Implementation Model: Community Outreach
To engage the local community to reduce energy consumption in 30 million square feet of buildings by at least 20 percent by 2020 and become the nation’s leading city for the number of ENERGY STAR® and LEED® certified buildings
Leverage existing participant relationships through an ongoing community outreach program and encourage them to strengthen their commitment to reduce energy consumption
In order to meet the City’s energy reduction goal, Houston reached out to participants of their existing community outreach program called the Houston Green Office Challenge (HGOC) and encouraged them to strengthen their commitment to reduce energy consumption by offering increased public recognition.
The City of Houston launched the HGOC in 2010. Houston partnered with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and the Clinton Climate Initiative to develop the HGOC and recruited a number of private and non-profit organizations as HGOC sponsors. The HGOC helps participants move towards environmental sustainability and, in some cases, towards third-party green building certification through the ENERGY STAR and USGBC LEED rating systems. The program invites commercial property managers, building owners, management districts, and office tenants to increase their environmental and economic performance in the areas of energy conservation, waste reduction, water efficiency, transportation, and property management/tenant engagement. As part of the HGOC, the City of Houston provides training opportunities and other resources, including financial incentives, to assist participants in meeting the energy reduction goals of the HGOC. It is a friendly competition that acknowledges participants for their achievements through mayoral and media recognition. Each year Houston holds an awards reception where the Mayor announces winners in various HGOC categories and highlights the award winners on the HGOC website.
Houston built on the success of their existing HGOC program by encouraging participants to expand their energy efficiency efforts and participate in the Better Buildings Challenge. Houston believes this combined approach will enable the City to meet its energy reduction goals of reducing energy consumption in 30 million square feet of buildings within the local community while also strengthening HGOC participants’ commitment to energy conservation.
In addition to the HGOC and Better Buildings Challenge, the City is leading by example in their energy conservation efforts by implementing demand response, retro-commissioning, and behavioral change management programs. Houston has a robust energy savings performance contracting program and adopted a Green Building Resolution which set a target of LEED Silver certification for new construction and major renovations of City-owned buildings.
A number of meetings were held to both garner support for the HGOC and Better Buildings Challenge and to encourage participation in the two programs.
For meetings with internal stakeholders of HGOC, the City convened sponsors, non-profit partners, and other City staff to discuss the educational structure and scorecard for the program. The scorecard helped to lead interested participants to ENERGY STAR and LEED certification. The city also held meetings in order to better align HGOC with the Better Buildings Challenge. Based on feedback obtained at these meetings, the City modified parameters to the existing Energy Efficiency Incentive Program in order to encourage participation in both programs.
The City of Houston has enacted a number of policies that demonstrate a commitment to energy efficiency within government operations and encourage the private sector to follow suit.
The HGOC brings together a network of public, private, and non-profit partners to help catalyze participation among property managers, building owners, management districts, and office tenants. Some partners approached the City wanting to support this program as sponsors, while others were contacted by the City because they had previously vocalized interest in supporting a City-led environmental initiative. Non-profit partners leveraged their connections to encourage businesses to register for the program and helped generate excitement for the Challenge. More than 375 buildings and tenants, representing approximately 75 million square feet, participated in the first year of the HGOC.
HGOC Partners – developed the educational structure and scorecard, helped with outreach, assisted in setting the parameters for the Energy Efficiency Incentive Program, led the implementation of the program, and provided technical assistance. These partners were involved from the beginning of the development process for HGOC and helped shape the program to fit Houston’s needs.
HGOC Community Partners – helped with outreach and promotion of the program within their networks and provided information at education meetings. These partners were involved after the launch of the program and helped bring the program to the community.
HGOC Management Districts – helped with outreach and promotion of the program within their districts and hosted education meetings. The management districts were involved in engaging the companies and buildings located within their districts to drive up participation. The HGOC team gave recognition to the management district with the highest participation.
HGOC Sponsors – provided funds for the program, provided information at education meetings, and offered free services (e.g. energy audits) to participants. Sponsors ranged from property management companies, waste and recycling businesses, energy companies, and the utility, and their logos are included on the HGOC webpage.
Houston uses the HGOC as a platform to reach out to its local community by leveraging a wide variety of strategies from focused meetings to social media.
Leading by Example - To reach internal staff and stakeholders, the City formed both an Environmental Coordinating Council and Green Teams to help deploy the City’s cross-departmental efforts to reduce energy consumption in City owned buildings.
The Council meets monthly and is comprised of City employees from each of the City’s several departments. The Council responsibilities include: enhancing cross-departmental environmental education, coordinating environmental matters communications, promoting the City’s environmental accomplishments and responsibilities, and identifying and supporting all departments to access external funding opportunities for environmental projects.
City of Houston Green Teams is an initiative to foster sustainable behavior change to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact in City office buildings. Using the HGOC tenant scorecard as a framework for the green teams, this will help further participation in Year 2 of the HGOC and help with the City’s Better Buildings Challenge goals.
Website - Houston developed a HGOC website and dedicated a section of that website for interested organizations to officially join the HGOC challenge.
Marketing Materials - To reach external stakeholders, Houston developed a number of materials to promote the HGOC throughout the community.
Engagement Strategies - Through the HGOC website, Houston provides a number of ideas and strategies that building owners, property managers, and tenants can employ to reduce energy use in their buildings.
Public Relations Materials - Houston issued press releases announcing the inaugural HGOC and the City’s participation in the Better Buildings Challenge. They also utilize social media to engage participants in the HGOC and build support for the HGOC and Better Buildings Challenge.
To address the need for financing, the City of Houston set up a commercial building incentive program for energy efficiency retrofits and is connecting the public with the incentives that local utility companies offer. The City is also leading by example with its use of performance contracting.
Implementation Assistance - Houston provides tools, resources, and assistance to those interested in building energy efficiency through its Green Building Resource Center. In addition, organizations that participated in the first year of the HGOC received assistance in setting up a Portfolio Manager account and energy assessments from HGOC sponsors.
The mission of the Green Building Resource Center is to enable the public to experience and learn more about energy efficient and sustainable building. The physical Center is located in the City of Houston's Permitting Center. Over 50 displays, many interactive, free samples of green materials, and a library of information are available. In addition, an online resource provides information on various aspects of green building including steps toward improved energy efficiency.
Quick Start is the City of Houston's Public Works and Engineering's expedited plan review process for large commercial design projects and those that are registered as a LEED building.
Training - Houston formed the HGOC Challenge Team comprised of internal City staff who offer participants help with events, Portfolio Manager, and other areas that participants might inquire about, including connecting participants with industry experts. For example the HGOC Challenge Team is providing a number of training opportunities and educational resources to HGOC participants including the following:
Using data from the HGOC master account in Portfolio Manager, the City of Houston observed trends in the energy use from 2008 to 2011 of participating buildings in the program. The City created preliminary reports of high performers and used them to recruit local property managers to join the Better Buildings Challenge.
Some participants were not able to create Portfolio Manager accounts in the first year but are planning to do so in Year 2 of the HGOC. The City has also approached these participants to consider participating in the Better Buildings Challenge.
Access to Data – Each HGOC building has an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account which can be accessed at any time. Participants upload electricity, natural gas, and water meter data so that they may be tracked over time.
Data Tracking and Performance Measurement – Green Office Challenge Tenant Scorecard generates a baseline score for the tenant and then outlines actions that a tenant can take to improve that score (it automatically generates a score as the tenant fills it out) and make their office “greener.” For Year 2 of the HGOC, the City opted to use version two of the ICLEI Green Business Challenge tool, which allows tenants to track their own energy consumption if they are submetered and receive reports on their electricity and natural gas usage.
Houston publicly recognizes commercial property managers, building owners, management districts, and office tenants for their achievements through mayoral and media recognition.