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September 27, 2012

Surveys 2012: Climate Solutions

Photo courtesy of Climate Solutions [enlarge]
This King County house got an energy efficiency retrofit through Green Canopy Homes. Every Green Canopy Home completed equates to taking one car permanently off the road.

Specialty: Northwest-based nonprofit working on practical and profitable solutions to global warming

Management: Gregg Small, KC Golden, Ross Macfarlane, Eileen Quigley, Rhys Roth, Patrick Mazza, Jessica Finn Coven, Savitha Pathi, Kimberly Larson

Founded: 1998

Headquarters: Seattle

2011 revenues: $2.73 million (gross)

Projected 2012 revenues: $2.89 million (gross)

Current projects: Business Leaders for Climate Solutions brings together business leaders and investors who are committed to reducing global warming and support a clean, energy-efficient economy; New Energy Cities supports Northwest communities’ transition to an energy system with smart power grids, green buildings, plug-in vehicles and renewable energy sources; Solutions Stories communicates stories about the clean energy economy

The DJC asked Climate Solutions about the work it does and how firms working in the built environment may benefit.

Q: How has Climate Solutions helped firms working on local building projects?

A: We have worked with many private companies and policymakers to ensure there is strong support, investment and progress in making the built environment as efficient and clean as possible. One of the ways we have done this recently is by telling their stories to policymakers and other business leaders. Stories like the Bullitt Center, which will be the greenest commercial building in the world when finished, and NEEA’s Kilowatt Crackdown competition with major building owners including Bentall Kennedy.

Q: What is the New Energy Cities program?

A: The goal of the New Energy Cities program is to help a growing family of leaders and staff of small- to medium-sized Northwest cities succeed in building a clean, renewable, super-efficient energy system that brings economic prosperity while reducing carbon emissions. We help communities set carbon-reduction and/or energy savings goals and create sustainable energy strategies to guide the cities’ actions over the coming decades. With regard to the built environment, our partner cities commit to investing in deep energy efficiency, which we define as 80 percent of all buildings becoming more energy efficient over a 20-year period.

Q: How are public buildings being made more energy efficient?

A: Energy service companies like McKinstry, Apollo Ameresco Quantum, Trane, and Schneider Electric are working with K-12, public colleges and other public building owners to generate significant energy savings, create more comfortable learning and work environments, and reduce environmental impacts. Projects include refurbishing or replacing heating and cooling systems, installing highly efficient windows and lighting, and improving insulation.

Q: What resources do you offer local firms?

A: We can connect them to other companies and public entities that have had success with energy efficiency and renewable energy investments. We often partner with local businesses to either promote or organize events through our Business Leaders for Climate Solutions program, including the Future Energy Conference and the Green Building Council’s Issaquah Sustainability Slam. There are now close to 1,300 business leaders and companies that are a part of that network in Washington and Oregon. That network can access our advice and expertise by signing up as a Business Leader for Climate Solutions on our website.

Q: How can existing downtown office buildings be made more sustainable in a cost-effective manner?

A: Many cities, including Seattle and Bellevue, are experiencing a challenging rental market with commercial vacancy rates nearing 20 percent. Energy consumption is the number one operating expense of a commercial building. Many commercial building owners are attracting more tenants through energy-efficiency improvements, including sensor lighting, programming of the energy management systems, more efficient heating systems and investments in cleaner energy that save the tenant money, reduce energy usage and make the energy grid cleaner.

Q: How can businesses partner with government and non-profits to make buildings more energy efficient?

A: One of the keys to making our buildings more efficient is making sure that businesses, technologies and policies are aligned. As a non-profit we hope to bridge the divides that exist between the lab, the boardroom and the Legislature to help policymakers craft effective policy and ensure businesses are aware of profitable clean energy solutions. We work to create space for business leaders and policymakers to communicate and work together on energy efficiency. Only through working together will we create a clean energy economy that results in a broadly shared sustainable prosperity for all.

Q: How is the built environment a climate solution?

A: Buildings consume more energy than any other sector. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the building sector uses 48.7 percent of all energy produced in the United States. The cleanest form of energy is using less of it; so we need to make our buildings much more efficient. We also need buildings to capture more clean energy like wind and solar; and even capture biocarbon through green roofs, sustainable site design and green infrastructure. This isn’t just possible, it’s happening now with buildings like the Bullitt Center right here in our backyard.

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