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Building Momentum

The Obama administration is making strides in the Better Building Challenge across the U.S. with the hopes of making new American buildings 20 percent more effective over the next ten years.

As of this week, more than 100 public and private sector partners have come together through President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge which supports job creation by catalyzing private sector investment in commercial and industrial building energy. Just yesterday, 36 new States, local governments, and school districts joined the growing list of partnerships that are proving how modernizing our country’s buildings to become more energy efficient creates jobs, cuts energy costs, and reduces pollution. Combined, these commitments bring the total square footage of buildings enrolled in this public-private partnership to 2 billion, the equivalent of more than 34,000 football fields.

This announcement also adds $300 million in new estimated investments in building energy upgrades to the nearly $4 billion in public and private sector financial commitments that were announced in December 2011.

Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20 percent of all the energy used by the U.S. economy. With the help of former President Clinton and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, President Obama’s Better Building’s Challenge will help make America’s buildings 20 percent more efficient over the next decade, while reducing energy costs for American businesses by nearly $40 billion.

The Federal government is also committed to creating jobs and cutting costs by investing in energy efficiency in Federal buildings. Since President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum last December directing Federal agencies to invest at least $2 billion in two years in building energy efficiency, agencies have identified $2.1 billion in such projects – all paid for with savings through energy savings performance contracts with no up-front cost to taxpayers.

At the same time, new public tax guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service released this week  is making it easier for State and local governments across the country to access the more than $2 billion of existing authority for low-cost financing for energy efficient and renewable energy projects that create jobs. The recently released guidance for Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) explains what constitutes a "green community program," and provides guidance on how to measure and certify the 20 percent energy savings provision for publicly-owned buildings.

Energy efficiency is a smart investment. Leading companies like Starbucks, which enrolled all its US retail stores in the Challenge, and SUPERVALU, which is building an energy efficient grocery store of the future, are showing that better buildings mean better businesses. Existing public sector partners are making the case that it’s good for taxpayers, too. The City of Atlanta, an inaugural Challenge partner, recently completed its first energy upgrade at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center, and,the project has already shaved $93,000 off of the Civic Center’s utility bills.

Along with the first 14 Challenge partners announced at CGI America in June 2011, the following communities and school districts have now joined the Better Buildings Challenge. A full list of Better Buildings Challenge partners can be found at


  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • North Carolina


  • Kitsap County, Washington
  • Placer County, California
  • Sonoma County, California
  • Thurston County, Washington
  • Will County, Illinois

Cities and Towns

  • Arvada, Colorado
  • Beaverton, Oregon
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Columbia, Missouri
  • City of El Paso, Texas
  • City of Fort Worth, Texas
  • Hall County, Georgia
  • City of Medford, Massachusetts
  • New Castle County, Delaware
  • Town of North Smithfield, Rhode Island
  • City of Omaha, Nebraska
  • City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • City of Roanoke, Virginia
  • City of Rochester, New York
  • City of Toledo, Ohio with Toledo Port Authority
  • City of West Palm Beach, Florida
  • City of Worcester, Massachusetts

School Districts

  • Camas County, Washington School District
  • Dysart, Arizona Public Schools
  • Fort Atkinson School District, Jefferson County, Wisconsin
  • Mesa County Schools, Colorado
  • Portland, Oregon Public Schools

Jeff Zients is the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. Brian Deese is the deputy director of the National Economic Council.