Better Buildings is an initiative by the U.S Department of Energy aimed at improving every American life by spearheading energy innovation in homes, public and commercial buildings, and large industrial establishments. The initiative endears to foster partnerships between private and public sectors to develop and encourage innovative programs. Currently, there is greater concern regarding the elimination of programs than steps taken towards promotion of energy efficiency practices. It is now important to evaluate the progress made so far by the federal programs like Better Buildings Initiative.
Better Building Initiative staring at an unknown destiny
President Trump’s government has wasted no time in taking steps to halt the adoption of recent energy efficiency standards which were under development. Apart from putting the brakes on the implementation of energy standards, the new government has also cut down the budget allotted to energy efficiency gains like Energy Star program. Amid all the significant budget cuts, the future of Better Building Initiative seems shaky.
Better Building Initiative: What is it all about?
Better Building Initiative was started by Department of Energy (DOE) in 2011. Former President Obama demanded that government buildings be made more energy efficient. Commercial buildings handling government business were responsible for 20 percent of total energy consumption. All government buildings according to this scheme aimed at increasing the energy efficiency by 2020. By doing so, an estimated $40 billion would be saved by businesses. As a part of the Better Building Initiative was the Better Building Challenge which asked business heads to commit to the cause of making facilities more energy efficient and influence others in the sector to do the same.
Under the former president’s reign, buildings which adopted Better Building Initiative would enjoy incentives like deductions in tax and easy finance options for expansion. Under the initiative, grants would be distributed to local and state governments to update energy efficiency standards. Such a move would also encourage investments sourced from private enterprises.
The current presidential cabinet is moving towards cutting the budget of Better Building Initiative by 70 percent.
Chicago and Better Building Initiative
Looked upon as the leader in reforming public safety, security and public school initiative, Chicago is now offering affordable housing in economically attractive communities. By doing so, accessibility is now open for all; social, environmental, and economic sustenance is established.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that by increasing sustainability all throughout Chicago, the resultant economic opportunities created would increase the quality of life for all residents. Such an improvement is being undertaken in the form of recycling LEED buildings, paving designated bike lanes to energy efficiency. Climate Action Plan of Chicago demands reduction of greenhouse gasses by 25 percent by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (as compared to values in 1990). Chicago has been awarded the prestigious Siemens Sustainability Community Award in April 2012 by the U.S Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center attracting multi-stakeholder approach towards the improvement of resource efficiency, quality of life of visitors and residents, and environment-stewardship.
The core of Chicago’s economic and environmental strategy is the energy efficiency of industrial and commercial buildings and residential units. Chicago has accepted the Better Buildings Challenge and is committed to sector specific efforts towards increasing energy efficiency by:
- Challenging large commercial buildings to cut down the sum total energy consumption by 20%
- Investing $200 million by private-public sector dedicated to making Chicago more energy efficient via Chicago Investment trust
- Residential buildings are fostered by energy efficient zones. These efforts include an upgrade of appliances, weatherization and adopting energy saving practices.
Future of Better Building Initiative
Hopefully, this successful program will continue and achieve greater energy efficiency. For the first time, an initiative represented a strong private-public partnership.