Better Buildings Partners Take the Stage at Greenbuild 2018

By Nathaniel Allen, DOE Fellow on Nov 30, 2018

The 2018 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo convened Better Buildings partners across all sectors to learn about the latest trends in sustainability and the built environment. This year’s theme, “Human X Nature,” set the stage for a host of health-related sessions, many of which utilized research and tools from DOE National Laboratories, and featured Better Buildings partner leadership on zero energy and innovations in real estate finance.

There were two tracks dedicated to “zero” at Greenbuild this year, featuring well-attended sessions on topics of zero energy, waste, and water. DOE’s zero energy session with two Better Buildings partners and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) highlighted cutting-edge examples of small, medium and large zero energy projects across multiple building types. Bakari Kennedy of Better Buildings partner Suncoast Credit Union described new and existing bank branches with solar installations that produce enough energy to meet building needs annually. Kennedy also shared Suncoast’s more ambitious efforts to achieve zero energy at large office buildings and a call center. Susan Long of Better Buildings partner REI highlighted their new 400,000 square foot distribution center designed to meet zero energy goals through a super-efficient envelope and innovative HVAC design, while promoting occupant comfort through hyperchairs that allow employees to control their microclimate. Shanti Pless of NREL outlined a new series of Advanced Energy Design Guides, supported by DOE and published by ASHRAE, for achieving zero energy performance. Pless previewed a new guide, specifically for small to medium commercial office buildings, to be released in mid-2019.

In a session titled “Building Research Results – How Do We Analyze Sustainability?” DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) shared efforts to engage real estate academics to address the connections between energy and green building metrics with improved financial benefits in commercial real estate. This body of research is documented in a literature review authored by DOE and published by ACEEE Summer Study 2018. Nils Kok, a professor from Maastricht University who has conducted seminal research around green building certification and financial performance, described new data sources and efforts aimed at understanding the relationship between certifications and actual building energy consumption in a panel moderated by Deb Cloutier of RE Tech Advisors.

Abigail Dean of Better Buildings Challenge partner TH Real Estate shared early results from a research partnership with LBNL to examine the financial performance of their own high performing assets and how they use these insights to inform investment decisions. Additional research in this area, especially with asset-level data within individual portfolios, will continue to help make the business case for high performing buildings.

Better Buildings Multifamily Housing partners presented on two additional panels highlighting the unique opportunities and challenges facing the multifamily sector.

Caitlin Rood of Mercy Housing and Tina Brake of Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority joined Leslie Zarker of ICF as panelists on a session called "Utility Benchmarking Glory: Lessons Learned from the BBC Multifamily Sector." Panelists addressed the critical need for multifamily housing providers to benchmark their building portfolios’ energy consumption data, while facing persistent benchmarking barriers unique to the multifamily sector. The panel identified challenges and provided a walkthrough of HUD’s Multifamily Utility Benchmarking Toolkit and key benchmarking tools created specifically for multifamily housing providers.

Bomee Jung of the New York City Housing Authority and Dennis Gonzalez Ramos from the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration presented "Commitment to Construction: Solar Power on Public Housing." Public Housing Authorities are developing and implementing innovative projects that expand market opportunities for the solar industry and economic and environmental opportunities for PHAs and their residents. PHA solar projects are supported by technical assistance provided through HUD’s Renew300 program, which aims to install 300 megawatts of solar capacity on public and multi-family affordable housing.

Thank you to all Better Buildings partners that utilized the conference for education and networking to further their energy performance goals, as well as to the U.S. Green Building Council for organizing another excellent Greenbuild. 

Leslie Zarker, ICF International, contributed to the content of this blog.