Houston building retrofits

Posted on March, 01 2012

Leader in energy-saving retrofits 

Leader in energy-saving retrofits

Houston is the first large US city to begin comprehensive retrofitting as part of the Clinton Climate Initiative's global renovations programme EEBRP. Some 271 buildings will be retrofitted with the aim of 25% energy-efficiency improvements. The EEBRP sponsors more than 250 renovation projects, comprising over 50 million square metres, in more than 20 cities throughout the world.

Keywords: retrofitting, energy efficiency, Clinton Climate Initiative, weatherisation, EEBRP

In the US, buildings are responsible for 72% of electrical consumption and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions. This is despite the fact that, since the oil crises of the 1970s, energy efficiency has lowered residential energy consumption per capita by 16% (by 40% in California). In 2009 the Obama administration started a programme for renovations of both residential housing and government buildings. In 2011 it was complemented with the Better Buildings Initiative, the aim of which was to improve energy efficiency by 20% in the country’s office buildings by 2020. The programme also proposes tax relief and subsidies for renovations.

Weatherization pays
Many American cities have started these types of programmes themselves: the cities on the west coast and Chicago, Columbus, and New York, to mention a few (see also Chicago and Seattle). The measures are especially effective in very large cities where buildings can be responsible for as much as 80% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Houston started a weatherisation programme in 2006 for low-income areas of the city. Through simple measures – primarily insulations – a 20% reduction in electricity consumption was achieved which paid for itself after a couple of years. The city weatherises about 4,000 houses per year, and has received federal support for an additional 30,000 houses during a two-year period.

Global retrofit programme
In 2007, Houston became one of sixteen cities, part of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which together with the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) started the Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program (EEBRP). It has gathered five of the world’s largest banks and four leading energy technology companies for a 16-city renovation programme. Included here are some of the world's largest cities: Bangkok, Berlin, Karachi, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, New York, Rome, and Tokyo. The banks have undertaken to invest a billion dollars in the project. The energy technology companies will ensure that the renovations will bring financial savings. In this way both the banks and the companies make money, the building-owners save money, and carbon dioxide emissions are reduced. EEBRP also develops various forms of Energy Performance Financing, namely financing through guaranteed future energy savings (see also Berlin and Stockholm). Already in 2009 EEBRP was involved in 250 projects in more than 20 cities, encompassing 50 million sq metres. The programme’s flagship project is the revamping of the Empire State Building, where energy consumption was reduced by 38% and where investments are expected to pay for themselves within three years.

City-wide renovation
When Houston started the renovation programme for all public buildings in 2007 it was the first large-scale programme within the framework of the EEBRP. Some 271 buildings, with a combined area of one million sq meters, were to be renovated with the aim of reducing energy consumption by at least 25%. Through collaboration within the EEBRP it has become possible for Houston to obtain the finances without over-burdening its budget. The programme is a cornerstone of Mayor Bill White’s plan to transform Houston from the “energy capital of the world” to the “energy efficiency capital of the world”.

Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute, 2009, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, First edition, W. W. Norton & Company, http://www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/book_files/pb4book.pdf

“City of Houston: Building Retrofit Case Study”, Clinton Climate Initiative, 2007, http://www.clintonfoundation.org/files/cci_brp_caseStudy_cityOfHouston.pdf

Clinton Climate Initiative's Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program, http://www.clintonfoundation.org/what-we-do/clinton-climate-initiative/building-retrofit-program

City of Houston, Municipal Buildings, Facilities and Operations, http://www.greenhoustontx.gov/epr-municipal.html

“President Obama Announces 'Better Buildings Initiative'”, Eco-Structure, February 4 2011, http://www.eco-structure.com/energy-efficiency/president-obama-announces-better-buildings-initiative.aspx

Key data are retrieved from the UN World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision, http://esa.un.org/unup/unup/index_panel2.html

Text by: Martin Jacobson

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