Highlights from the 2020 Better Buildings Summit: Part 1

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Jun 16, 2020

This year’s Better Buildings Summit was held as a Virtual Leadership Symposium, and featured interactive online sessions, workshops, plenaries, and sector meet-ups with market leaders and industry stakeholders and experts. Below are highlights from days 1 and 2 of the first ever virtual Summit. Enjoy Part 1!

Monday, June 8

The 2020 Summit opened with remarks from Maria Vargas, Director of the Better Buildings Initiative at DOE, followed by an address from DOE Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. He discussed the importance of energy efficiency as a key component in helping to advance America’s economy and global competitiveness. Under Secretary Menezes also congratulated Better Buildings, Better Plants partners and allies on their dedication to improving energy, water, and waste efficiency across their portfolios, and for sharing lessons learned on the Better Buildings Solution Center for others to benefit from their replicable solutions and best practices.

Following the Under Secretary’s remarks, Daniel R. Simmons, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), DOE, highlighted accomplishments of the past year and recognized the 20 Better Buildings and Better Plants Goal Achievers, who reached their energy efficiency or financing goals in 2020, as well as partners that have set new goals. Simmons also introduced the new Better Buildings Workforce Accelerator, and shared results from the now completed Smart Labs and Data Centers Accelerators.

Maria Vargas shared a list of partners on track to reach their Better Buildings Challenge goals as well as new partners who have joined Better Buildings, Better Plants over the past year. Maria also announced three new Better Buildings efforts: the Better Buildings Sustainable Corrections Infrastructure Accelerator, the Integrated Lighting Campaign, and the Building Envelope Campaign. Lastly, she recognized partners in the Waste Reduction Pilot and Green Lease Leaders.

Rounding out the plenary was keynote speaker Dr. Joseph Allen, Assistant Professor and Director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. Dr. Allen discussed the role of buildings in promoting human health and safety, stressing the need to make our buildings the first line of defense in fighting disease transmission and supporting good health.

Dr. Allen also talked about Harvard’s “For Health” program, including its nine foundations of healthy buildings and the health “co-benefits” of the built environment. The program has found that for every dollar saved through energy efficiency, another 59 cents are saved through health and climate co-benefits. Accounting for these additional savings presents a significant opportunity for the built environment industry – Dr. Allen finished his presentation noting that these savings can be powerful motivators in garnering leadership buy-in for efficiency projects.

Following the Opening Plenary, attendees joined Better Buildings and Better Plants Sector Meet-ups. Program partners and DOE staff gathered in their respective meet-ups to discuss new tools and resources, issues of interest on energy, water, and waste efficiency, and specific ways the industry is evolving help meet the needs of each sector.

The first day of the Virtual Leadership Symposium wrapped up with a Fireside Chat with DOE’s National Labs on trends and emerging technologies in energy efficiency. Hosted by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency at DOE Alex Fitzsimmons, this panel featured leadership from three of the US National Labs: Argonne National Lab, Pacific Northwest National Lab, and the National Renewable Energy Lab. Speakers discussed a range of topics from tracing pathogens and aerosol movement in buildings to fight the spread of infection, to using smart window films and advanced filters to improve building comfort, to creating community-wide intelligent energy systems and grid-interactive efficient buildings.

Tuesday, June 9

Attendees joined online Tuesday morning for the second day of the Better Buildings, Better Plants Virtual Summit, beginning with sessions, “PechaKucha on Industrial Energy Management” and “Building a Clean Energy Workforce.”

Better Plants partners presented on various energy management strategies, including energy modeling, data collection, and analysis and visualization using PechaKucha - a storytelling format based solely on the use of images. In the workforce session, speakers from the National Renewable Energy Lab and Better Buildings affiliates spoke on how driving efficiency in buildings is only half the battle when it comes to sustainability, as the need for an educated workforce to design, build, operate, and finance energy-efficient buildings is just as crucial.

In the afternoon, participants chose between concurrent Achieving Resilience sessions. Attendees learned data-informed best practices for setting energy saving goals in wastewater treatment plants, how onsite distributed energy technologies can help improve resilience in commercial buildings, and more. Day 2 closed out with a deep dive from the Better Buildings Financial Allies on the state of the energy financing market as they shared insights on emerging energy financing solutions including commercial property assessed clean energy (C-PACE), efficiency-as-a-service, and green bonds.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of highlights from days 3 and 4 of the Better Buildings, Buildings Plants Virtual Leadership Symposium later this week!