Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law: Obama Administration Launches Better Buildings Challenge

Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law


Cullen Howe   By J. Cullen Howe, Environmental Law Specialist, Arnold & Porter LLP

On June 30th, the Department of Energy announced the Better Buildings Challenge, a public-private partnership that seeks to solicit large-scale commitments and provide financing and technical assistance for retrofitting thousands of commercial buildings.

According to DOE, the Challenge has already obtained commitments from 11 corporations and three cities to retrofit 300 million square feet of commercial, industrial, and governmental space, and has secured $575 million in financing for these retrofits.   DOE will provide technical assistance, promote best practices, and publicly recognize partners for their efforts.

The three cities issuing the commitments are Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Seattle, which have collectively agreed to retrofit 47 million square feet of building space and leverage up to $30 million in financing to assist retrofit efforts of commercial property owners in their communities.  The program also received commitments for green technology retrofits from a number of private companies including Best Buy, Green Sports Alliance, Land Lease, Transwestern, and USAA Real Estate.

The $575 million in commitments to finance energy-efficiency projects is led by Citigroup, which agreed to provide $250 million in financing.  Other partners include Abundant Power, Green Campus Partners LLC, Metrus Energy, Renewable Funding, and Transcend Equity.

The Challenge is an offspring of the Obama Administration's Better Buildings Initiative, which was introduced in February 2011 to encourage private-sector investment in energy-efficient commercial building improvements. A blog entry about the BBI is available at President Obama Launches Better Buildings Initiative.

Energy Efficient Building

Reprinted with permission from Green Building Law Update Service.

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J. Cullen Howe is an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter LLP. Much of Cullen's work focuses on climate change, where he attempts to educate lawyers and the public at large on the enormous cooperation necessary to adequately address this problem. In addition to his work on climate change, Cullen is the managing editor of Environmental Law in New York, edits the Environmental Law Practice Guide, Brownfields Law and Practice, the Environmental Impact Review in New York, and has drafted chapters in the Environmental Law Practice Guide on climate change and green building. Mr. Howe is a graduate of Vermont Law School, where he was the managing editor of the Vermont Law Review, and a graduate of DePauw University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

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