Southface’s New Pathway to Sustainable Buildings

Green Building

Does a building really have to be built to a premium sustainability standard to use and benefit from performance-boosting strategies? BIT Building, a new program from Southface Institute, has a plan to help everyday buildings of all types and ages, whether commercial buildings, non-profits, schools or religious spaces, dramatically improve their building performance.


Atlanta joins Chicago at the forefront of BIT Building initiatives.

The traditional route to high-performance

Implementing the latest in building tech is easy enough with well-known, cutting-edge certification programs, such as LEED, Energy Star, Green C Certification, WasteWise or Green America. The programs can deliver highly sustainable buildings, but only a small percentage of the existing building stock in the U.S. can complete these certifications, often because most buildings lack the resources to identify opportunities and implement them.

Raising performance with 16 BIT Building Best Practices

BIT Building founders knew all about building performance challenges as real estate and facility management professionals themselves, and they wanted to find real solutions for all kinds of buildings and building operators.

They established the 16 BIT Building Best Practices to respond to the need for a clear path to better building efficiency for any building type (except single-family residences) and any operator. These best practices can be prioritized by building staff, and their implementation can be spread out over time to reduce upfront costs of improvements and complement operators’ schedules. That way, facilities can make smaller changes gradually, rather than needing large, immediate investments. Building managers and janitors alike can be part of raising the bar on energy and water efficiency, waste management and air quality.

BIT Building participants can access guidance in the 16 Best Practices through BIT Building’s online user portal. Among the best practices are: energy and water management, annual sustainability planning with stakeholders, periodic walk-through audits, preventative maintenance, green cleaning plans, green pest control and alternative transportation plans for employees. Where applicable, participants also measure progress using standard industry tracking and auditing guidelines, like Energy Star Portfolio Manager and ASHRAE audit protocols. Fulfillment of each best practice is then confirmed with a report and summary of feasible optimization measures to take for each building during the following year.

Once an organization’s team meets to determine goals and plan budget allowances, facilities managers can choose some or all of the 16 best practices to begin implementation. Over time, BIT Building users should see persistent improvements in a building’s performance, reductions in resource use and operating expenses, and increased productivity and occupant well-being.

Shane Totten, Southfaces’s Director of Education and Research, and colleagues in planning exercise.

Career credential program

BIT Building also offers three levels of career credentials that are affordable and digital-based. Each has a linked training and experience component, one skill level building on the next.

  • BIT Boosters: Successfully complete BIT Booster training with two short online classes, and teach one BIT Basics course to become an “ambassador” for BIT Building.
  • BIT Aides: Following the BIT Building Boot Camp, BIT Aides provide direct assistance to facilities managers and/or owners as they implement the 16 BIT Building Best Practices.
  • BIT Pros: BIT Aides whose partner participants successfully implemented all 16 BIT Building Best Practices become BIT Pros. They also complete the BIT Baseline and Performance Improvement Planning course on first renewal. Certification is renewed biennially and depends upon continued participation in BIT Building.

The goal is for every participant to succeed, and BIT Building is organized in a way that helps make that happen. Participants’ efforts may also qualify them to apply for public recognition or sustainability designations in their local community.

Affordable programs with expert and peer support

Prices for BIT Building are designed for discretionary budgets and scaled based on an organization’s legal structure and the number of buildings monitored. So whether the facility is educational, governmental, a for-profit or nonprofit business, BIT Building fits.

Participants will have industry expert input, as well as peer support and networking opportunities through forums on a participant-only site called BIT User. Plus, all of their tracked data will be centralized as they implement the best practices, making it easy to report progress to their organization.

The monthly BIT Community Call is a webinar series that will connect users and experts around specific topics for discussion, like waste, recycling and basic performance data tracking. Webinars are on the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. ET. Future events can be found here.

With the launch of BIT Building, Atlanta organizations like the Blue Heron Reserve and the Atlanta Community Toolbox join BIT Building participants such as the Chicago Housing Authority and Google offices in four countries that are benefiting from BIT Building’s practical and effective strategies to sustainably use resources, bit by bit.

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Topics: BIT

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