Better Buildings Challenge spurs solutions for the climate

The Better Business Challenge includes teams from different sectors who critique one another’s efforts to reduce energy and water use. Here are the teams from , left, Atlanta, and right, the team from Boston.

“You want to mess with the Palace?” asked an Atlanta city official visiting Boston this spring for the Better Buildings Challenge SWAP, a game created by the U.S. Dept. of Energy to facilitate best practices and solutions to climate change.

The Atlanta official – Tim Kean, Commissioner, Dept. of Planning — was referring to the Reading Room in the McKim Building of the Boston Public Library, which had been called the Palace of the People when dedicated in 1895 and which one of his Atlanta energy teammates had suggested needed extra panes of glass on each of its magnificent windows to reduce loss of heat.

The teams meet a the Boston Public Library

This conflict between history and preparing for a future with severe climate issues is felt by cities such as Boston and Atlanta. But, these participants in the Better Buildings Challenge know that investing in energy-efficient technologies, learning best practices from others dedicated to reducing the deleterious effects of climate change, and changing everyday behaviors are not only economically sound decisions, but also a moral imperative.

The Better Buildings Challenge was initiated by the U.S. Dept. of Energy in response to President Barrack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Trinity became one of the first multifamily property management companies to sign onto the challenge in 2014.

Trinity Management Vice President Madeline Stein attended the Better Buildings Summit in Washington, DC, May 15-17. She was pleased that Trinity Management received praise for reducing energy consumption by 4 percent over 14 properties in 2016.

“It’s a good step toward our goal of a 20 percent reduction,” Maddie said. But, reaching that goal by 2023 across the portfolio will require a concentrated effort, she added.

This year, the Better Buildings Summit brought together some 900 individuals who are committed to reducing water and energy use. In addition to lectures, a tour of a showcase property, and sharing information in informal settings, Maddie thoroughly enjoyed a hilarious SWAP Panel Reunion of teams from the U.S. Airforce and Naval Academies. Another SWAP Team was comprised of Whole Foods and Hilton Hotel. You can see all three SWAP team shows, or just Boston and Atlanta, here:

If you tune into the latter, you will hear that the biggest challenge for the two cities is finding the dollars to make big infrastructure updates, the teams said, even though they have the support of their city governments. As Boston’s Chief of Environment and Energy Austin Blackmon said, cities have to provide many services and allocate funds carefully.

Boston has been at this for quite a while, along with the Green Ribbon Commission and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management ( They issued a 400 page publication, “Climate Ready Boston,” in December 2016. Blackmon noted during the SWAP that 75 percent of emissions come from buildings. During an earlier CBS interview, he said we can expect sea-levels to rise 1 ½ feet in 30 years and 3 feet by the 22 century. Boston waterfront areas could see 6 feet of water flooding into 16 thousand homes during a major storm. Christopher Columbus Park in the North End would hold waters shoulder-high.

It is that kind of scenario that motivates Maddie and other Better Buildings Summit attendees to learn as much as they can. Maddie is bringing home to TMLLC staff many of the showcase solutions and best practices discussed at the Summit. She will continue to work with WegoWise and Taylor Consulting to input accurate data for proper calculation of the energy and water use at our sites. She will talk about the common behaviors that all of us have – leaving the lights on in an empty room, leaving chargers plugged in with nothing to charge, improperly setting heat timers, to name a few – that waste energy and, in large buildings, waste a lot.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in the SWAP video that Atlanta’s goal is to reduce energy use by 20 percent by 2020. Maddie and other Summit participates – as well as many of us — would no doubt concur with his statement: “It is not only the right financial decision, it is also the right moral decision.”

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