The City Energy Project: Better Buildings, Better Cities

Chicago City Hall Green Roof

Earlier this year, 10 mayors of large American cities announced a partnership with the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) and the Institute for Market Transformation in the new City Energy Project. The goal of the project is to improve large public and private-sector building energy efficiency to reduce energy use, and thus decrease city pollution and save residents and businesses money. If the project succeeds, the savings could reach $1 billion nationwide, and the hope is that these cities will act as a model for communities across the nation and the world.

But what does the project look like? The ten cities are as follows: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. Some of these cities are already well on the way to being energy efficient. Boston was recently ranked first in the nation by ACEEE (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy) for being the most energy efficient city in the United States, while Chicago’s Green Roof Program has been in place for several years. Other cities have a lot of work to do. Los Angeles was ranked 28th in the nation in the ACEEE’s rankings. The common thread is that all of these cities demonstrate a commitment to becoming more energy efficient, which was why they were selected out of a group of 22 applicants.

Much of the work of the City Energy Project deals with providing cities, and their buildings, with better metrics and data around energy use, and creating policies that incentivize energy efficiency. Many of the improvements are either low-cost or no-cost. The project will also pay for a building efficiency expert to work full time towards implementation.

While making buildings more energy efficient is an important part of this project, an equally important part concerns behavior change. Personal actions like keeping computers on at night, lights on in the building, or keeping the thermostat to high or low can greatly affect a building’s energy efficiency. The hope is that building managers will be educated on best practices to conserve energy and then share them with everyone who lives and works in the building.

The project is in its first year, so we will eagerly await the results and keep checking the City Energy Project website for updates.

What can you do?

  • If you are lucky enough to reside in one of the 10 involved cities, encourage your place of work to participate.
  • Check out ACEEE’s interactive map that ranks the 34 largest cities in America according to energy efficiency.
  • Watch presentations from this year’s Climate, Buildings and Behavior Symposium to find out the latest in building behavior change.
  • Make your home or place of work more energy efficient in a variety of ways.
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James McComas

I bring a background in researching and writing to the Campaign Consultation team for my role as Administrative and Project Assistant. Prior to joining Campaign Consultation, I was a research intern for BUS 52, a year-long project which sought out organizations and individuals across the continental United States who worked to positively change their communities in innovative ways. I also assisted a journalist researching climate change issues. Read more.

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