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FALL NEWSLETTER: Efficiency at the meter, sharing heat with your neighbor, and real estate findings

Happy fall, friends and colleagues. While you’re prepping for Thanksgiving and waiting for snow, catch up on a few stories we’ve been tracking in green buildings, energy efficiency, and real estate development.

We helped host the Seattle 2030 District Vision Awards earlier this month, and many of you were there to enjoy a special evening. While the awards showcased vision, I was most inspired by words from someone without it. State Senator Cyrus Habib, an Iranian-American Democrat representing Bellevue, lost his sight at age 8. He told us about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) changed his life and how he came to appreciate the importance of walkable cities. But he also noted that while the ADA seems universally appreciated now, it initially faced stiff opposition on social and economic grounds. With this history, he encouraged us to stay the course with sustainability efforts in order to support our shared values.

Our sustainable real estate award winners certainly exemplify the values and goals of the Seattle 2030 District:

Meanwhile, way back in October, our friends at NEEC launched the Smart Buildings Center at the newly renovated Pacific Tower in Seattle. Formerly a US Marine Corps hospital and’s original campus, the building is now primarily operated by the Washington Department of Commerce and houses several health care, food, and workforce training organizations.

The Smart Buildings Center is focusing on three things. They provide free meeting space for our industry at large. They run a tool lending library to enable testing, measurement, and learning in buildings. Lastly, they demonstrate and showcase smart building technologies to help us understand and navigate a fast-changing marketplace.

To give you a taste of the content the SBC is facilitating, here’s a paper about low-cost, automated measurement and verification of energy efficiency efforts.

Speaking of Amazon, I hear they’re growing. Nice of them to spur our economy and all, but they usually don’t top many sustainability lists. Thanks to a district energy project for their new Denny Triangle towers, Amazon is innovating and primed to save a boatload of energy. And yes, I often collect my energy in boats.

Amazon partnered with Clise Properties, who owns the Westin Building Exchange (not the hotel) across 6th Avenue from the new towers, to recover waste heat from the Westin’s large datacenter to help heat their new office buildings.

We’re always talking about smart buildings, smart devices, and smart meters. But our efficiency infrastructure—largely built within the utility world—is not so smart. Looking to California for leadership (shocking, I know) … turns out the efficiency is IN the meter. Two recent laws clear a pathway for meter-based energy efficiency, which means a lot of incentive monies will be applied on a pay-for-performance basis. No prescriptive program required—just prove savings at the meter and receive your incentive check. Matt Golden summarized this important paradigm shift nicely here.

When you have a large data set, you can often mine it and learn. Bentall Kennedy recently did so with their real estate portfolio and gave us green building folks some holiday cookies to chomp on. Their study spanned 10 years and 58 million square feet, and shows that sustainable building practices lead to higher rents, lower vacancy, lower concessions, and higher tenant renewal rates. Those cookies are TASTY!

For more on learning, check out this GreenBiz interview with venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson that explores how machine learning can be applied to climate change and aging energy grids.

Of note, Jurvetson was an early Tesla investor. Here’s a quick piece from Nils Kok, the head of GRESB, on why real estate needs to learn from the likes of Tesla and Uber.

I recently started listening to The Energy Gang podcast, from Greentech Media, and like their mix of topics. A couple recent episodes feature discussions on energy disclosure laws around the country, pay-for-performance pathways, and Opower’s evolution as a utility software provider.

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