Reinventing Buildings

From the neighborhood corner pharmacy to the skyscraper taking up an entire city block, office and retail buildings use a lot of energy. In fact, corporate real estate energy use contributes about six percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it a key target for RMI’s work in the buildings sector. The big question is how to transform the energy use in these buildings to efficiency and renewables.

That question is also front and center for the world’s leading association of corporate real estate professionals, service providers, and economic developers: CoreNet Global. This wide-reaching real estate organization—which represents 70 percent of the Fortune 100 and nearly half of the Forbes Global 1000—announced this year its support for net-zero buildings as a top measure of energy management success.

Many may wonder if it’s possible that net-zero or very-low-energy buildings are realistic for retail and office space. This question is what we at RMI love to ask … and answer. So we have teamed with CoreNet Global to provide companies with the knowledge and resources to aggressively implement proven efficiency and on-site renewable energy strategies. According to RMI’s Reinventing Fire analysis, this work applied across the entire U.S. building sector can save $1.9 trillion (in present value) in energy costs.

RMI and CoreNet’s work together began in 2007 with the publication of the paper “The Energy Challenge: A New Agenda for Corporate Real Estate” that identified barriers to energy efficiency and recommended action plans for corporate real estate professionals and service providers.

Through a new research project and subsequent publications, RMI and CoreNet will leverage the substantial knowledge and experience gained since 2007 to engage industry leaders and frame practical solutions tailored to specific corporate real estate audiences. The focus for these solutions will be on moving companies toward CoreNet Global’s net-zero energy goal.

One example of corporate real estate energy management insights comes from RMI’s recent collaboration with AT&T. Written up in CoreNet’s November issue of The LEADER magazine, we highlighted competition for capital as the major barrier to AT&T getting past anything but the simplest, quickest payback projects and moving toward deeper levels of energy savings—a very common situation in corporate real estate. We then outlined a set of energy strategies AT&T can use to dig deeper into its substantial corporate office portfolio, and revealed millions of dollars of potential annual savings.

Over the course of an upcoming multi-month research project, RMI and CoreNet will converse with many CoreNet members, leaders, and other experts. These conversations will uncover what corporations can do to achieve net-zero buildings, and what they need from service providers, utilities, policymakers, and others.

However, this effort is not simply to produce a report. We look forward to continued collaborations with CoreNet to further engage the corporate real estate industry and disseminate useful knowledge through CoreNet’s numerous education offerings and certifications. These activities will accelerate the ongoing change necessary to achieve both CoreNet and RMI goals to transform energy use in corporate real estate.