Find out how these organizations met their energy and water goals; DOE announces waste reduction pilot

by Brianna Crandall — July 15, 2019 — US Energy Secretary Rick Perry kicked off the Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit this week by recognizing more than 20 Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge partners and allies who achieved their energy, water, or financial goals for 2019 and five who have recently set new Challenge goals after meeting their initial goals. These goal achievers are part of the hundreds of organizations that work with the US Department of Energy (DOE) in the Better Buildings Initiative, and their methods and accomplishments (highlighted below) are featured in the annual Better Buildings Progress Report and online. The Secretary also announced the launch of the Better Buildings, Better Plants Waste Reduction Pilot.

Last year, Better Buildings Initiative partners and allies saved 1.38 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) and $8.4 billion in total energy costs. These organizations are leading the US in energy efficiency by adopting emerging technologies, advancing the American workforce, and sharing their innovative approaches to energy and water efficiency, says DOE.

Energy, water or financial goals reached

At the Summit, DOE recognized the following partners for achieving the energy, water, and financial goals they set as partners and allies in the Better Buildings Challenge:

  • Abundant Power Group (finance) – Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia (energy)
  • Bentley Mills (energy) – Industry, California
  • Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority (energy) – Bucks County, Pennsylvania
  • Bullitt County Public Schools, Kentucky (energy)
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts, Housing Authority (energy)
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee (energy)
  • General Mills (energy) – Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Greenworks Lending (finance) – Darien, Connecticut
  • Hannon Armstrong (finance) – Annapolis, Maryland
  • Havertys (energy) – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Iron Mountain (energy) – Boston, Massachusetts
  • J.R. Simplot Company Food Group (energy) — Caldwell, Idaho
  • Keene Housing (water) – Keene, New Hampshire
  • Kohl’s Department Stores (energy) – Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
  • Las Vegas Sands Corporation (energy) – Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Redaptive (finance) – San Francisco, California
  • Roanoke, Virginia (energy)
  • Sparkfund (finance) – Washington, DC
  • TE Connectivity (energy) – Berwyn, Pennsylvania
  • Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (energy, water) – San Francisco, California
  • Wendium of Florida, Inc. (energy) – Miami, Florida

The following partners have met their goals previously and are being recognized for setting new Challenge goals to achieve even greater energy and/or water efficiency:

  • Columbia Association (energy) – Columbia, Maryland
  • DWS (energy) – New York, New York
  • 2Life Communities (energy) – Brighton, Massachusetts
  • NYCEEC (finance) – New York, New York
  • PACE Equity (finance) – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A few highlights of the successful initiatives are listed below.

Commercial buildings

  • Using commercial property assessed clean energy (CPACE) financing to fund resiliency improvements that make buildings more resistant to natural disasters and other threats; many of these projects have an energy component (e.g. energy efficiency, distributed generation, microgrid), but others do not (e.g. seismic retrofits, wind hardening).
  • Using a pay-as-you-save custom financing solution (through Better Buildings Financial Ally Sparkfund) that covers the upfront cost of an energy savings project such as LED lighting or HVAC systems, empowering building owners and managers to save money from the start
  • Installing direct digital controls
  • Installing plate exchangers to obtain cooling without electric powered mechanical chillers
  • Designing and installing a solar panel array to recharge batteries, thus reducing the total number of alkaline batteries used
  • Installing a magnetic chiller and new lighting
  • Tracking and benchmarking energy data utilizing the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

Data centers

  • Conducting feasibility studies and integrating renewable energy projects in order to satisfy existing customers, save on energy costs, reduce emissions, and hedge against rate increases and fuel/power supply interruptions

Retail stores

  • Developing an initiative to drive sustainable business practices and improve business processes in the areas of energy and waste management, building sustainability, store development, products sourcing, design and development, office automation and paper management, and associate education and engagement

Warehouses / Distribution centers

  • Replacing dated battery-operated equipment with more efficient equipment with fewer batteries
  • Upgrading to LED lighting, which provides reduced energy consumption, higher quality lighting, increased safety and visibility, and reduced maintenance, material and labor costs

Manufacturing facilities or plants

  • Enlisting a Better Buildings Financial Ally, Redaptive, to fund two major projects using an “energy-as-a-service” (EaaS) model
  • An LED retrofit for an entire facility and the installation of high-efficiency fixtures for all domestic water use at the facility
  • Upgrading the controls system and adding a combustion gas analyzer and a variable speed flue gas recirculation fan, improving boiler and steam system efficiencies without negatively impacting occupant comfort, process efficiency or production output
  • Committing an engineer to be the Energy lead, beginning with a metering strategy
  • Discussing energy in production meetings just like equipment stops and ingredient overuse
  • Developing an internal solution to tie energy data into weather and proprietary production tracking system data, thereby enabling immediate action on energy losses


  • Replacing the rooftop HVAC system with a geothermal system to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality for students and staff
  • Making improvements to the interior and exterior lighting


  • A complete overhaul of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, including new digital controls, a high efficiency chiller and boiler, variable speed drives on the air handler fans and pumps, and retro-commissioning of HVAC zone controls, thereby providing improved building environmental control, including tighter humidity levels, leading to prolonged life of books and sensitive documents
  • Converting existing fluorescent lighting to more efficient LED lighting, thus avoiding over $20,000 in labor and material costs required to maintain the existing lighting infrastructure, plus drastically improving lighting quality and reading experiences for patrons
  • Exploring options to implement a robust recycling program, rainwater catchment system, and sustainable landscaping plan

To see a complete list of goal achievers including details of their energy initiatives and specific energy and cost savings, along with more than 2,500 proven solutions from Better Buildings partners, visit the Better Buildings Solution Center.

Waste Reduction Pilot

The Better Buildings, Better Plants Waste Reduction Pilot was launched to address the 2.7 billion tons of industrial solid waste and more than 260 million tons of municipal solid waste the US generates annually. By reducing waste, organizations also save energy, reminds DOE. Manufacturers, companies, schools, and governments across the country can strengthen their competitiveness and sustainability by setting and realizing robust waste reduction goals.

Partners will now have the opportunity to set waste reduction goals under the pilot. In the coming year, DOE will work with organizations to determine the appropriate metrics, goals and opportunities for different sectors, and will work with an initial group of partners to collectively set, track, and meet waste reduction goals. Lessons learned will inform how the pilot might be expanded to all partners in the future.

The following partners have joined the Better Buildings, Better Plants Waste Reduction Pilot:

  • Beaverton, Oregon (Better Buildings)
  • CommonWealth Partners (Better Buildings)
  • Flowers Foods (Better Plants)
  • FMC Chemicals (Better Plants)
  • Harbec Plastics (Better Plants)
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (Better Plants)
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Accelerator)
  • Martin Guitar (Better Plants)
  • NSK Americas (Better Plants)
  • Parkway Properties (Better Buildings)
  • PPC Online (Better Plants)
  • Schneider Electric (Better Plants)
  • Shorenstein Properties (Better Buildings)
  • Sugar Creek Packing (Better Plants)
  • The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. (Better Buildings)
  • The Tower Companies (Better Buildings)
  • UW Health (Better Buildings)
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs (Accelerator)
  • Volvo Group (Better Plants)

Through the Better Buildings Initiative, DOE aims to make commercial, public, industrial, and residential buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade. Greater energy efficiency saves billions of dollars, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and creates US jobs, points out DOE.