Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for August 11, 2014

Pretending the property business is easy, St. Louis and its hot industrial market, retail lagging the recovery (but not in Miami)  and Macy’s goes shopping for commercial real estate talent – it’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for August 11, 2014.

General

Office

Industrial

Retail

Multifamily

Hotel

Land

 

12. August 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Chicago’s Infrastructure Trust A Bust?

Chicago Skyway Tollbooths

When the now-embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced, shortly after his 2011 election, his plan to create an infrastructure trust, the idea sounded pretty good — at first. When the details came out  – that the trust would be a private, opaque financing platform separate enough from government to not be beholden to public inquiry or FOIA requests — many privatization-weary Chicagoans braced for the worst. And why not? It turns out that so many Wall Street style “innovations” in real estate and infrastructure finance (the Chicago-style TIF comes to mind) do less to address civic need than they do to provide unaccountable disbursements to developers of already-desirable city land.

At the time, Bill Clinton characterized the idea as an “infrastructure bank”. But banks have one typical advantage that the Chicago Infrastructure Trust doesn’t: capital to allocate. As it turns out, far from a bank, the Trust is little more than a lightly-staffed financial innovation laboratory headed by a private equity guy. This is the lesson in a recent Crain’s Chicago Business piece, confusingly titled “Emanuel’s Infrastructure Trust Looks To Help Commercial Landlords“.  I say the piece is confusingly titled because it appears the “help” landlords can look forward to consists mainly of a tax hike:

Yet Mr. Beitler manages to keep expectations high by touting a $1.5 billion pipeline of potential deals, including a voluntary property tax assessment of commercial properties to pay for energy-related improvements. The trust is evaluating a dozen proposals totaling about $1 billion from 15 firms for the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, although not all those Pace bids will be accepted, he adds.

The trust’s slow progress is the result of several factors, including the novelty of a middleman trying to bring together City Hall and investment firms. Despite its hype, the trust is a small venture, financed with an estimated $1.5 million in city funds over its first two years (see the PDF). And the deals are difficult to do, with Mr. Beitler discarding more than a dozen proposals.

While the cash-strapped city’s need for “transformative” improvements in transportation and other infrastructure has not gone away, the trust has suffered from overly ambitious predictions.

“When the trust was set up there were certainly some high expectations set up for it,” says Peter Skosey, an expert on infrastructure finance and executive vice president of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council, where the trust’s board holds its meetings. “Many of those expectations weren’t warranted.”

So it’s an infrastructure trust, if you consider swimming pools infrastructure.  It’s an aid to commercial landlords – if those landlords aren’t paying enough taxes.  It’s a bank – but it has no money to lend. And it’s somehow a boon to the public – as long as the private equity deals are complicated enough and profitable for a very few.

Pretty innovative.

05. August 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Government | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

TRIRIGA: Big Blue Does Commercial RE

If you watch industry press releases and social media, sometimes it seems the commercial real estate software business is dominated by a mix of relatively recent applications that were born on the internet. A closer look can show a different view. Sometimes we are reminded that, dot-com whizbang IPOs aside, the fundamental financial and legal plumbing work of commercial real estate portfolio management is really an older set of well-known problems. Problems requiring breadth and depth to solve best.

Consider: professionals managing property portfolios —  either as tenants or landlords — above all need decision support.  They need to be able to put their eyes on exactly the piece or pieces of portfolio information that inform the business question of the hour — or the minute — so as to steer the ship into calm waters.

What won’t get you there is a pile of spreadsheets, schedules and word processing docs scattered everywhere.  Icebergs have a funny way of introducing themselves to the hull of your ship while you or your team spend days distractedly lining up just the right view of contracts, contacts, events and leases.

Building a software tool for ship-steering from a corner office is a software design goal that usually means expensive development and extreme depth of experience in the various niches of the business. That kind of depth and expense comes not from last month’s loudly-trumpeted startup, but rather from venerable giants, giants such as IBM.

Meet TRIRIGA

IBM’s TRIRIGA is Big Blue’s entry into the real estate management market. Because Big Blue means big business, unsurprisingly, TRIRIGA has the look and feel of a Cadillac dashboard. It brings depth and breadth and ease of use to commercial space needs in five main areas:

  • Real estate management
  • Capital projects
  • Space management
  • Facility maintenance
  • Energy management

Check out the video to see what Big Blue means when it builds a commercial real estate management solution. And before you ask, yes, you’re talking a Cadillac price: five figures a month. It’s no dot-com free service, but a review of the offering is a beautiful tour into the command centers of commercial property empires, one worth taking even if only to stimulate the imagination.

04. August 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Tech Tutorial | Tags: , , , , , | 1 comment

Commercial Real Estate News Roundup For July 30, 2014

Nighttime view of Downtown Los Angeles and the...

Commercial real estate comes to reality TV, a rush to get across town in Los Angeles, and brick-and-mortar’s resilience – it’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup For July 30, 2014.

General

California is building once again, according to commercial real estate survey -  Imperial Valley News, July 27, 2014 – The Golden State’s newest building surge reminds us that the world’s fifth largest economy has much to teach the world about sustained economic growth.  And much to teach the doomsayers of the past 15 years about how to eat crow.

New Lenders Enter Property Market and Think Small, WSJ, July 22, 2014 – Bigger isn’t always better, and the small businesses of the nation once again have the attention of lenders.

Vermont commercial real estate market continues to show strength at mid-year, New England Real Estate Journal, July 24, 2014 – Led by suburban Burlington office offerings, Vermont’s commercial property picture looks as sweet as a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Lights, Camera, Sell: Harrison Man Films Real Estate Reality Show Pilot, Harrison Daily Voice, July 25, 2014 – It finally happened: commercial real estate is getting the reality TV treatment.  Sadly, nobody in Hollywood has yet picked up my script for a show based on dairy farm land sales. I call it Moo Diligence.

 

 

Office

Office real estate market finally catches up, Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 24, 2014 – Downtown Minneapolis hasn’t seen this much action since Prince filmed Purple Rain.

L.A. County office market improves as new leases edge out renewals, LA Times, July 24, 2014 – Renewals are falling behind new leases in L.A. as companies flush with cash seek new window views.

Washington’s biggest real estate battle is beginning to look like a blowout, Washington Post, July 22, 2014 – They’ve got a real “case of the Mondays” in DC.  Monday Properties, that is.

Designing a Better Office Space, Entrepreneur, July 26, 2014 – It’s happening in even the stodgiest firms: color, open space and shiny stuff is taking over the white collar landscape.

 

 

Industrial

La. leads nation in industrial construction value, The Advocate, July 26, 2014 –  $4.9 billion in industrial projects have put Louisiana on top of the construction spending pile.

Illinois: Driven by logistics, DC Velocity, July 28, 2014 – The transportation and fulfillment explosion spurred by e-commerce is yet another reason the traditional crossroads of the USA – Illinois –  has a rosy future in industrial development.

Liberty Property Trust makes plans for new warehouse park in Durham, Triangle Business Journal, July 25, 2014 – Concrete tilt walls and industrial grade construction are the path to profits in Durham.

 

 

Retail

Silver Line a draw for some new retailers, Washington Post, July 28, 2014 – Passengers and shoppers continue their overlap in DC.

Outlet mall’s opening a sign of shifting retail landscape in Charlotte region, Charlotte Observer, July 27, 2014 – The outlet mall, once the exclusive feature of off-location areas is remaking what it means to go shopping in Charlotte.

One Reason Retail Agents Should Celebrate, GlobeSt., July 28, 2014 – Study: most consumers prefer brick and mortar.

30. July 2014 by Wayne Grohl
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Pulsate: Brick And Mortar Retail Can Do Mobile, Too

pulsate1

While it’s true that retail plus mobile internet over time equals fewer brick and mortar stores and more properties devoted to mail-order fulfillment, that’s not the whole story. Mobile technology applied by retailers to traditional retail store floors has not yet produced the “killer app” that fundamentally reshapes customer experience.  If a new company called Pulsate has anything to say about it, that all changes now.

Pulsate’s key innovation is to notice that mobile-enabled retail shoppers are not merely seeking out the lowest price on goods sitting on retailer’s shelves.  This practice, sometimes called “showrooming”, is the nasty e-commerce problem from the point of view of retailers loathe to spend shelf space on goods that people will merely buy online from another vendor after seeing them up close.  Pulsate figured out that that customers are also expressing a preference when they whip out that Android of iPhone in a store.

This insight is key because that shopper’s preference can be known – and that means the retail store can beat the customer to the punch by delivering content to the customer at critical points in the retail foot traffic pattern.

Microbeacons and MacroFence.  What?

Pulsate’s technology centers around concepts of Microbeacons and something called a MacroFence.  To get the skinny on these brick and mortar retail technologies, check out this video by Robert Scoble, interviewing Patrick Leddy, CEO of Pulsate.

28. July 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Retail | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for July 22, 2014

 

The liability lurking in the non-industrial building environment, the Albuquerque office market breaks bad, and what happens when tech turns to spec.  It’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for July 22, 2104

General

Online auctions boosting Detroit commercial real estate, Detroit Free Press, July 20, 2014: Wherein Motor City’s grandest, farthest-fallen properties find buyers using online auctions.

Commercial property owners: Be aware of potential environmental liability, Business in Savannah, July 14, 2014 – Industrial properties are where all the environmental hazards and liabilities tend to pop up, right?  Wrong.

CBRE Group is profiting from consolidation among office space firms, Chicago Tribune, July 20, 2014 – The days when multinational corporations run their own real estate departments may be coming to a close — especially if CBRE has anything to say about it.

Office

Office tenants in grey area when it comes to green certification, Real Estate Weekly, July 17, 2014 – The truth is, landlords and tenants interests are only partially defined in leases: when adding LEED and other green certs to the mix, things get even murkier.

Manhattan Office Building Values Near Precrash Peak, WSJ, July 20, 2014 – The Big Apple returns to its precrash office bigness.

Office market vacancies leap higher in Q2, Albuquerque Journal, July 21, 2014 – In the city called Duke, sun belt office vacancies are on the rise.

Industrial

Largest speculative industrial development in 15 years rising near Milpitas-Fremont border, San Jose Mercury News, July 17, 2014 – Is the big story in NoCal moving from high tech to industrial spec?

Austin industrial market slumps but interesting developments abound, Austin Business Journal, July 14, 2014 – Dell Computer skedaddles before Austin scrambles to fill the hole left behind.

Demand Growing for E-Commerce Warehouses, CIO Today, July 201, 2014 – The 3PL (third party logistics) craze continues to sweep national industrial property markets, tied to the rocket that is e-commerce.

Retail

Northeast Ohio shopping center market is booming, Crains Cleveland Business, July 20, 2014 – Meanwhile in the Buckeye state, retail recovery abounds. 

Multifamily

Retail, apartments and hotel proposed for East Baltimore’s Pemco site, but city officials skeptical of plan, Baltimore Business Journal, July 18, 2014 –  Baltimore civic leaders look askance at a Pemco development plan.  But what’s theirs?

City meets with retail coach, Plainview (TX) Herald, July 17, 2014 – The thought of a “retail coach” brings to mind whistles and yelling. But Plainview Texas and its retail market are getting something else entirely.

Restaurants wrestle with rising rents, National Restaurant News, July 18, 2014

23. July 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Property | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fed Beige Book: Commercial Construction Up In Most Districts

 

 

 

What’s in the July Beige Book?  The usual compilation of anecdotal economic reportage from the districts of the Federal Reserve system, of course. The specifics this time around include positive news for commercial construction activity across the US, with mixed-positive news on commercial real estate lending and other factors.  Here are commercial real estate-related excerpts from each district:

 

Commercial construction activity strengthened across most Districts. Cleveland and Atlanta reported increased commercial construction activity compared to a year ago, and Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco noted gains since the previous survey period. Boston and Richmond saw mixed commercial construction activity across their Districts since the previous report. Dallas indicated strong overall commercial real estate construction activity, and commercial real estate construction increased in the Minneapolis District compared with the previous report. Boston, New York, Richmond, Chicago, Kansas City, and Dallas reported tight commercial vacancy rates. Industrial real estate construction and leasing activity was strong in the Philadelphia and Chicago Districts.

 

[...]

 

FIRST DISTRICT: BOSTON

 

Reports from commercial real estate contacts across the First District are mixed. Leasing activity is down in Hartford in recent weeks, a fact attributed in part to usual seasonal patterns and in part to weak fundamentals. Office leasing activity is also down in Providence, while at the same time Rhode Island’s industrial leasing market is tightening amid strong demand and limited inventory. According to a Portland contact, the city’s tourism industry is booming, and three recently-opened hotels enjoy high occupancy rates. Also in Portland, strong office leasing is driven by growth of existing firms rather than by new firms, and investment demand is strong across industrial, multifamily, and medical properties. In Boston, office rents continue to display a modest upward trend, thanks to a lack of new inventory coming to market. A limited amount of speculative office construction is underway in Boston’s Seaport District, but contacts foresee constraints on similar construction in the form of high costs and limited financing. A regional lender to commercial real estate saw a surge in loan volume in recent weeks, a fact the contact attributes to changes in business strategy. According to contacts, hiring in both Portland and Hartford–and hence added office demand–is held back by a scarcity of young, educated workers in these cities. Contacts expect that Boston will continue to see at least modest improvement in commercial real estate fundamentals moving forward, while contacts in Providence and Hartford point to uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of upcoming elections in their respective states as a factor that could restrain economic growth in the near-term. A Portland contact’s outlook remains bullish.

 

SECOND DISTRICT: NEW YORK

 

Commercial real estate markets were mixed but, on balance, somewhat stronger in the second quarter. Office availability rates fell to multi-year lows in New York City and Long Island, but rose to multi-year highs in the Rochester and Buffalo areas; rates were little changed at high levels (near 20 percent) in northern New Jersey and Westchester & Fairfield counties. Asking rents for office space were flat across most of the District, except in Manhattan, where they continued to trend up and have risen nearly 10 percent over the past year. Office construction activity has been brisk in Manhattan but remains subdued across most of the District. Industrial availability rates were mostly steady to down slightly, with asking rents on industrial space rising on Long Island but mostly flat across the rest of the District. Finally, retail vacancy rates in Manhattan continued to trend up at mid-year; still asking rents continue to rise and are up roughly 8 percent from comparable 2013 levels.

 

 THIRD DISTRICT: PHILADELPHIA

 

 The market for commercial real estate and home mortgages, especially refinancing, remains much softer than other lines. Most banking contacts continued to report steady improvement in credit quality and loan portfolios. However, heated competition among banks to secure new loans has led to increased warnings of “too-risky” loan terms. Overall, bankers expressed greater optimism for general economic growth–tending to report a growing confidence among businesses and consumers alike. 

 

FOUTH DISTRICT: CLEVELAND

 

Nonresidential builders reported little change in their pipelines during the past six weeks, while most said that activity is above year-ago levels. In general, our contacts are seeing an improvement in the number of inquiries and growing backlogs. Demand was strongest from the energy, housing (public and private), retail, and healthcare markets. Most builders are fairly optimistic in their outlook, but they remain concerned about labor issues and tight margins. One builder mentioned that rising margins contributed to a decline in his contract win rate.

 

FIFTH DISTRICT: RICHMOND

 

Realtors in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Columbia, and Charleston, South Carolina reported an uptick in commercial construction, while contacts in West Virginia and Washington, D.C. saw little change. A broker in Maryland said that medical construction had stopped. Grocery-anchored retail construction remained strong across the District. Commercial retail contacts reported solid leasing in Virginia Beach, Richmond, Columbia, and Charleston, South Carolina. Demand for retail space in Washington D.C. was flat. Industrial leasing demand weakened in West Virginia and Raleigh, but strengthened in Charleston, South Carolina. Office leasing was robust in Charlotte and Charleston, South Carolina. Most Realtors reported no change in vacancy rates, except in the Carolinas, where contacts in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Charleston noted a slight decrease across sub-markets. Reports on rents varied. Contacts said that commercial sales edged up in Raleigh, northern Virginia, Richmond, and Columbia. Commercial sale prices increased in Charleston, South Carolina and Virginia Beach.

 

SIXTH DISTRICT: ATLANTA

 

Demand for commercial real estate continued to improve across most of the region. Absorption rates remained positive. Construction continued to increase at a modest pace from last year and most contractors noted that their current backlog was ahead of year earlier levels. Contacts indicated that apartment construction remained fairly strong and reported that the level of construction activity across other property types remained steady. The outlook among District commercial real estate contacts remained positive with most expecting activity to grow at a steady pace through the summer months.

 

SEVENTH DISTRICT: CHICAGO

 

 Commercial real estate activity continued to expand, as vacancies ticked down and rents rose. Leasing of industrial buildings, office space, and retail space all increased.

 

EIGHTH DISTRICT: ST. LOUIS

 

Commercial and industrial real estate market conditions have improved, on balance, since the previous report. A contact reported weak demand for office space in the Louisville downtown area, but expected an increase in office space leasing activity because of recent employment gains. Contacts in Memphis noted strong retail leasing activity. A contact in Little Rock reported a stable and healthy industrial market. A contact in St. Louis reported tight market conditions in the industrial market and an increasing demand for new warehouse distribution centers with high ceilings and good multi-modal access. Commercial and industrial construction activity improved throughout most of the District. A contact in Memphis reported a commercial expansion in Shelby Farms Park. A contact in Louisville reported a new commercial development project in northern Kentucky. A contact in Little Rock reported a new office building under construction in Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers, Arkansas. A contact in St. Louis reported an increase in commercial construction projects in north St. Louis County.

 

NINTH DISTRICT: MINNEAPOLIS

 

Activity in commercial real estate markets increased since the last report. Several commercial real estate sales and leasing transactions were announced since mid-May. An office building in Minneapolis will be sold for a city record of $365 per square foot. Residential real estate market activity was mixed. In the Sioux Falls area, May home sales were down 7 percent, inventory increased 7 percent and the median sales price increased 4 percent relative to a year earlier. May home sales were down 10 percent from the same period a year ago in Minnesota; the inventory of homes for sale increased 3 percent and the median sales price rose 7 percent. However, in Eau Claire, Wis., May home sales were up 9 percent from the same period a year ago and the median sales price dropped 3 percent. May home sales increased relative to a year ago in the Bismarck area.

 

TENTH DISTRICT: KANSAS CITY

 

Commercial real estate activity strengthened further, with lower vacancy rates and increased sales, construction and absorption. The commercial real estate market was expected to expand moderately over the next few months.

 

ELEVENTH DISTRICT: DALLAS

 

Robust apartment demand pushed up occupancy rates, and increases in rents were strong in several major metros. Construction activity remained brisk, and contacts are optimistic in their outlooks through year-end.  Office leasing activity remained solid and occupancy high during the reporting period. Rents continued to trend upwards, especially for Class A office space, and were above their pre-recession peaks in some markets. Office investment activity picked up in Dallas but slowed in Houston. Demand for industrial space was strong, with vacancy rates in Dallas and Houston near historic lows. Outlooks remained generally positive.

 

TWELFTH DISTRICT: SAN FRANCISCO

 

Vacancy rates for commercial space were mixed. Some contacts reported low vacancy rates overall, while others pointed to high vacancy rates–particularly for retail space–in part due to transitions to online distribution. Private-sector commercial construction activity increased modestly in most areas but more robustly in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. Contacts from Southern California and Hawaii also reported vigorous public-sector construction activity.

 

 

17. July 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Federal Reserve | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

EPA Lead Paint Methodology Questioned By Commercial Properties Coalition

EPA logo

 

Does the EPA’s own framework for determining potential lead paint hazards in commercial buildings skip Congressional directives?

The Real Estate Roundtable and real estate trade groups in the Commercial Properties Coalition last week filed the latest in a series of comment letters relating to efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate purported lead paint hazards that may arise from renovation and remodeling activities in public and commercial buildings.

The real estate coalition also raised questions about the methodology behind the EPA framework, calling it a “novel approach that has not been independently peer reviewed, validated, or even explained.” Additionally, the coalition asserted, the framework “does not identify what underlying exposure data would be used in running the proposed models, and without reliable data, the models cannot be expected to produce useful results.”The June 30 comment letter focuses on EPA’s proposed “framework” for determining whether renovation and remodeling activities in public and commercial buildings — such as new tenant build-outs — actually cause lead-based paint hazards. On the basis of such a determination, EPA could then move forward with proposed regulations affecting commercial real estate.

Although EPA’s framework correctly acknowledges that public and commercial (P&C) buildings “vary greatly” (with respect to sizes, shapes, configurations, uses, occupancies and cleaning frequencies) — and that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not appropriate for renovation, repair and painting (RRP) activities in such buildings — it appears to circumvent a series of steps set forth by Congress in Subchapter IV of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in developing new regulations.

“. . . EPA must not skip over key steps in the Subchapter IV process in issuing final RRP rules for P&C buildings,” the coalition stated in its letter. “At a minimum, the failure. . . to first identify LBP [lead-based paint] hazards in P&C buildings — by rule as the statute requires under section 403 — would undermine the soundness of any ultimate RRP regulations for those structures …. From the Coalition’s vantage point, the Framework at issue appears to collapse and avoid discrete steps in the subchapter IV chronology” for rulemaking.

The coalition emphasized that its members “have a strong interest in constructing, owning, and managing healthy, safe, and desirable commercial buildings,” noting that their “reputations depend on it, and they must be vigilant in responding to ever increasing demands of tenants and investors seeking socially and environmentally responsible leasing and investment opportunities.”

The June 30 comments on EPA’s proposed framework follows on a June 19 letter raising concerns that the agency’s plans this summer to convene a federally-mandated small business impact review panel are premature. “With only generalized statements and hypotheticals of possible means by which EPA may determine the presence of lead-based paint hazards in P&C buildings … the Coalition respectfully believes that the Agency is not ready to convene” a panel to assess alternate forms of RRP regulations as the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) requires, according to the June 18 letter.In the coalition’s view, “EPA should proceed by identifying whether a P&C RRP hazard exists, subjecting its proposed Framework methodology to peer review, satisfying other prerequisites established in TSCA Subchapter IV, and only after completion of these essential steps move to develop proposed regulations to address any P&C RRP hazards that have been found to exist.”

Since EPA enacted RRP rules for pre-1978 residential buildings in 2008, the agency has considered whether to adopt similar rules for P&C buildings for a number of years (particularly as a result of litigation filed by environmental organizations). Through the Coalition, The Roundtable has supplied comments and input to EPA throughout the rulemaking process. [See RW - June 28, 2013 and RW - Dec. 10, 2010]

What Is The Real Estate Roundtable?

The Real Estate Roundtable brings together leaders of the nation’s top publicly-held and privately-owned real estate ownership, development, lending and management firms with the leaders of major national real estate trade associations to jointly address key national policy issues relating to real estate and the overall economy.

In addition to The Roundtable, the Commercial Properties Coalition presently includes: the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) ; Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International; International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC); National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC); NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association; National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT); and the National Association of REALTORS®.

17. July 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Green Building | Tags: , , , , , | 1 comment

EPA’s Fifth Annual Energy Star Battle of the Buildings: Over 5,500 buildings to compete

BoB_logo_for_competitors

Saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions aren’t just good economic sense, they’re the new norm.  Don’t believe it?  Check out the EPA’s latest program leveraging competition between buildings to cut emissions and shrink energy footprints:

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  launched the 2014 Energy Star Battle of the Buildings: Team Challenge. More than 5,500 buildings nationwide are going head-to-head to reduce their energy use. In support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for businesses to cut in half the amount of energy they waste over the next 20 years, the competition specifically targets wasted energy in commercial buildings, and will motivate businesses to improve energy efficiency, reduce harmful carbon pollution, and save money.

“The competitive spirit is alive and well among the building teams working to improve their energy efficiency in this year’s Battle of the Buildings,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “After four successful years, we’re excited to see the innovative ideas that will emerge from the competitors as they find new ways to save energy and money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the environment.”

In the only coast-to-coast competition of its kind, dozens of different types of commercial buildings are facing off in this year’s Energy Star Battle of the Buildings. This year’s theme, “Team Challenge,” features teams of five or more buildings who will work together to reduce their collective energy use as much as possible over the course of a year. For example, “Team Staples” includes 17 Staples stores, while 15 Whole Foods stores will support each other as part of “Team Whole Foods Market.” In New Castle County, Del., 13 elementary schools will compete as part of a team, and they’re going up against their county’s five middle schools and six high schools. In Hillsborough County, Fla., fire stations will team up to compete against libraries.

This year marks the fifth year that EPA has hosted the Battle of the Buildings. The competition—and positive environmental impacts—have grown exponentially since that time. Altogether, last year’s competitors saved an estimated $20 million on utility bills. Nearly 50 buildings in the competition demonstrated energy use reductions of 20 percent or greater.

Commercial buildings in the United States spend more than $100 billion in annual utility bills and are responsible for approximately 20 percent of both the nation’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. By improving the energy efficiency of the places they work, play, and learn, the competitors will save energy and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Competitors will measure and track their buildings’ monthly energy consumption using EPA’s online energy measurement and tracking tool, Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Building teams will work to optimize or upgrade equipment, retrofit lighting, and change occupants’ behaviors—all with help from Energy Star. The team that reduces its buildings’ average energy use the most, on a percentage basis over a 12-month performance period, will be declared the winner. In addition to the team competition, 700 individual buildings are also competing in a special water reduction category, and will work with EPA’s WaterSense program to apply best practices for commercial building water management.

EPA will maintain a website devoted to the competition, featuring a list of the competitors and their starting, midpoint, and final standings, a live Twitter feed where competitors will post updates on their progress and an interactive map of the competitor’s locations. Midpoint results will be posted in October, with the winner announced in April 2015.

Products, homes and buildings that earn the Energy Star label prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy efficiency requirements set by the U.S. EPA. From the first Energy Star qualified computer in 1992, the label can now be found on products in more than 70 different categories, with more than 4.8 billion sold. Over 1.5 million new homes and 23,000 buildings have earned the Energy Star label.

More information on the competition: http://www.energystar.gov/BattleOfTheBuildings

11. July 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Energy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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