Making a cool concept warm the heart

July 3, 2014

Energy efficiency is a concept that can be hard to make heartwarming. Resource Media has had success making it humorous, making it visible and making it practical, but could we make energy efficiency a matter of the heart?

One of the unsung heroes of the energy efficiency world is energy benchmarking. Benchmarking, or tracking and reporting energy usage, is a way to make the invisible- i.e. energy waste- visible, and in a way that empowers building owners to identify ways to improve building efficiency and save money.

But while it’s important, benchmarking doesn’t typically inspire a warm and fuzzy feeling… at least not without a little creativity.

Cities like Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia have been benchmarking for a while and are making good use of their data, tracking money-saving efforts for both public and private buildings. Minneapolis is now following suit and last month its benchmarking ordinance went into effect for buildings 100,000 square feet and larger. While energy benchmarking isn’t a new concept to us- we’ve done a lot of work with cities across the US to get the word out- it is a new concept to many building owners. Not only is it good for saving resources, benchmarking helps save money that would be wasted with old lighting and inefficient energy management systems.

To highlight the human element of benchmarking in Minneapolis, we turned to the Minnesota Retiree Environmental Technical Assistance Program. RETAP is a group of retired engineers, scientists, managers, or other retired professionals that give free consultations to building owners and help them start the benchmarking process. We put local reporters in touch with RETAP and one of their recent clients, The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center. RETAP helped Operations Director Dominick Bouza discover easy ways they could save thousands of dollars on utilities each year—money that can be used to provide meals and a place to stay for people who rely on the Salvation Army for help.

Examples like The Salvation Army can help translate that few thousands of dollars of savings into real life benefits for the thousands of people they service. By putting a human element into these stories, they became exponentially more interesting to a TV and radio audience. Reporters are able to put real faces and real stories behind a complex issue and help to communicate the value of benchmarking. After all, what’s more valuable that a sense of community and helping others? Tapping into these sentiments helps transform a building investment story into a human interest story.

Krista Meyer