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How Facilities Management Can Use the Better Buildings Initiative

The initiative allows for collaborative efforts to address climate change   April 19, 2024

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

In this ongoing fight against climate change, the facility management industry has a role to play. At times, however, figuring out the best way to make buildings more environmentally friendly can be a daunting task. Thankfully, there are many programs available that can aid facilities managers in this. 

One such program is the Better Buildings Initiative, created in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to address the climate crisis and how facilities use their energy. The purpose of the initiative is to work with organizations who are willing to commit to an energy efficiency goal and share how they were meeting it along the way, says Maria Vargas, senior program advisor and director of the Better Buildings Initiative for the U.S. DOE. 

The Accelerators 

A facet of the Better Buildings Initiative are the various Accelerators, which are efforts to identify a discrete problem/challenge in the market and to gather the right group of people to address it, says Vargas. The latest Accelerator focuses on heat pumps for commercial facilities. 

“The reason we did this accelerator is because we know that commercial building space conditioning accounts for about 40 percent of the energy used for those buildings,” says Vargas. “However, by using heat pump rooftop units, we can save about half of that in both energy and money.” 

Vargas adds that the various Accelerators not only provide the opportunity to work with the manufacturers involved, but also the end users of the products and technologies. They provide feedback from the user’s perspective, which in turn helps manufacturers develop technologies that will meet the needs of the end users. 

“It is important that the changes are quickly adopted,” says Vargas. “That is why it is important to have both groups at the table and that is why we are very excited that both groups are joining us as part of this accelerator.” 

Leveraging the collaboration 

Facilities managers can join the Better Buildings Initiative for opportunities to get help with making their portfolios more energy efficient and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, says Vargas. It also puts them in touch with other organizations they can learn from as they participate in the initiative. 

“A very important part of what we do in the Better Buildings Initiative is linking partners to others and having peer-to-peer networking,” says Vargas. “It is one of the things that our partners tell us is most important and most helpful as part of the initiative. Learning from others helps so not everybody has to learn this from square one.” 

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The Better Buildings Initiative has several working groups to participate in, according to Vargas. After joining the initiative, partners can work collaboratively not only with the DOE, but with other partners on similar issues that are important to them. This can be done either in the working groups or the Accelerators.  

Even if an organization cannot join as a partner, the Better Building Initiative provides many resources through its Better Buildings Solutions Center.  

“Everything we and our partners do we make public because this is a federal government initiative, and everyone should benefit from the good work being done,” says Vargas. “So, even if you cannot join, there are so many resources that are all available at no cost. There are lots of opportunities to learn and collaborate just even by using those resources.” 

Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market. 


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