December 23, 2014 | Chris Castro

Whether it’s a one-person enterprise, a small firm, or an entity with hundreds of employees with multiple locations, every business needs a space to call its own. These spaces—whether they are home offices; subleased office suites, or  large office parks—require energy and water to operat, which is why companies across the U.S. are increasingly making energy efficiency a core part of their business operations. In fact, efficiency is driving important business outcomes today–from energy cost savings to increased property values and even new business markets.

Recognizing this, and in an effort to increase efficient improvements in commercial and multifamily buildings throughout Central Florida, on November 19, the City of Orlando partnered with the local chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association, BOMA-Orlando, to convene a workshop of local and national industry experts to discuss energy efficiency, with an eye on emerging technologies and project financing.

Orlando buildings consume a vast amount of energy, contributing over 70 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, with a majority of the impact coming from large commercial and multifamily buildings. Fortunately, calculations from the IMT and the Natural Resources Defense Council show that Orlando has an unprecedented potential to unlock $55 million in cost-effective energy savings and reduce 340,000 metric tons of CO2 emission by embracing energy efficiency—all while maintaining growth and development targets for the region now and into the future.

Orlando is committed to capitalizing on this intersection of efficiency and economy. Through the the city’s sustainability plan, Green Works Orlando, Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council committed to a 5 percent reduction of citywide energy use intensity from 2010 levels, with the ultimate goal of lowering the city’s greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 2007 levels, and challenged the community to find practical ways to ensure all new buildings reach green standards by 2018.

Through its participation in the City Energy Project, Orlando is exploring ways to create market drivers and open pathways that will provide tools to the real estate community and assist in meeting these goals in the most cost-effective and feasible ways possible. Reaching Orlando’s goal will require widespread effort and in the spirit of collaboration, the recent BOMA-Orlando workshop allowed industry experts to share efficiency solutions in three areas: emerging energy technologies, project financing, and effective energy management through benchmarking.

At the workshop, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings manager Mike Zatz emphasized the importance of effective energy management for owners and operators, and highlighted clear benefits of energy efficiency for companies, such as competitive differentiation, strengthening business brand, and positively affecting the bottom line. He also shared insight gleaned from the benchmarking data that is being collected from more than 400,000 buildings nationwide each year, which shows an average energy savings of 2.4 percent per year and additional 2 points in a building’s ENERGY STAR efficiency score simply by performing on-going monthly benchmarking. Workshop attendees also learned about ENERGY STAR tools and developments, including improvements to the Energy Star Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool such as the new rating system for multifamily buildings, web service capabilities for utilities, and Target Finder for new construction.

The workshop also explored new, cost-effective technologies such as discuss rapid payback solutions, including BERT Brain smart plug-load devices, LVX-Systems LED lighting, EXP’s retro-commissioning services, and ABI’s building automation and control systems–all technologies that are making buildings more intelligent in how they use energy. During an Energy Efficiency Technologies panel, four experts showcased examples and case studies of how buildings are lowering their cost of operations through these investments, all while showing that the devices and tools are cost-effective, have quick returns, and add value to the property.

In addition, an Energy Efficiency Financing panel brought together four finance experts to explore various project financing solutions to lower the capital expense barrier of energy efficiency investments. Some of the solutions introduced included low-interest loans for energy efficiency and solar power from First Green Bank, expanding Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) off-balance sheet financing to Orlando, and a deep-dive in utility rebate and incentive programs for various efficiency improvements from the region’s two utilities, Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) and Duke Energy.

This workshop, and other similar efforts,  illustrate how the vision of Green Works Orlando coupled with the BOMA-Orlando priorities for energy efficiency accelerate the city’s ability to be a frontrunner in the green economy. These efforts will cut emissions, drive economic growth, reduce energy bills, and transform Orlando into a vibrant and competitive city for generations to come.

Chris Castro is the Program Manager for the City Energy Project in the City of Orlando Office of Sustainability & Energy, and Senior Energy Advisor with the Institute For Market Transformation (IMT).


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