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Key Principles

Community Buildings Efficiency Programs  

Energy consumption in buildings is a large drain on communities. In fact, buildings consume some 40 percent of the world’s total energy. Measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, therefore, hold tremendous potential. The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment estimates that commercially available, cost-effective energy technologies could reduce overall energy consumption in the United States by as much as one-third--worth some $343 billion. 

Energy efficiency in buildings becomes even more important with predictions from DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) that winter energy costs will continue to increase. To keep current with EIA's projections, see its Short-Term Energy Outlook.

The National Association of Counties, representing more than 1,500 county officials, has joined with the U.S. EPA in challenging counties to protect the environment, save energy and cut operating costs by improving the energy efficiency of county courthouse and office buildings.

Community programs that address energy conservation in buildings can be very effective. Efforts to weatherize homes, reduce energy use in municipal buildings and schools, and make commercial buildings operate more efficiently can save consumers and municipalities money, ease budget constraints, and help reduce pollution. 

A great deal of additional information on energy conservation in buildings can be found in the Green Buildings section of this website. 

Liquefied Natural Gas, or LNG, has been a subject of increasing attention since July 2003, when Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham proposed holding a Global Liquefied Natural Gas Summit by the end of the year. About the same time, Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, noted that increased LNG imports could act as a "safety valve" to help the U.S. natural gas markets respond to price spikes caused by imbalances of supply and demand within the United States. DOE reiterated that message last week, when it enlisted the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) to help educate energy decision-makers about LNG. Read more.

The group of eight leaders of large industrialized countries, known simply as the G8, recently set forth plans to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy development around the world. The G8 Summit, which brought together in June 2003 the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and France, resulted in a document that noted "the need ... to support the development of cleaner, sustainable and more efficient technologies." The document commits to promoting energy efficiency and encouraging rapid innovation and market introduction of clean energy technologies. To increase the share of renewable energy in global energy use, and to accelerate the development of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, the G8 emphasizes collaborative research with an emphasis on achieving competitive energy prices. The G8 will also encourage the Global Environment Fund to increase energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable energy use when setting up its programs. See the action plan.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a $16.3 million energy efficiency pilot project for the city in late July 2003. The city's environment department will work with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to run the program, which aims to reduce peak electricity demand for both homes and businesses. The program will include nine elements aimed at reducing peak power use by 16 megawatts in the city by January 2005, including installing energy efficiency measures in the homes of low-income families, providing energy audits and other technical support to businesses, and offering rebates to multifamily housing units and businesses.

Also in California, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved new regulations in mid-December 2004 that will make appliances sold in the state the most energy-efficient in the nation. The new energy regulations set standards for incandescent lamps; audio and video equipment; residential pool pumps and portable electric spas; evaporative coolers; ceiling fans, exhaust fans and whole house fans; commercial ice makers, refrigerators and freezers; vending machines; commercial hot-food holding cabinets and water dispensers; and other appliances. The regulations go into effect on a staggered schedule beginning in January 2006, and are expected to avoid 100 megawatts of load growth each year they are in effect, as consumers start buying the new appliances.

Hawaii's State Energy Program is working to implement a Model Energy Code for buildings. Hawaii's Weatherization Assistance Program works in cooperation with community organizations to improve residential energy efficiency for low-income families. The two programs will receive a total of $526,000 from DOE for the 2003 to 2004 fiscal year. See the DOE press release.

DOE is supporting the construction of a number of zero-energy buildings throughout the country. In late March, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) approved the use of a DOE grant to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for the design and construction of six zero-energy homes in Atlantic City. DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) awarded a grant of $75,613 for the project.

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has launched a new efficient-window program for commercial and multi-family buildings. The Commercial Windows Initiative will work with manufacturers, developers, and architects to increase the market share of energy-efficient windows in commercial buildings throughout the Northwest from 12 to 70 percent by 2010.

A new report by the North American Energy Working Group (NAEWG) finds that the three North American countries are quickly moving toward unified standards for energy efficiency. The report, North American Energy Efficiency Standards and Labeling, was released in December 2002 and highlights Mexico's recent adoption of new standards for energy efficiency. By early 2003, those new standards will bring Mexico in line with U.S. and Canadian minimum energy-efficiency requirements and test procedures for refrigerators, freezers, electric motors, and window air-conditioners, thereby strengthening the market for high-efficiency products throughout North America.

Energy-saving building technologies are gaining favor in the construction industry. One sign of this growing acceptance are the "Best Practice" Sustainability Awards, presented by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC). Read about the 2003 winners.

DOE announced in June 2002 the award of $1.989 million to 22 states to help them update and implement their building energy codes. To date, DOE's investments in building energy codes have improved the energy efficiency of nearly three billion square feet of new commercial floor space and nearly four million households, saving consumers an estimated $4.2 billion. For every dollar spent, DOE's Building Energy Codes Program yields more than $105 in annual energy savings. This year's awards will be made to state energy offices and state code authorities by the end of September 2002. Learn more.

In Pleasanton, California, the City Council approved in December 2002 a new municipal energy plan (PDF) that includes a number of provisions to reduce energy and water consumption, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

AstroPower, Inc. and Clarum Homes announced in June 2002 a new agreement that will make solar electric systems a standard feature on homes in two northern California communities. AstroPower will provide 277 solar electric systems over the next three years for homes in the new Clarum communities of Vista Montana in Watsonville and Shorebreeze IV in East Palo Alto. The systems will be a standard feature on every home and will range from 1.2 to 3.2 kilowatts in generating capacity. Clarum will also include energy efficiency features in the new homes that, combined with the solar electric system, should reduce energy use in the homes by 60 percent relative to comparable homes in the area. Read more.

Homes in southeastern Pennsylvania may feature a growing number of solar electric installations through an incentive program launched last month by the Energy Cooperative. The Philadelphia-based company is offering to pay consumers 20 cents per kilowatt-hour for power produced by solar electric systems installed on their homes. The Cooperative's goal is to purchase 100,000 kilowatt-hours of solar power by the end of this year. To take advantage of the program, customers must be members of the Energy Cooperative and must purchase the Co-op's "EcoChoice 100" brand of 100 percent renewable energy. The system must meet specific criteria and must include a separate meter to measure its output. Learn more.

The 38.7-kilowatt White Bluffs Solar Station is now online in Richland, Washington. The largest such facility in the Northwest, the solar station is owned and operated by Energy Northwest. DOE's Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) will integrate the power from the system into its electrical grid, while the Bonneville Environmental Foundation will sell green tags from the project. DOE contributed $30,000 toward the project through its "Brightfields" program. Learn more.

The Hawaiian Electric Company and the University of Hawaii's Hawaii Natural Energy Institute announced in May 2002 a partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and its affiliate, the Electricity Innovation Institute, to develop clean energy technologies. The partnership will focus on emerging renewable, energy-efficient, and environmentally sensitive energy applications, including distributed generation, on-site, central station, and transportation technologies. Read more.

In Houston -- a city that has more than its share of both heat and ozone -- a non-profit group is now developing a plan to reduce the city's heat island effect. Dark roofs, asphalt, concrete, and other materials inadvertently work together to make the cities function as giant solar collectors. The resulting "heat island" effect can boost urban temperatures by 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, driving up the use of air conditioners, increasing ozone levels, and exacerbating health problems.The Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) has received a grant to develop a"Cooler Houston Implementation Plan," which is likely to include tree planting projects as well as incentives for roofers and pavers to use heat-reflecting materials. Learn more.

In California, where severe energy shortages occured during summer 2000, Governor Gray Davis announced plans for continued energy conservation during summer 2002. The governor's plan includes a continuation of the state's "Flex Your Power" media campaign, as well as a new program with 1,100 retailers to promote energy-efficient lighting, appliances, and equipment. The state also plans to help agricultural users install energy-efficient pumps for irrigation and other uses. Read more.

New building energy codes for commercial buildings went into effect in Seattle, Washington, in February 2002. The new codes exceed national energy efficiency standards by nearly 20 percent. Although revisions were only made to the equipment requirements for commercial buildings (for instance, the heating and ventilating systems), a much broader revision of the energy codes for residential buildings will go into effect in July 2002. That revision -- the most significant since 1991 -- mandates high-efficiency windows as well as insulation R-values ranging from 21 in the walls to 38 in the ceilings. Learn more.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in March 2002 that 729 buildings throughout the United States have earned the EPA/DOE Energy Star rating. These office and school buildings use about 40 percent less energy than average U.S. buildings. The EPA estimates that the buildings have saved $134 million in energy costs since 1999, avoiding the emission of 1.9 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas. Among the Energy Star buildings are 122 owned and occupied by large commercial institutions, 204 owned by commercial real estate organizations and leased to commercial tenants, 287 public schools and 116 federal government facilities. See the entire list of buildings.

EPA's latest Energy Star product is a rating system for hotels. Hotels can use Energy Star tools to benchmark their performance on a scale from 1 to 100. Top-performing hotels can earn the Energy Star label. In its announcement, the EPA named the Courtyard Indianapolis Capital, owned by White Lodging Services Corp., and the Sheraton Boston Hotel, owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, as the first two hotels to earn the label. Read more.

California's Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority released its energy resource investment plan in February 2002. Based on a number of gaps in the state's electricity supply -- including inadequate reserves of electrical capacity, an inadequate diversity of fuels to provide the state's power, and a lack of power choices for the state's consumers -- the power authority proposes a "cost-effective energy resource investment strategy" based on "an aggressive investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy resources." The power authority proposes to provide 3,500 megawatts of reserve electrical capacity by 2006 through investments in energy efficiency, electrical load management, clean forms of distributed generation, and renewable energy. By issuing bonds for up to $5 billion, the authority plans to finance a variety of projects, including 1,275 megawatts of new generating capacity powered by renewable energy. Read more.

In February 2002, DOE released the first of seven volumes of design guidelines for energy-efficient schools, providing the detailed information needed for schools to save millions of dollars in energy costs. The new design guidelines cover a wide range of technologies for schools in hot and dry climates, and also include numerous case studies. The remaining six volumes will cover the other U.S. climate zones and will be released by summer 2002. DOE aims to help school districts achieve energy savings as they renovate old schools or build new ones -- U.S. school districts are expected to spend $79 billion on such projects over the next three years. Learn more.

The design guidelines are a product of EnergySmart Schools, a part of DOE's Rebuild America Program. For more information, see the EnergySmart Schools Web site, which includes a link to the new design guidelines, on DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority NYSERDA is administering the $6 million Comprehensive Energy Strategies in School program, which provides cost-shared technical assistance, analysis, advice, and certified training to schools so that they can identify ways to save energy.

In Illinois, elementary and high schools in 24 counties have received $3.5 million in grants for energy-efficient lighting upgrades. The grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation will go to 141 schools, constituting one of the largest contributions from a private source to Illinois schools in 2002. The project is expected to reduce electricity demand by more than 6,000 kilowatts when completed by the summer of 2003.

In Massachusetts, state officials announced in February 2002 week that they have awarded $776,900 to seven school districts throughout the state to fund the design of energy- and resource-efficient projects in new and renovated schools. Renewable and energy efficient technologies, including fuel cells, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, will be incorporated into the school design and renovations throughout the seven districts. Read more.

Salt Lake City has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. To help meet that goal, the city will establish a scientific, detailed tracking of its greenhouse gas emissions. Through the city's "Salt Lake City Green" program, the city plans to cut emissions by encouraging the construction of "high performance" energy-efficient buildings while promoting alternative fuel vehicles, electricity conservation, and other measures. Read more.

Rebuild Boston Energy Initiative is part of the federal Rebuild America program. The community-based program aims to address energy and water management needs in Boston by helping identify candidate properties, analyze specific options for conservation improvements, and plan energy-related investments. 

The Building Design Assistance Center (BDAC) at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) promotes energy-efficient building design in Florida. BDAC provides the architectural and engineering community with free design assistance through plan reviews, building energy simulations, development of construction details, and assists with selection of appropriate materials and equipment. BDAC also conducts extensive laboratory and field tests to measure the effectiveness of new and existing products designed to improve energy efficiency. BDAC’s Web site includes a large list of publications related to energy efficiency in buildings. 

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) provides links to many buildings-related resources that can help your community design a community energy program. 

Success Stories

The Acme Building in Billings, Montana, is a historic building that, after being vacant and closed for two decades, will reopen in 2004 as an apartment building. The renovation of the building was directed by homeWORD, a local nonprofit who purchased the building several years ago and financed the renovation through loans and city help, as well as tax credits. The building houses 19 new apartments for lower income tenants, is partially built with recycled materials, incorporates energy efficiency techniques, and is powered by the largest solar array in the state.

Accelerated Energy Management Program 
Describes a program in Albany, New York, in which the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) and a private-sector energy management company formed a partnership in response to a gubernatorial directive that state agencies reduce energy consumption by 20 percent. The program has been transferred to all 33 OMH facilities and cumulative energy savings have exceeded 16.3 trillion BTUs. 

City Energy Challenge 
Nicknamed "One Percent for Energy," this program imposes a fee of one percent on all city government energy bills to finance an energy management program for city facilities. The energy efficiency projects completed under the program will save more than $700,000 each year. 

City of San Diego Police Department Headquarters
The City of San Diego announced in March 2003 a $3.6 million energy efficiency project at its police headquarters building. The project will incorporate both energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.

The City of Ashland, Oregon, Energy Conservation Division, operates a series of energy conservation programs for both the residential and commercial sectors. For example, the Energy Smart Design Program provides free energy efficiency design assistance and financial incentives for major commercial remodeling projects. The Residential Energy Conservation Programs help make homes more efficient though weatherization efforts. 

Energy Value Housing Awards
24 home builders were recognized in early 2005 at the International Builder's Show for their efforts to make homes more energy-efficient. The Energy Value Housing Awards went to builders in ten states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Grand View Estates, in Clear Lake, California, is a new (2004) 90-home community that features energy-efficient, solar homes, each with a 2.5-kilowatt solar power system. The modular homes are highly insulated and include low-emissivity windows and Energy Star appliances. The homes are also "affordable" by California standards: only $230,000 each, with the added advantage of low utility bills. Typical utility bills in the area are $150 to $400 per month, but the unique combination of solar and energy efficiency are expected to reduce utility bills by as much as 75 percent.

Harrison County (Mississippi) School District
Twenty schools will save an estimated $390,000 in energy costs each year, thanks to energy efficiency improvements completed by Chevron Energy Solutions. The improvements included lighting retrofits throughout the Harrison County School District, as well as water conservation retrofits, the installation of digital thermostats in classrooms and a centralized energy management system, and the use of a Web-based information system for remote energy monitoring at each of the 20 schools. The improvements also included new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems at two schools, plus the installation of two new boilers. The Harrison County School District will pay only $2.4 million of the total project cost of $6.4 million, with future energy savings paying the remainder through a financing structure known as an energy savings performance contract (ESPC).

Two highly energy-efficient model homes—the "New American Home" and the "2004 NextGen Demonstration Home"—are being showcased in January 2004 at the International Builders Show, underway at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Interfaith Coalition on Energy 
Explains a nonprofit organization that is helping some 4,200 churches and religious institutions in Pennsylvania cut their collective energy bills by more than $1 million. 

Kansas City Energy Efficiency Partnership 
Profiles a public- and private-sector partnership in Kansas City, Missouri, designed to reduce energy consumption in metropolitan-area government and nonprofit buildings by 25 percent. 

KD Development -- San Diego, California
A large San Diego homebuilder has joined forces with Altair Energy to bring PV systems to hundreds of residential customers in California. Some 400 PV systems are expected to be installed by the end of 2004.

Madera Model Homes -- Gainesville, Florida
Eight model homes in Florida are just the start of a ground-breaking sustainable community. CARB, part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program, has teamed up with the Florida Energy Extension Service (FEES) at the University of Florida to help design and develop the first homes in the energy- and resource-efficient 88-home Madera community. As part of the project, CARB performed a systems engineering analysis and prepared specification recommendations, based on the FEES cottage-style plan.

National Resources Defense Council
The new building, which could be the greenest building in the country, reduces electricity consumption 60 to 75 percent by maximizing natural light and using efficient fixtures and appliances, task lighting, dimmable electronic ballasts, occupancy sensors, and extra insulation. Its air-conditioning system uses "displacement ventilation," in which cool air is supplied at floor level to displace the hot air, which rises to the ceiling and is extracted from the building. The building also meets 20 percent of its electricity needs through rooftop solar cells. It is being considered by the U.S. Green Building Council for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Version 2 Platinum green building rating -- the highest possible level of sustainable design -- and may become the first structure in the United States to achieve this status.

Nike, Inc. and the Oregon Office of Energy announced in June 2002 a partnership that will direct $1 million of Nike's Oregon income tax liability into the Oregon Office of Energy's Business Energy Tax Credit pass-through program. The money will help fund energy conservation projects at eligible public schools across the state.

The Regional Planning Commission in Chittendon County, Vermont, has implemented a several programs that address sustainability. Its Outdoor Lighting Program has selected three communities for which outdoor-lighting standards are being developed. The program, which will reduce energy consumption--and save some $325,000 each year--improve lighting design, and preserve the night landscape, has caught the interest of other communities across the state. The program also educates communities, government, and planners in energy-efficient outdoor-lighting strategies. 

Savings by Design
A California program that encourages the design and construction of high-performance commercial buildings. The program offers design assistance and owner and design team incentives for commercial buildings located in the service areas of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the San Diego Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and the Southern California Gas Company.

St. Paul Energy Conservation Project 
Profiles the projects and benefits resulting from a partnership between the City of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Northern States Power Company to upgrade City buildings and conserve energy. 

Utility Report Card for Schools-- Orange County, Florida
The public schools in Florida's Orange County are the first in the nation to try a new on-line energy monitoring system that tracks, evaluates, and charts energy use in the schools. The Utility Report Card system helps school districts to monitor energy used by individual schools during everyday activities, allowing districts to implement operation and maintenance changes to reduce consumption. Teachers and students can also examine on-line data to learn more about smart energy use and efficiency as a complement to DOE's EnergySmart Schools education program.

Wisconsin Energy Initiative 
Describes a partnership between the private sector and state government in Madison, Wisconsin, developed as a result of a gubernatorial directive that energy consumption in State buildings be reduced by 15 percent. Three years after the project's inception, Wisconsin's state buildings consume 21 percent less energy than they did in 1973, even though state facilities' square footage has increased by 27 percent. 

Articles and Publications

The Centre for the Analysis and Dissemination of Demonstrated Energy Technologies (CADDET) offers many publications, including analysis reports, technical brochures, and workshop proceedings focusing on energy efficiency in the buildings sector.

Energy Savings Estimate of Light Emitting Diodes in Niche Lighting Applications and Energy Savings Potential of Solid State Lighting in General Illumination Applications
Two reports that conclude that the U.S. is already achieving significant energy savings from LED technology, and the promise for the future is bright. The DOE-funded reports, prepared by Navigant Consulting, conclude that LEDs have already saved more than 8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in the United States. If LED manufacturers achieve their cost and performance goals, the technology will cut future use of energy for lighting by 30 percent. LEDs have already made significant headway in traffic lights, exit signs, and taillights. The report finds that with accelerated investment in the technology, it could achieve energy savings by 2025 that would be equal to the power produced by 40 large power plants.

Energy User News
Monthly magazine covering all areas of building management related to energy-intensive building systems, as well as fuel and power acquisition.

National School Boards Association Endorses Department of Energy Schools Program
A press release explaining that the Board of Directors of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) unanimously endorsed DOE's EnergySmart Schools program. DOE is the first federal agency to receive an endorsement from the association.

Partner Update 
A publication of DOE's Rebuild America project. To access, click on Partner Update at the above link.

State of the Art of Energy Efficiency: Future Directions, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Provides a useful and practical compilation of the state-of-the-art in energy efficiency technologies and programs, resource planning and policy making, and data collection and analysis methodologies. Several chapters specifically address buildings-related technologies and programs. Available from: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 2140 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704. Phone: (415) 549-9914. ACEEE also has a variety of other publications related to energy efficiency in buildings, including Proceedings available from its biennial Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings conference. 

Stores Slash Energy Costs describes various efforts of retail enterprises to reduce enery costs through lighting changes, energy management systems, and the addition of solar power. From Building Operating Management, July 2003.

Sustainable Building Technical Manual: Green Building Design, Construction, and Operations 
Provides the building industry with suggested practices for the entire building process—from site planning to building design, construction, and operation. Much of the material in this manual focuses on efficient use of energy.

Last updated: January 19, 2005

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