10 Cities Aim to Set Energy Standards

These 10 cities will work to dramatically improve building efficiency and develop individualized energy-saving plans.

by / February 4, 2014

Ten major American cities are gearing up to lead the nation on energy efficiency -- they're partnering with NRDC and the Institute for Market Transformation in the new City Energy Project, the Huffington Post reported. The project entails an effort to transform city buildings and skyscrapers in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City from energy-wasting to energy-efficient. 

City buildings nationwide have offices, elevators, lights, computers and other equipment that run 24/7, or close to it, which guzzles enormous amounts of energy -- so much that buildings themselves are responsible for 40 percent of America’s global warming pollution.

In many cities, this number is even more astronomical. For example, up to 50 or even 75 percent of carbon emissions come directly from buildings. And on top of all that pollution, buildings actually waste much of the energy they use. Most of the nation’s energy comes from fossil fuels, and this energy produces air pollution that sickens residents when it’s wasted --and buildings are wasting up to 30 percent of the energy they use.

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Now, these 10 cities will work to dramatically improve building efficiency and develop individualized energy-saving plans -- plans that can be as simple as a low- to no-cost measure like installing sensors to turn lights off, or adjusting heating systems on weekends. Many cities are beginning with improvements to municipal buildings to get the ball rolling. 

In Atlanta, more than 115 organizations have joined the Better Buildings Challenge, representing more than 2 billion feet of space. These facilities are working to cut their energy use 20 percent by 2020. Chicago has 32 major commercial buildings scheduled to reduce their energy use by 20 percent, including landmark historical structures. Similar plans are underway in Denver and other cities.

The impact this effort will have on the nation is predicted to be extensive. The City Energy Project expects to cut 5 million to 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually which is comparable to the amount of electricity used by 700,000 to 1 million American homes in a year.

Another benefit is the vast amount of staff necessary for such a major undertaking. Software technicians, engineers, construction workers, architects and others will all be vital to the design and installation of energy efficiency measures.