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Thought Leader Uncategorized Sustainable Communities

Building a Sustainable City

Southface Institute

by Pamela Henman, Southface
Bright lights and soaring towers make up Atlanta’s iconic skyline, but also represent an opportunity to tackle one of the planet’s most pressing issues: energy and water consumption. According to the Department of Energy, about 20 percent of the energy used in the U.S. goes to power commercial buildings, and the Environmental Protection Agency reports that the commercial and institutional sector is the second-largest consumer of publicly-supplied water in the country, representing 17 percent of withdrawals from the public supply.
Part of a national initiative from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge (ABBC) launched in 2011 with a goal to realize a 20 percent reduction in energy and water consumption in commercial properties by the year 2020. Alongside Los Angeles and Seattle, Atlanta was one of the pilot cities to join the Challenge, which is now active in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. To date, over 110 million square feet of building space has been voluntarily committed to the ABBC, boasting the largest building footprint of any Challenge initiative across the country.
Southface works in partnership with Central Atlanta Progress, the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience, Midtown Alliance, and Livable Buckhead Initiative to reach this ambitious – yet attainable – goal. ABBC properties span the city’s commercial portfolio, going beyond office buildings to include properties in health care, recreation, retail, education, entertainment, residential, hospitality, parking facilities, and more.
Serving as the initiative’s technical lead, Southface provides ongoing data management, provides education and networking programming to participants, and supports properties in making efficiency upgrades. Using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, Southface provides technical assistance to track and benchmark energy and water consumption, and also provides guidance and resources to help participants achieve their savings goals.
Southface has aggregated ABBC participant data and performance metrics on a dashboard at www.atlantabbc.com, where year-over-year stats can be found on energy and water savings, economic outcomes, and public health benefits as a result of the program.
The ABBC’s results are nothing short of astounding. Cumulatively, the city’s participants have achieved an energy savings equivalent to what 206,214 homes consume each year, has saved enough water to fill 1,973 Olympic-size swimming pools, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 408,939 cars driven annually.
In 2017, the program created 221 new jobs in Atlanta and contributed $16 million to gross regional product, which means better economic outcomes for all Georgians. As the city closes in on its 20 percent goal, the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge will honor program participants and top-performing properties at a recognition event on September 26.

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