Milwaukee Engages Businesses, K-12 Schools, and Community in Energy Efficiency Strategy


The City of Milwaukee is already leading by example by committing to reduce the energy used in city buildings by 20% by 2022, and the city has expanded its activities beyond municipal facilities with the Better Buildings Challenge of Milwaukee (BBC-MKE). This comprehensive energy efficiency program aims to assist local businesses and K-12 schools in every aspect of energy efficiency projects, including assessment, financing, and implementation, to help buildings reach their energy goal. To date, more than 86 non-city buildings are participating in BBC-MKE. To continue to grow the program and encourage energy efficiency across the city, Milwaukee developed a 3-pronged business and community engagement strategy.

Milwaukee’s Business and Community Engagement Strategy

The City of Milwaukee’s 3-pronged business and community engagement strategy includes incentives, education and outreach, and recognition to encourage local businesses and K-12 schools to join BBC-MKE and implement energy efficiency projects in their buildings.


To help building owners and operators identify energy-saving opportunities, the BBC-MKE program offers free energy assessments of Class B&C offices, small commercial space, and K-12 schools. These assessments are a modified Level 2 ASHRAE assessment, which identify no- and low-cost opportunities, potential capital-intensive energy savings opportunities, operational improvements, and some analysis of energy costs, energy use, potential energy and cost savings, and rough initial implementation costs. In addition, the BBC-MKE program offers benchmarking guidance, and partnered with the USGBC Wisconsin chapter to hold ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager technical support sessions. The city will also establish building profiles in Portfolio Manager for those that are eligible for building assessments.

In addition, BBC-MKE provides financial assistance through the City of Milwaukee's Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. Milwaukee’s PACE program funds energy improvements with private capital, which is paid back over time with the savings from energy improvements through a special municipal charge tied to the property tax system. BBC-MKE also partnered with Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program, to provide incentives to businesses to reduce the implementation costs of energy projects. As part of the free energy assessments, participants are introduced to the incentives available based on specific assessment recommendations.

Education and Outreach

The City of Milwaukee teamed up with the Mitchell Street Business Improvement District (BID) and We Energies, a local utility, on an outreach campaign to engage small businesses in the Mitchell Street BID on energy efficiency. The city provided business owners with free energy consultations for a week, utilizing a small business auditing report tool from We Energies, and determined businesses that were pre-qualified for small business incentives utilizing a business list provided by the Mitchell Street BID. To get the word out, the city developed a mailer to advertise the free energy consultations and point business to the other BBC-MKE program’s resources. The City also held an informal information session in case businesses had questions and went door-to-door offering to do a walk-through of businesses and connect them with resources to help them implement energy efficiency projects. At the end of the outreach campaign, Milwaukee held a session for BID participants to answer questions about the energy consultation reports and provide training on benchmarking in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

To reach a broader business audience, Milwaukee published an advertorial in the Milwaukee Business Journal. The 6-page advertorial, "Making Buildings Better: What’s Being Done Locally to Reduce Energy Consumption,” featured a panel of local experts assembled to discuss energy efficiency in Milwaukee. The interview-style advertorial was moderated by the president of the commercial realtor association in Milwaukee and the panel consisted of an employee from the city, a financier of energy efficiency projects, an executive from a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Milwaukee, and a local property manager. The advertorial highlighted resources available to business interested in pursuing energy efficiency, including the BBC-MKE program, and shed light on some of the panelists’ strategies and perspectives on energy efficiency technologies and financing opportunities.

The City of Milwaukee and the Midwest Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) partnered to develop a clean technology resource page to help building owners, managers, and contractors find energy-efficient technologies, support local manufacturers, and stay informed on building retrofit practices. The resource page also links to Milwaukee's ECO Design Guidelines, which provide further insight into sustainable design practices for multifamily and commercial projects. To further educate local businesses on energy efficiency, the City of Milwaukee partnered with the M-WERC Construction & Engineering Working Group on a 1-day conference on implementing energy efficiency in commercial buildings (November 2017). The event highlighted the BBC-MKE program and established a roadmap to implementing energy efficiency in commercial buildings, both new and renovated. The conference also discussed high-impact technologies that can help building owners save thousands of dollars annually on energy bills.

To bring broader community awareness to energy efficiency, the City of Milwaukee utilized a popular community event, Doors Open Milwaukee, to showcase buildings participating in the BBC-MKE program. The BBC-MKE program sponsored the 2-day event which included behind-the-scenes tours of more than 150 buildings throughout Milwaukee’s downtown and neighborhoods and in-depth tours led by community leaders. Milwaukee created window clings so building tour participants could easily identify the buildings in the BBC-MKE program and worked with Doors Open to create a feature on their website to allow interested attendees to filter for buildings participating in the BBC-MKE program.


To recognize participating buildings in the BBC-MKE program, the city hosted its first annual awards and celebration event, ReEnergize Milwaukee 2017. The event showcased the leaders that are helping re-energize and strengthen the greater community through the built environment and spur action in the City of Milwaukee and surrounding area to make buildings better. It also served as an opportunity for local businesses and building owners to network and share best practices in energy reduction. Mayor Tom Barrett and the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office presented awards in the following five categories:

  1. Outstanding Energy Performance was awarded to the building with the most significant Source Energy Use Intensity reduction in 2016 compared to the building's baseline year
  2. Energy Efficiency Project of the Year was awarded to individual projects that displayed innovation and a high impact on energy use relative to investment, including use of available incentives
  3. ReEnergizer of the Year recognized exceptional facility managers, building engineers, and others that successfully lead their team in going above and beyond to manage building operational efficiency, seek out energy reduction projects, and implement tenant engagement strategies
  4. Occupant Engagement highlighted the building team that did the best job communicating their energy efficiency goals and initiatives to their tenants or other occupants and engaged their occupants to implement initiatives within their individual leased spaces

There was also a People's Choice Award selected by attendees at the event from a group of candidates that had a physical display at the event and were highlighted leading up to the event via social media and through online profiles. The People’s Choice Award focused on celebrating the community of participants that make up the City of Milwaukee's Better Buildings Challenge and attendees voted on the candidate they believed had done the most to embrace the Better Buildings Challenge.

More Less


Local Government


Reaching my community

Tool type:

Outreach Materials

Building Type:

Education, K-12 schools, Office