Are our cars smarter than our buildings?
By Wendy Culverwell
The Albert apartments on North Williams displays energy usage on a dashboard. Sustainability executives say Portland needs to do more to encourage building owners and tenants to use energy wisely.
Owners of newer cars know exactly how much fuel they’re burning.
It’s right there on the dashboard.
But when it comes to buildings — both residential and commercial — feedback is far harder to come by.
Eight of Portland’s leading green building experts joined the Business Journal Friday morning for its ongoing CEO Roundtable series.
The conclusion? Portland may be a leader in green buildings, but it lacks follow through when it comes to actually operating buildings in an efficient fashion.
“You can design and construct the best building possible, but if you don’t use it, it all goes out the door,” said Rob Fallow, senior project manager with Fortis Construction.
The view was widely shared among the panelists, who included contractors, architects, academics and public policy experts.
It’s not a blanket statement of course. There are many examples of Oregonians not only building green, but taking steps to help building owners and operators understand how they work so they can run them as efficiently as possible.
The Energy Trust of Oregon has an ambitious program to help owners reinvest in the buildings. Changing behavior is a huge part of its mission, said CEO Margie Harris.
Off the top of our heads, we can identify at least two Portland apartment buildings that display how much energy their tenants are using on lobby TVs — ecoFLATS, a net-zero building at 3935 N. Williams, and The Albert, also on North Williams Avenue.
The feedback loop is still in its infancy and there are many steps Portland can take to not only promote green building, but green operations.
For one, it could become the seventh U.S. city to mandate energy benchmarking for commercial structures. New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C. and Seattle already do. Portland has hesitated because some buildings in the city lack the monitoring equipment to comply.
Andy Giegerich, editor of Sustainable Business Oregon, will follow up on Friday’s illuminating discussion on Aug. 23, when the Business Journal publishes a special section highlighting the 2013 winners of the Better Bricks competition. Share your thoughts on what you’re doing to cut your energy use below.
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