This morning, I attended a private tour of the new Eco Office at Southface Energy Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. Southface is an organization who works in green building advancement. Long before the USGBC began gaining momentum through its LEED certification platform, Southface was already tackling issues pertaining to superior sustainable design in both commercial and residential applications. Today’s new Eco Office was created not only to house the organization’s staff, but also to serve as a model for how commercial building can and will work in the future. The space boasts many efficiencies, such as daylighting window shading, linked to the heating and cooling of the building, rainwater harvesting, solar energy, and the latest technology in composting toilets. And, like many environmentally advanced buildings, much of the technology for energy is captured by an electronic dashboard, allowing users of the building to monitor usage of water and energy down to the minute.
One of the members of the tour asked a very critical question. How do we take this knowledge, relate it to the dollars saved and share it with the larger business audience looking at the return on investment connected to capital improvements to existing buildings. The savings is there. Any where from 10% – 70% savings in energy and water dependent on what measures are taken. A simple cost analysis can illustrate the benefits and timeline for realizing the true ROI of the investment.
But the even better news is that is there are now government incentives in place to make these improvements to our existing buildings.
Today’s business climate around going green in regard to internal energy efficiencies feels a bit like a gold rush as the Department of Energy moves significant amounts of money to the state level. This past week, I attended a monthly sustainability roundtable, which serves our community to educate stakeholders on various environmental programs throughout the region. This month’s topic was presented by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA), the governmental body tasked with doling out the hundreds of million dollars for energy efficiencies in our state. Here in Georgia, our dollars are allocated to various funding categories – from water, sewer, and energy efficiency to renewable energy programs – all a result of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a.k.a. The Stimulus Bill.
The reason I draw attention to this Act and the subsequent dollars is because the amount of business and innovation anticipated to be created from out of these funds is staggering. Business Loans and investments into green energy technology are a significant part of the final bill. In fact, of the total $288 billion dollars $63 billion is allocated for Energy.
In the past few months, I have spoken to numerous consultants in energy and other issues of sustainability who are working with companies, big and small, to help manage the process of how we re-tool our energy usage to renewable sources and create greater efficiencies in the process. Over the next several weeks, I will highlight businesses that are taking advantage of this time in our history to better their businesses for a sustainable future.