporations, universities, and other building owners that make a public commitment to reduce energy consumption in their facilities
  • Community Based Partners are municipalities and States that work with local businesses and universities to assess opportunities and take action
  • Allies are financial institutions, service providers, technology firms, and program administrators that commit to supporting the energy efficiency marketplace.

The commitment is matched to the type of organization. For example, Partners commit to:

  • Publically pledge an organization-wide energy savings goal over a 2 to 5 year period within 6 months of joining, and develop an organization-wide plan and schedule,
  • Announce an initial showcase project and initiate the project,
  • Share information about their progress against their pledge goal, and about the energy efficiency implementation models (including the tools, technologies, and processes) they used to reach their pledge goal.

DOE, in collaboration with its federal partners such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Treasury, and the Small Business Administration (SBA), will:

  • Provide technical assistance and energy efficiency implementation models to help Partners achieve their pledge,
  • Establish a marketplace of energy efficiency stakeholders, such as government, industry, service providers, financial institutions, and technology companies, in order to transform the market and realize the full economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency,
  • Insure integrity in the reported results through quality assurance standards,
  • Recognize Partners and Allies for their progress in achieving milestones and reaching goals.

DOE will also profile the innovative and cost effective energy efficiency implementation models of this leadership group for others to use.

The Better Buildings Challenge is part of a larger Better Buildings Program, an effort to make American commercial, residential, and industrial buildings more energy efficient through innovative action and real world solutions.

For example, the Better Buildings Challenge will complement the efforts of the Better Buildings Neighborhood program—a three year, $500 million grant program managed by DOE, which is primarily focused on residential buildings at the state and local level.

Through Better Buildings, DOE is also working to increase and accelerate better financing opportunities for building upgrades, better workforce training in energy audits and building operation, and better tax incentives to encourage more energy efficiency upgrades.

Energy efficiency implementation models are holistic, successful approaches to building-wide energy efficiency upgrades. These models include specific information on the technologies, strategies, processes, and/or services which Partners utilized to achieve their energy savings target.

Organizations are asked to report publicly on their energy savings across their organization and at the individual facility/building level on a quarterly basis. They are also asked to share information about the best practice implementation models that they used to achieve their pledge targets. These requirements will be refined in coordination with the initial program Partners and Allies.

Baseline energy intensity data will be required at the portfolio and individual facility level to demonstrate energy savings. These requirements will be refined in coordination with the initial program Partners and Allies.

A showcase project is an energy efficiency project that meets the following minimum requirements:

  • Whole building
  • Significant sized facility for the organization
  • Significant savings opportunity (20% or more)
  • Improvements support ongoing energy management (retro-commissioning)
  • Prominent in its community

Partners assess their portfolio and select a showcase retrofit project within 3 months of signing the Better Buildings Challenge Partner Agreement. They begin the retrofit within 9 months of signing the agreement. DOE will offer technical assistance and implementation models for initiating a showcase retrofit.

DOE, in collaboration with its federal partners, will offer energy efficiency technical assistance and best practice implementation models to the Challenge Partners to encourage investment in energy efficiency. Technical and informational resources under development include:

  • Tools that support use of tax and utility credits
  • Assessment tools for evaluating energy efficiency measures
  • Financial modeling tools
  • Model high-efficiency technology specifications
  • A process for identifying qualified service companies
  • Financing opportunities through the Small Business Administration

In addition, the Better Buildings Challenge will connect Partners that commit to and demonstrate sound implementation approaches for investing in the cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities in their facilities with Financial, Technology, and Service Allies that commit to provide best practice services for deep energy savings and to transparency in results.

  • Assign a senior-level liaison who is committed to allocating the necessary resources to pursue all potential projects resulting from the Better Buildings Challenge
  • Invest in or lend at least $50 million in commercial building energy efficiency projects or collaborate with industry leaders and stakeholder to create at least a $50 million market for each financial product
  • Provide information on financial performance and structure information

Financial Allies are asked to share information about their products and services, such as loan packages, values, interest rates, and cash flow information allowing for Discounted Cash Flow and Net Present Value analyses.