National Building Competition challenges competitors to "work off the waste"

What’s the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States? Vehicles and energy production receive a lot of attention, but the building sector is actually the biggest contributor to climate change… and 17% of total US emissions come from commercial buildings.

To highlight those facts, and promote building efficiency, the Department of Energy and EPA’s ENERGY STAR program launched the National Building Competition yesterday, which pits fourteen commercial buildings against each other in “a coast-to-coast contest … to save energy and fight climate change.” The competing buildings range widely in terms of size and function, and include

  • a JC Penney store in Orange, California
  • the Maplewood Mall in St. Paul, Minnesota
  • the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and
  • Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale, Colorado.

Over a six-month period, the managers of these buildings will work to lower energy use; the winning building will be the one “that sheds the most energy waste on a percentage basis…” ENERGY STAR will use its Portfolio Manager tool to track energy savings, and each building will participate in “weigh-ins” at the competition’s mid-point and final date (October 26).

ENERGY STAR’s built the contest around a “fitness” theme, even going so far as to hire television personality Bob Harper as a “coach”:

OK, the promotion’s just slightly cheesy, but a nationwide event with results available to the public could provide motivation to many other buildings managers and owners to “shape up”: no doubt some of these buildings will report significant cost savings over the contest period.

No doubt some will now throw out the phrase “gasoline-powered alarm clock” with anything ENERGY STAR-related, but it looks like this event will be pretty transparent… and, of course, the building owners themselves aren’t just reporting their results. So, this event should give a boost to the program itself (which, despite recent embarrassments, has a pretty good track record overall).

Want to keep up with the competition? Organizers will be posting updates on the buildings’ progress throughout… there’s even a Twitter list you can use to follow the competitors.


Image: Two of the competitors — the Sheraton Austin Hotel in Austin, Texas, and Crystal River Elementary School