Maria Quinones contributed to this article.
The Better Buildings Challenge (BBC), announced by President Obama in 2011, is designed to integrate efficiency practices into our buildings that can lead to great benefits, including cost savings, avoided emissions, and a healthier economy. Through the BBC, the President is challenging CEOs, university presidents, state and local government leaders, and others to voluntarily commit their organizations to reduce their energy consumption by at least 20 percent by 2020.
In November of that year, the City of Atlanta officially launched the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, becoming one of the first cities to accept the national challenge. However, Atlanta took the challenge one step further by adding water into its program. The goal: 20 percent energy and water reduction by 2020.
The Atlanta BBC is part of Mayor Kasim Reed’s plan to transform Atlanta into one of the nation’s top-tier cities for sustainability. While the program started with an initial goal of committing two million square feet of space in the Downtown Central Business District, it has seen an unprecedented amount of interest on behalf of building owners. Shortly after Downtown spearheaded the work on the first 28 facilities, Midtown took the challenge in 2012 to complement its sustainability action plan, branding the community as an EcoDistrict. This summer, Buckhead committed half of its office market, which surpasses the commitment made by many other cities to the national program. To date, the program encompasses more than 120 facilities in the city’s three major submarkets, representing more than 65 million square feet.
Southface serves as the technical partner in the initiative, supporting Central Atlanta Progress, Midtown Alliance and Livable Buckhead in program development. In addition, Southface provides expertise and resources to assist program participants in achieving their reduction goals.
Last May, at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) second annual Better Buildings Summit in Washington, D.C., Atlanta was acknowledged for saving 9 percent in energy consumption, meeting nearly half of its goal.
The Better Buildings Challenge became part of President Obama’s address on the Climate Action Plan in late June. He gave a progress update on the national challenge, stating that more than 120 organizations representing 2 billion square feet are reducing energy consumption by an average of 2.5 percent annually, equivalent to about $58 million in annual savings – concluding that the challenge is on track to meet the 2020 goal.
In a letter, President Obama joined in recognizing BBC participants. “Meeting the challenges of the 21st century requires the ingenuity and innovation of leaders from every sector of our society. And I thank you for your continued dedication to building America stronger,” he stated.
“As one of the founding partners in the Better Buildings Challenge, Atlanta continues to lead the way. Atlanta’s program demonstrates how a community can work together to save energy and money and create innovative solutions. When Atlanta joined the Better Buildings Challenge, they began with 2 million square feet of space committed to greater efficiency. That number is now more than 65 million square feet, representing more than 120 different participants. To date, more than 20 organizations in Atlanta have met or exceeded the 20% savings goal for energy and/or water and as a Community, Atlanta is well on their way to reaching their goal. Atlanta is a model of how communities can work together to save money, create jobs and help our environment.”
– Maria T. Vargas, director, Better Buildings Challenge, U.S. Department of Energy
In March, the Atlanta BBC was awarded the E3 Award for the Built Environment by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, honoring the program’s excellence in energy, planning, and overall environmentally-conscious contributions to the city’s economy.
In July, Mayor Kasim Reed recognized participants who have already met or exceeded the energy and/or water 20% savings goal over 2009.