EPA Hosts First Building Competition to Boost Energy Efficiency

Photo of the exterior of a large, horizontal building at night  with lights on.

The Memorial Arts Building in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of 14 finalists in an EPA energy efficiency competition.
Credit: EPA

Is there a flabby, inefficient office building in your neighborhood that needs to drop a few kilowatts? Now that energy hog has a chance to be inspired, as 14 commercial buildings compete to “shape up” their energy consumption under the first National Building Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While trimming kilowatt-hours is their bottom line, the 14 participating buildings will also save money and help fight climate change through their belt-tightening. Like the NBC television show “The Biggest Loser,” which follows contestants who drop weight, the EPA contest will declare the building that sheds the most energy waste on a percentage basis as the winner. Stay tuned for the EPA’s final “weigh-in” on October 26.

Nearly 200 applications were received for EPA’s National Building Competition, and the 14 finalists, ranging from an elementary school to a hotel building, will be judged on their energy performance from September 1, 2009, to August 31, 2010. Participating in the challenge are buildings from ten states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia. The energy use of each building is being monitored with Portfolio Manager, Energy Star’s online energy measurement and tracking tool, and a Twitter feed allows you to follow the contestants as they take such actions as upgrading their lighting and cooling systems and tweaking their energy management systems. Fitness expert Bob Harper, who appears on “The Biggest Loser,” will also provide energy fitness tips for the contestants through a series of videos that will be available on the competition Web site. See the EPA press release and the National Building Competition Web site.

So which U.S. cities feature the most “lean” energy buildings? According to the EPA’s second-annual ranking of the top 25 U.S. cities with the most Energy Star buildings, released on March 23, the list is headed by Los Angeles, California, followed by Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; Houston, Texas; Lakeland, Florida; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and New York, New York. Lakeland and New York City are new to the top 10 this year. EPA awards the Energy Star to commercial buildings that perform in the top 25% of buildings nationwide compared to similar buildings. In 2009, nearly 3,900 commercial buildings earned the Energy Star, representing savings of more than $900 million in utility bills and more than 4.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The total number of Energy Star-qualifying buildings and plants in the United States is now more than 9,000, achieving overall annual utility savings of more than $1.6 billion and preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 1 million homes. The Energy Star is a joint program of EPA and DOE. See the EPA press release, the list of top 25 cities (PDF 168 KB), and the real-time registry of all Energy Star buildings and plants. Download Adobe Reader.

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