Better Buildings for Michigan graphic.

As one of the states hardest hit by the recession, Michigan is focused on supporting local businesses and developing jobs for unemployed workers. Michigan's private sector job losses account for two-thirds of all U.S. jobs lost in the past decade, and the majority of those unemployed are construction and automotive workers. With $30 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, BetterBuildings for Michigan is helping to put skilled professionals back to work by supporting and providing energy efficiency training.

Building on the work of Michigan Saves—a nonprofit organization dedicated to making energy improvements easy and affordable—the program is "sweeping" neighborhoods to promote energy efficiency upgrades to homeowners and help businesses lower utility bill costs. BetterBuildings for Michigan is focusing on reaching homeowners in 27 target communities. The program is also working with commercial, industrial, and small business owners in the city of Detroit to complete energy efficiency upgrades. The program hopes to build demand for sustainable, green jobs in both the construction and energy efficiency upgrade industry.

Driving Demand: Clean Sweeps for Michigan Neighborhoods
Workforce Development: Putting Michigan Back to Work by Collaborating with Construction and Automotive Industries
Financing: Helping Michiganders Finance Savings

BetterBuildings for Michigan

Location: Grand Rapids, Dewitt and Bath Townships, Marquette, Traverse City, St. Joseph County, Wyandotte, Detroit and Southeast Michigan
Seed Funding: $30 million
Target Building Types: Residential, commercial, industrial, and public buildings

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Service Delivery
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Reese Farms

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Commercial program
Residential program


(July 2010 to September 2013)

Clean Sweeps for Michigan Neighborhoods

BetterBuildings for Michigan is using a political campaign-style "sweep" tactic to target homes in select neighborhoods. Trusted community partners start by walking door-to-door to educate homeowners about the benefits of energy efficiency, upgrade options available, and the best ways to finance upgrades. These partners attempt to make contact with a home at least eight times through in-person visits, phone calls, and fliers. Contractors continue to contact homeowners to encourage more invested upgrades even after the sweep has ended.

Focusing marketing and outreach efforts on one neighborhood per month, sweeps are occurring in four different residential zones across the state—Detroit, Grand Rapids, Southeast Michigan suburbs, and five non-entitlement communities chosen through a competitive bidding process. The program chose these areas to reflect a variety of different income distributions, building types, and home ownership levels. On average, 95% of the housing stock in each neighborhood was built prior to 1970. Each sweep tests different financing models and marketing and outreach strategies to learn what works best, which will help inform other energy efficiency programs in the state.

Contractors are dedicating whole crews for several weeks in each neighborhood to finish upgrades quickly and minimize disruption to homeowners. Seventeen neighborhood sweeps have been completed throughout the state of Michigan.

BetterBuildings for Michigan isn't just sweeping through residential neighborhoods. On the commercial front, the program is partnering with the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Detroit to help make energy efficiency upgrades in large and small businesses, industrial, and public buildings in the city. The package starts with a free energy evaluation, followed by available utility and tax incentives and information about financing options or recommended upgrades. To minimize burden on business owners, EDC is coordinating upgrade logistics with service providers.

Putting Michigan Back to Work by Collaborating with Construction and Automotive Industries

Michigan Saves has in place a network of certified contractors that meet program standards and are monitored for quality assurance. Michigan Saves also conducts targeted outreach to energy professionals and companies, to ensure a qualified network of contractors is available to meet homeowner demand for upgrades, and offers them nationally recognized training.

Michigan Saves qualifies contractors to join the competitive bidding process for BetterBuildings for Michigan projects. More than 225 authorized contractors are eligible to join the program. BetterBuildings for Michigan's competitive bidding process encourages local contractors to hire from local green job training programs. As a result, previously unemployed workers who participate in the program are improving homes in their own communities. Through mentoring programs and comprehensive sales training, the program has assisted contractors who are demonstrating the technical, sales, and business skills to sell home energy upgrades on their own and make a living.

Helping Michiganders Finance Savings

BetterBuildings for Michigan is leveraging a number of existing financial partners, including utilities with energy efficiency rebates and nonprofits such as Michigan Saves, to create a one-stop shop for energy efficiency financing. Because energy efficiency loans are relatively new loan products that are perceived to involve more risk, the Michigan Saves Home Energy Loan provides loan loss reserves to Michigan lenders, giving them a backstop to provide homeowners with financing for energy efficiency upgrades. Homeowners can apply for an unsecured personal loan ranging from $1,000 to $20,000 with flexible terms of up to 10 years, depending on the lender.

The commercial program, called SmartBuildings Detroit, works with partners to enhance existing businesses and bring new opportunities to the city. SmartBuildings Detroit offers multiple models of incentives for business energy upgrades, including combinations of loans and grants that can be used separately or together.


Mark Clevey

Jeff Williams

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program