Top Solutions of 2021

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Jan 07, 2022

As your organization prepares for 2022, we are excited to share last year’s most-viewed partner solutions and toolkits on the Better Buildings Solution Center! Check out our most popular resources from 2021 and see what you may have missed.

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1. Showcase Project: New York City Housing Authority’s 344 East 28th Street

To address energy challenges faced at its 344 East 28th Street multifamily apartment complex, Better Buildings Challenge partner New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) conducted an extensive lighting, heating, and hot-water modernization project. Energy-efficient upgrades made to these building systems, as well as NYCHA’s first-ever deployment of renewable technologies, resulted in nearly 40% annual energy savings and nearly $114,000 in cost savings. Read more.

2. IHG Hotels & Resorts Green Engage™ Program

IHG Hotels and Resorts, a Better Buildings Alliance partner, created the IHG Green Engage™ system as a comprehensive online sustainability platform. It allows hotels to track, measure, and report on their carbon footprint and utility consumption. With over 200 Green Solutions, including detailed action plans, guidance, and case studies, Green Engage can help hotels avoid up to $67 million in utility costs while significantly reducing their carbon footprint. Read more. 

3. Ford Motor Company: Dearborn Campus Uses a Digital Twin Tool for Energy Plant

A digital twin is the virtual representation of an object or system across its life cycle that helps operators quickly identify problems. Better Plants partner Ford Motor Company is using a digital twin of the new energy central energy plant (CEP) at its Dearborn Research and Engineering Campus. The new CEP is projected to achieve a 50% reduction in campus energy and water use; the digital twin enables tracking the plant’s performance towards that target. The model helps the Ford team manage energy and operational risks by monitoring operations across the CEP and providing real-time data for increased visibility and more efficient operations and design. Read more.

4. Showcase Project: Iron Mountain Data Centers’ Geothermal Cooling System

To help its customers reap the benefits of reduced energy consumption, increased reliability, and improved security, Better Buildings Challenge partner Iron Mountain Data Centers developed an innovative, energy-efficient geothermal cooling system at its Boyers, PA site. The site is located 200 feet underground in a former limestone mine containing a 35-acre water reservoir. Combined with a surface-mounted free-cooling chiller plant, Iron Mountain’s geothermal cooling system has yielded 34% energy savings. Read more.

5. The Tower Companies: Installing Rooftop Solar on a 1960s Multifamily High-Rise

Better Buildings Challenge partner The Tower Companies installed a 122-kW rooftop solar PV system at a 75,000-square-foot apartment complex in Silver Spring, Maryland. Tower internally funded the project through a direct purchase ownership model, which is expected to yield a 100% after-tax payback in the first year and an internal rate of return of 30% over 20 years. The solar PV installation is estimated to produce 150,000 kWh annually, enough to power the equivalent of 75 apartments. Read more.

6. Showcase Project: Lineage Logistics’ Blast Freezing Process and Design Optimization

At Better Plants partner Lineage Logistics’ flagship facility in Oxnard, California, concerns were raised over lengthy blast freezing times that were driving up energy costs and increasing processing times for cases of perishable food products. The company partnered with customers to redesign both the blast freezer and product case packaging, which reduced freeze times by up to 50% and increased blast-freezing capacity to more than 5 million pounds of product per day at a single facility. Read more.

7. Kaiser Permanente’s Zero-Energy Santa Rosa Medical Office Building

Through a two-part building design that combines energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy, Better Buildings Alliance partner Kaiser Permanente’s 87,300-square-foot Santa Rosa medical office building in California is the first to achieve net-zero status and the first demonstrated net-zero healthcare building in the U.S., with the ability to generate its own energy and use as little power as possible. Read more.

8. Showcase Project: UC Berkeley’s Jacobs Hall

Jacobs Hall is home to Better Buildings Challenge partner UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. The building was designed to use 90% less energy than the national median for university buildings and is certified LEED Platinum. Jacobs Hall achieved annual energy savings of 39% through measures including: a 74-kW solar photovoltaic array, a high-performance building envelope, passive ventilation and daylighting, and efficient heating and cooling solutions, among others. Read more.

9. Sprint's Systematic Approach to Waste Management

In its efforts to divert 50% of its operational waste stream from the landfill by 2025, Better Buildings partner and Waste Reduction Pilot participant Sprint developed a waste management pilot program that provided its business units with customized waste diversion solutions. In addition to streamlining its approach to waste reduction across its retail, commercial, and network facilities, Sprint improved the recycle rate from 23% to 46%, reduced utility spend by 25%, and yielded nearly $2 million in savings and avoided costs. Read more.

10. Showcase Project: 3M Trials Battery-less Cloud Monitoring for Steam Traps

3M Brookings is Better Plants Challenge partner 3M’s largest healthcare products manufacturing facility. This facility has three boilers that provide heat and steam. As the site operates 24/7, steam trap checks are performed while equipment is running, but many of the traps are in hard-to-access areas. 3M installed a real-time steam trap cloud monitoring system to help make trap checks faster and safer. After installing the battery-less monitors, the Brookings facility saw an estimated annual savings of $32,000, a 20-30% reduction in labor costs, and increased plant safety. The project received a 2021 Better Plants Better Project Award. Read more.


1. Smart Energy Analytics Campaign Toolkit

With analytic software applied to everyday building operations, owners are using data to their advantage and realizing cost savings through improved energy management. This toolkit collects the best resources from DOE’s Smart Energy Analytics Campaign to help facility owners and managers take advantage of savings opportunities and performance improvements from energy management information systems (EMIS) and ongoing monitoring practices. Read more.

2.Green Revolving Funds Toolkit

This collection of solutions provides guidance on establishing a green revolving fund to overcome a lack of dedicated capital. A green revolving fund is an internal capital pool dedicated to funding energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability projects that generate cost savings. A portion of those savings is then used to replenish the fund, establishing an ongoing funding vehicle to help drive energy efficiency and sustainability investment over time. Read more.

3. Clean Energy for Low-Income Communities (CELICA) Toolkit

Low-income households spend about 8% of their income on energy costs, three times more than average. Better Buildings Accelerator partners committed $335 million to help 155,000 low-income households access energy efficiency and renewable energy benefits, collecting resources and lessons learned into the CELICA Toolkit. The toolkit includes a guide to program development and replicable program models for single-family and multifamily housing, as well as community solar. Read More.

4. Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) Toolkit

This collection of resources enables state and local communities to benefit from the experience of partners who have successfully established and implemented performance contracting. It includes best practices and innovative approaches that states, cities, and K-12 schools have used. Users can easily find the information they need at each stage of their ESPC decision-making process. Read more.

5. Wastewater Energy Management Toolkit 

Municipal wastewater treatment systems in the U.S. consume approximately 30 billion kWh annually, and their operations are typically the largest energy users in a community. This toolkit enables water resource recovery facilities to improve their energy efficiency, providing best practices and innovative approaches successfully used by wastewater facilities to establish and implement energy management plans. It is based on the work of DOE's Better Buildings Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of the Future (SWIFt) Accelerator. Read more. 

6. Low Carbon Technology Strategies Toolkit

To help building owners and operators reduce carbon emissions, this toolkit offers guidance on how to achieve deep carbon reductions in existing buildings with a primary focus on retrofits and operational strategies. Low Carbon Technology Strategies are currently available for 10 building types, with a supplement for commercial kitchen equipment. Recommendations are grouped by technology, with recommended actions categorized as either simple, intermediate, or advanced. Read more.

7. High-Efficiency RTU Replacement Toolkit

This toolkit helps HVAC contractors and service companies work with their customers through a step-by-step process of evaluating and managing their inventory of rooftop units (RTUs) and how to evaluate the business case for high-efficiency replacements. From an incentives database to a comparison calculator, the toolkit provides everything needed to make an informed decision regarding RTU replacements. Read more.

8. Engaging Tenants in Energy Efficiency Toolkit

Building occupants can control up to 80% of energy use in a commercial building. Tenant engagement in energy efficiency initiatives is crucial to unlocking the full energy savings potential. This toolkit outlines successful strategies and resources for bridging the tenant-landlord divide through green leasing guidance, tenant improvement and build-out best practices, and examples of successful communication with tenants regarding energy efficiency opportunities. Read more.

9. Commercial PACE for New Construction Toolkit

Commercial PACE financing helps building owners overcome the upfront costs of implementing energy, water, or resilience projects at their properties. This toolkit provides resources and project case studies for building owners and developers that may want to take advantage of CPACE for new construction. Read more.

10. Efficiency-as-a-Service Toolkit

Efficiency-as-a-service (EaaS) is a pay-for-performance, off-balance sheet financing solution that allows customers to implement energy and water efficiency projects with no upfront capital expenditure. It is a relatively new financing mechanism, in which customers pay a provider for the service of energy savings. This toolkit provides resources and case studies from Better Buildings partners Iron Mountain, AT&T, and others to help building owners, operators, and occupants who may want to take advantage of EaaS for energy and water projects. Read more.