Residential and commercial buildings account for nearly 41 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 40 percent of national carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Department of Energy's 2011 Buildings Energy Data Book.
The environmental and social impacts of residential and commercial buildings extend much further, the report goes on to say. When looking at an office or apartment tower, think about all the water that's needed to keep it functional, the energy required to cycle that water through its plumbing, and the streams of waste and trash produced by people living and working in it.
The environmental and socioeconomic stakes are being raised as the urbanization process intensifies and what were once “undeveloped” lands and free-flowing waterways are leveled, paved over and built upon. It should be clear that the need for a more sustainable approach to residential and commercial building design is increasingly urgent.
A Boston-based startup is harnessing the power of the Internet and high-powered, data-driven analytics to move us closer to this goal. WegoWise's software platform uses open-source tools to give building owners and managers the means to reduce their impact, as well as their operations and maintenance expenses, by tracking and taking steps to enhance energy and water efficiency.
On March 10, WegoWise announced its software “is being deployed as the first step in an unprecedented energy efficiency program” spanning seven U.S. states. As the company explains, the Free State Energy Benchmarking Program “aims to deliver meaningful efficiency savings to the underserved affordable housing sector through data-driven projects.”
In addition to being able to make use of WegoWise's software platform, a subset of Free State Energy Benchmarking Program participants will receive expert efficiency consulting services from program partners New Ecology and Elevate Energy, which specialize in implementation of energy efficiency programs.
In a 2013 study, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and CNT Energy found that “the multifamily housing sector represents a sizable opportunity” for utilities seeking to meet energy efficiency goals. ACEEE estimated that savings of $3.4 billion per year could be realized by carrying out targeted energy efficiency retrofits in the U.S. stock of multifamily and affordable housing.
Intended to function as a “one-stop shop for multifamily affordable housing owners and managers interested in efficiency retrofits,” the Free State Energy Benchmarking Program is launching in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois, Missouri, western Pennsylvania and Virginia. There are limits as to the number of buildings per state that can participate. The deadline for applications is March 31.
“Both energy efficiency programs and the multifamily real estate sector are experiencing unprecedented growth, yet the multifamily market still lags behind the rest of the market in implementing efficiency projects,” New Ecology President Ed Connelly was quoted in the news release.
*Image credits: 1), 3) WegoWise; 2) US DOE
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.