On the sun-drenched 44th floor of the LEED gold-certified Hearst Tower in Manhattan today, officials of the influential Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA) announced a new energy plan for the commercial real estate sector.
"The commercial building sector accounts for 18% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and $24 billion a year in energy costs, and the plan we're announcing will significantly decrease those emissions and save billions," said BOMA Chairman and CEO Kurt R. Padavano. BOMA includes more than 16,500 members, who own or manage more than 9 billion square feet of space.
The voluntary plan includes seven points for members to work toward, with the goal of reducing their use of resources. Steps include getting an energy audit, educating staff on proper maintenance and use of equipment, and aiming for a target of decreasing energy consumption by 30 percent by 2012.
"We think market transformation is possible, and we want to be leaders of that," said BOMA incoming Chair Brenna Walraven. Walraven said her group plans to work synergistically with local, state and federal governments, the green-leaning U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Clinton Climate Initiative and tenants. "Buildings can easily achieve a 30% energy reduction through a business case, meaning they'll save more than they are spending," she explained.
Walraven said tenants will immediately benefit through better indoor air quality and increased productivity. She said her group's focus will be to first go after the no and low-cost changes buildings can make, and then to work up to bigger projects. Initial actions include making sure unneeded lights are turned off and systems are running properly
Ultimately, Walraven said, "We believe investments in energy efficiency are low risk and high return." She added that loans should become available to help buildings make green improvements, which will result in lower required payments by tenants right away.
Stuart Brodsky, the national program manager for commercial properties with the EPA's Energy Star, said the BOMA announcement succeeds in terms of its simplicity and clarity. "There are 4.8 billion commercial buildings in the U.S. with 71 billion square feet," said Brodsky, "and this plan puts them on a path to invest in equipment at the right time, to use technology as a tool."
Brodsky said $14 billion was saved by Americans last year as a result of adopting Energy Star technology, averting 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of 25 million cars. He said that represented a 10% improvement over the previous year.
Karen Penafiel, vice president for advocacy of BOMA, added that she has been lobbying Congress to extend and increase deductions that building operators can receive for efficiency measures, as part of ongoing discussions on a new federal energy policy. She also pointed out that some local BOMA chapters, particularly in Austin, Texas and Boston, were well on their way to working on the challenge.
Click here to view BOMA's seven-point plan.
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