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Some organizations in California are taking part in the next big gold rush. But instead of mining precious metals, they are finding gold with energy efficiency upgrades as part of the Better Buildings Challenge. I joined David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, for a visit to three of those Better Buildings Challenge partners in California and toured projects that showcased their commitment to energy efficiency. These projects are some of the Challenge’s initial success stories, and it was exciting to see them first hand.

Launched by President Obama in 2011, the Better Buildings Challenge is a unique partnership between public and private leaders to reduce energy use in America’s commercial and industrial buildings. Our partners not only commit to an aggressive energy savings goal, but they also agree to showcase their efforts so that other organizations can benefit from their investments.

The California projects -- a grocery store, a university laboratory, and a hotel -- are all building upgrades that highlight innovative approaches to energy efficiency and demonstrate impressive energy and monetary savings. The partners, including Albertson’s of Carpinteria, University of California Irvine, and HEI Hotels & Resorts’ La Jolla Marriott near San Diego, prove that it is possible to meet (and often exceed) the Better Buildings Challenge’s goal of reducing energy use in buildings by 20 percent.

Albertson’s of Carpinteria, for example, installed a state-of-the-art, all-natural coolant system in its store that reduces the HVAC system’s energy consumption by 30 percent. UC Irvine successfully cut energy consumption by more than half in its laboratory space at the Natural Sciences II building by using advanced occupancy and air quality sensors that reduce the number of air exchanges per hour when conditions permit. And the renovations of the La Jolla Marriott hotel near San Diego included lighting upgrades, improved thermostats in guest rooms, and upgraded HVAC controls. Combined with the hotel’s new chiller and two new boilers, these improvements will cut energy use by 27 percent in 2013 and save the company an expected $200,000 annually.

While these organizations are among the first to celebrate their successes, we are excited to see what our other partners will bring to the table with their showcase projects. With more than 100 partner businesses and organizations -- representing two billion square feet -- there will be many more stories to share and lessons to be learned. We will keep you posted!

What Are Showcase Projects?

They are projects completed in the first nine months of joining the Better Buildings Challenge.

They highlight innovative and agressive energy efficiency solutions that result in concrete energy savings.

They have meet (and often exceeded) the goal of reducing energy use in buildings by 20 percent.