Recognizing resources consumed over buildings’ operating life cycles, mayors from 10 major U.S. cities will undertake an effort to significantly boost energy efficiency in new and existing facilities. Supporters contend such measures could cut as much climate change pollution as generated by 1 million to 1.5 million passenger vehicles every year, and lower annual energy costs by nearly $1 billion.

The mayors are charter participants in the new City Energy Project (CEP), a Natural Resources Defense Council and Institute for Market Transformation initiative aimed at creating healthier, more prosperous cities by targeting their largest source of energy use. They represent Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City.

Funded by a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Kresge Foundation, CEP will help the cities craft their own customized plans for boosting buildings’ energy efficiency. “New York City’s sustainability efforts are a major reason our greenhouse gas emissions are down 19 percent since 2007 and our air is cleaner than it has been in more than 50 years. They have also substantially driven down energy costs for consumers,” says former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“The City Energy Project will bring the significant economic and environmental benefits that energy efficiency has to offer to other cities—and accelerate progress by helping them learn from each other’s successes.” “[This] is a promising opportunity and partnership for the City of Chicago as we work to become a more energy efficient city,” adds Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “More energy efficiency means new jobs and continued economic growth, and a more sustainable city, which will lead to a further increase in the quality of life for the people of Chicago.”

Buildings are the largest single source of U.S. carbon emissions, representing 40 percent nationwide—more than either the transportation or industrial sectors. That number is even more dramatic at the urban level, CEP supporters note, with over half of U.S. cities’ carbon emissions emanating from buildings. “City skylines have long been symbols of aspiration and innovation. This project takes that to a new level,” notes Laurie Kerr, director CEP director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These mayors are showing there is political will to put people to work to build a healthier, more prosperous future for America’s cities. In the face of a changing climate and increasingly extreme weather, these leaders know they cannot wait for the state or federal government to make them more resilient and sustainable. They are taking action now.”

“We have the skills and technology to make buildings more efficient, but we need a coordinated effort by major cities and the private sector to make it happen,” affirms Institute for Market Transformation Executive Director Cliff Majersik. “The City Energy Project will give city leaders and real estate industry the support they need to make buildings better, improving the lives of millions
of residents.”

Projected Benefits
Boosting building efficiency reduces demand for new power plants, makes cities more resilient to energy-related crises, and helps clean up the air city dwellers breathe by reducing other hazardous air pollution, CEP officials contend. Their effort is projected to cut a combined 5 million to 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually.

Energy-efficient buildings impart significant economic benefits by a) creating jobs in a range of fields and skill levels to implement the efficiency measures, from electricians to architects, construction workers to engineers, and building technicians to software providers; b) helping to raise property values, as efficient buildings are in great demand; and, c) lowering energy bills for residents and businesses, reducing the cost of living and doing business, and freeing up money that can flow back into the local economy.

The CEP is projected to save ratepayers nearly $1 billion annually on their energy bills (at current prices). “Building energy efficiency has far-reaching benefits, not only for the environment, but also in enabling high performing work space, facilitating jobs, and resulting in better financial return,” says Goldman Sachs Environmental Markets Group chief Kyung-Ah Park. “As a global financial institution committed to facilitating market-based solutions to critical environmental issues, we are excited to see the launch of the City Energy Project, which will bring the leadership of 10 cities to help address market barriers and catalyze this important opportunity.”

“Jones Lang LaSalle strongly supports the City Energy Project for building partnerships between local governments and the real estate community to advance energy efficiency,” adds Robert Best, executive vice president, Energy & Sustainability Services for the commercial real estate investment company. “We intend to be actively engaged in the City Energy Project, as both a public advocate and as a building manager, to expand and strengthen these valuable partnerships across the participating cities.”

CEP Process
Project participants will develop their own locally tailored plans to advance energy efficiency and reduce waste in large buildings, which can represent roughly 50 percent of their citywide square footage. These plans, which will include multiple integrated strategies, can make more progress in each city than any one program or policy could alone. CEP representatives will offer energy expertise to help guide cities’ planning, designing and implementing processes. The energy efficiency solutions that CEP will help develop are flexible to each city’s unique situation, supporting the following goals:

  • Promote efficient building operations. Strong building energy performance can be achieved through efficient operations and maintenance, and the training of facilities personnel.
  • Encourage private investment. Commonsense solutions to financial and legal barriers to energy efficiency should be adopted to increase private investment in building improvements.
  • City leadership. Cities should lead by example and reduce taxpayer-funded energy consumption in municipal buildings, and encourage the private sector to match their actions.
  • Promote transparency. Building energy performance information should be transparent and accessible to enable market demand and competition for energy-efficient buildings.

“Energy efficiency creates jobs, lowers energy bills, and is a cornerstone of constructing a sustainable future,” notes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Los Angeles has long been a leader in environmental policy and we look forward to working with cities around the country to jointly implement policies that stimulate our economy, save money, and reduce carbon emissions.”