Must-See TV for FMs: DOE's Better Buildings Challenge SWAP

  February 15, 2017

By Naomi Millán

Facility managers can get their reality TV fix while learning about energy efficiency strategies from energy management teams across the country.

Now in its second season, the Better Buildings Challege SWAP from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is modeled after reality television shows like ABC's Wife Swap. In each season, two teams from different facilities perform walkthroughs in each other's spaces to spot potential for energy efficiency gains and share recommendations for improvement.

In the first season, teams from Whole Foods Market and Hilton examine each other's strategies during walkthrough. The episodes are around 10 minutes long, shot in the close-up handheld camera style now a hallmark of reality TV. In the first episode, the Hilton team is impressed with knee controls for sinks in the kitchen, but spots a cooler door that could use gasketing. When it was the Whole Foods team's turn, they were impressed by the Hilton team's motivation strategies for their staff, but suggested some lighting could be switched to LED, or eliminated.

Season 2 highlights the rivalry between the US Naval Academy and the US Air Force Academy.

The show was launched February 2016 as "a way to make inter-industry collaboration, learning, and sharing ideas fun," according to the DOE. It is an inventive strategy to get a behind-the-scenes look at what peers are doing, in a light-hearted yet serious-minded way. Better Buildings is a DOE initiative that goes beyond the online show, with a goal of making buildings in the United States 20 percent more efficient over the next decade.

In a similar vein, EPA's Energy Star Program has Battle of the Buildings Competition: BOOTCAMP, which began in 2010 as the National Building Competition, modeled after NBC's Biggest Looser. In that program, buildings from across the country compete head to head to see who can reduce energy and water use the most over a span of 90 days. From September 1 through November 30, 2016, more than 200 organizations across the country entered over 800 buildings to compete in the 2016 competition.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor of Building Operating Management magazine, To learn more about the Better Buildings Challenge, go to


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