Michigan Building Operators Face Off in Battle of the Buildings

Battle of the Buildings logo

The USGBC West Michigan Chapter hosted the Earth Day Energy Summit and awards ceremony for participants in the 2014 Battle of the Buildings contest. This EPA-derived challenge is a friendly competition where commercial building owners and operators strive to reduce their carbon footprint through implementing energy reduction measures. The program has completed a successful first year, already launched the second year and is planning a third. Considering this success, the contest has expanded beyond the Western Michigan region to encompass the entire state.

This year’s summit brought battle contestants (building owners and operators), utility organizations, state agencies and a myriad of other interested parties to celebrate the collective success of these biggest “losers.” A total of fifty buildings (roughly 11.5 million square feet of space) in West Michigan were entered into the 2014 competition. Collectively, the contestants saved approximately 1,149.6 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) – the comparable emissions of driving an average passenger vehicle 2.7 million miles.

By entering the contest, participants became familiar with building energy benchmarking and energy management. They utilized the EPA ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to track their monthly energy use, and were able to compare their consumption against similar buildings types and uses. Benchmarking was the basis of the competition because each building was able to compare their energy use to their peers via the 1-100 score created by the Portfolio Manager tool. Any building with a score of 75 or greater means the building is a top performer and eligible for recognition and to apply for an ENERGY STAR Certification.

One recommended training for Battle contestants is the Building Operator Certification® Program  (BOC) – a nationally accredited, competency-based, training program which trains building operators how to use the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool and reduce energy consumption through low- to no-cost efficiency measures.

This year’s celebration, held at the Amway Grand Plaza and Hotel, was kicked off by a presentation from “America’s Energy Coach,” Tom Kiser. He inspired the audience with his transformation from coaching a collegiate football team to starting his own energy efficiency business (Worthington Energy Innovations, LLC).

After the rousing speech from Coach Tom, Summit breakout sessions featured best practices and innovative energy reduction strategies for current and past competitors. Sessions covered the importance of managing and benchmarking energy use, investing in competency training for building staff (programs like the BOC training), encouraging energy-saving behaviors in colleagues and more.

Prior to the event, Rick Snyder, Michigan’s governor expressed his support of the challenge, saying, “I would like to thank the Michigan Battle of the Buildings Program for taking steps to reduce energy waste in our state… By working together, we can make Michigan’s energy resources more adaptable, reliable and affordable while preserving our environment for upcoming generations.” In addition to Snyder’s comments, Valerie Brader (Director of the new Michigan Agency for Energy) spoke at the conference about the important role competitions like the Battle of the Buildings have for the state. She highlighted the incredible opportunity energy reduction techniques–and investment in measures that display an economic and environmental payback–have for the state.

The 2015 competition is already underway and will be the biggest one yet. With the state-wide expansion and increased interest, there are currently 28.6 million sq. ft. of buildings competing–over double the amount from 2014.

In order to get involved and learn more about the Battle of the Buildings contest, check out the USGBC WM Battle of the Buildings website.