Students Make Their Case For More Efficient Buildings

If the Better Buildings Case Competition, which concluded earlier this month, is any indication, the future of green building is looking bright. The competition, put on by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), brings together students from across the nation, challenging them to come up with real-world solutions to increase the energy efficiency of buildings.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently announced the winners of the competition at an event at the White House. Nineteen university teams analyzed case studies that focused on challenges in both the private sector and public sector, looking for ways to improve energy efficiency. The case studies used real-life scenarios and background. The results were two awards for each case study: Best Proposal and Most Innovate Proposal. The cases included energy efficiency challenges for the city of Houston, the District of Columbia, HEI Hotels and Resorts and Cassidy Turley, a major commercial real estate firm.

Better Building Case Competition

image via Shutterstock

Winners included Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, George Washington University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, University of Colorado Denver and University of Southern California.

The USC, CU-Denver and MIT all went home with awards for coming up with the Most Innovative proposal for their given case studies. The Berkeley team came up with a plan to use qualified energy conservation bonds for private owners to help bring affordable energy upgrades to buildings. The plan would mean the city of Houston could meet its energy efficiency goals for all of its commercial buildings.

MIT’s Innovation award was for their plan for District of Columbia to improve both  energy and water efficiency by proposing a district energy system based on a build-own-and-operate service model to provide energy, manage the distribution system and interface with customers. The proposed financing for the system would come from the provider or through a lender, instead of by issuing revenue bonds. The MIT team also walked away for a Best Proposal award for its four step plan to improve the energy efficiency of Cassidy Turley.  The plan included engaging and negotiating with tenants, implementing energy efficiency upgrades, aligning new tenants as leases turn over, and launching a “Go for Green” program.

The Columbia University team also took home a Best Proposal award for its plan to increase efficiency at HEI Hotels and Resorts. The team offered two options for the hotel. The first required no investment and using a combination of loans, tax incentives and rebates took advantage of a variety of energy efficiency programs. The second option required a loan up front for the upgrades, which the hotel owner would pay back at seven percent interest rate.

image via DOE

The students were judged on the merits of their written proposals and their oral presentations which were delivered to a panel of commercial real estate and energy experts. The winners were judged on a number of criteria including: considering policy, finance, business strategy, and program design; developing realistic, scalable, and implementable solutions and analyzing the potential outcomes and likelihood of success.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.