Better Buildings Challenge

by Peter Louthan
Sustainability Analyst Intern

What is it?

logo for Better Buildings Challenge, better buildings challenge U.S. Department of EnergyLaunched by the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2011 as part of its Better Building Initiative, the Better Buildings Challenge is one of several free energy efficiency programs available to organizations, manufacturers, and businesses across the U.S. The goal of the Better Buildings Challenge is to improve the efficiency of American commercial, institutional, and multifamily buildings and industrial plants by 20 percent or more in a 10-year period. It also aims to facilitate an exchange of ideas, models, and energy-saving practices between organizations. Over 300 organizations have chosen to participate in this challenge representing more than 4.2 billion square feet of commercial and industrial real estate.

Who is involved?

Participating organizations have demonstrated national leadership in energy efficiency. Partners include leaders in healthcare, hospitality, retail, commercial real estate, public, multifamily, and manufacturing sectors who have made a public commitment to energy efficiency. Participating organizations range from public schools and universities to factories and from individual building owners to whole states or municipalities.

What are the benefits?

  • A wide range of online tools accessible for analyzing the energy efficiency of buildings
  • Webinars with experts who present models and share useful green building practices
  • Case studies and data available on previous buildings that are a part of the Better Building Challenge
  • Better Buildings Summit – a national meeting showcasing solutions to cut energy intensity by 20% over the next 10 years
  • The U.S. Department of Energy agrees to assist, connect, and inform partners through various services throughout the duration of their participation in this program.

How does an organization participate?

Organizations interested in becoming partners should initiative the process with an email to: Commercial organizations sign a Partnership Agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE) while multi-family residential organizations sign an Agreement with both the DOE and the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Partners publicly pledge to improve energy intensity by at least 20 percent by 2020, to initiate and complete implementation models, to showcase their projects, and to track their organization’s progress on an annual basis.  You can also email SIG’s Marketing Manager, Michael Cichetti ( for assistance participating in this challenge.

Better Building Alliance vs. Better Building Challenge

The Better Buildings Initiative has two related but separate programs – The Better Building Alliance and the Better Buildings Challenge. Both are voluntary energy efficiency programs available to the commercial buildings industry and aimed at facilitating exchange between organizations. The Better Building Alliance is the broader program, a network of partners committed to developing technical and market solutions for improved energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Members agree to participate in at least one Alliance activity each year and share their successes with other members of the Alliance. In 2016, there were more than 200 companies in the Alliance covering around 10 billion square feet of real estate. Through help from the DOE’s Technology Solutions team and Market Solutions team, members of the Better Building Alliance have access to valuable tools to improve their energy efficiency

The Better Buildings Challenge is a leadership initiative calling on CEOs, presidents of universities, building owners, state and local government leaders, and residential housing developers to reduce their buildings’ energy portfolios. Through this program the U.S. Department of Energy features leaders who have committed to upgrading buildings and plants across their portfolios and to sharing their energy-savings information and strategies as models for other organizations around the country.

The DOE also presents the projects, implementation models, and other energy efficient models tested and proven by Better Buildings Challenge partners in an online Better Buildings Solution Center. Currently over 400 solutions are available online to organizations seeking help on a range of energy efficiency topics.

Annual Better Buildings Summit

Finally, Better Buildings Challenge partners meet each year at the National Better Buildings Summit. This annual meeting brings together leading organizations to exchange best practices and feature proven market solutions for greater energy efficiency. The next Better Buildings Summit will take place May 15-17, 2017 in Washington D.C.

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