Michael Hancock issues the Better Buildings Denver energy challenge

Mayor Michael Hancock is challenging Denver's building owners to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by the year 2020.

Yesterday, Hancock and representatives from several local agencies announced "Better Buildings Denver," a program that aligns with President Barack Obama's national "Better Buildings Challenge."

"We ask you to join us by reducing energy use in your building...and we will help you get there," Hancock said at the event. "The City of Denver and its partners have programs in place to connect your businesses and buildings to the tools, resources and experts that can help with this challenge."

The press conference was held in the Alliance Center, a setting not chosen at random. The building, which serves as home of the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, is a green haven: It runs on 100-percent wind-power energy; occupants entering the building can wipe their feet on a mat that absorbs 90 percent of the dirt they would otherwise track in with them; water fountains are non-refrigerated; bamboo grass lives on the second floor; and an RTD kiosk in the lobby offers eco-friendly travelers transit and bus schedules. (For the bikers: bike maps, bike racks and showers?) Oh, and the Alliance is the first historic building in the world to receive two LEED certifications.

"What's happening here is really what we have to think about in the city of Denver, the state of Colorado and the United States of America," Hancock said.

But the utopian vision of sustainable splendor isn't finished yet. The building will undergo renovations -- again -- to reduce the structure's energy omissions even more.

Jeff Hohensee, the director of partnerships for Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, said the Alliance is partnering with Denver to "serve as a portal and a leader" to help fuel the challenge: "We're creating a replicable framework that's a solid business model that other building owners can take a look at and see why they would want to do this, for whoever the stakeholders are, why it's in their best interest, why it's better for tenants, and how it creates jobs and helps with economic development."

Hohensee described the building's "aging" HVAC, an air conditioning system that needs to be replaced, as a "seven-digit expense.

"Other buildings could have similar high-expense payment issues they need to address," Hohensee noted. "When they get that kind of a trigger...they should take a look at this replicable framework as a way to say, 'Okay in addition to just replacing that, we're going to be able to increase the value of this asset significantly more if we take a more integrated approach.' "

Along with serving as a real-time model for the Better Building Challenge, Hohensee said the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado will help connect interested building owners with Denver Better Building partners to help take that "integrated approach." The city and its partners -- including Certifiably Green Colorado, Denver Energy Challenge, Greenprint Denver, Living City Block, Watts to Water, the region's branch of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Nonprofit Energy Efficient Program of the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships -- will hold seminars in the upcoming months to educate and provide assistance for building renovations. Those interested in learning more about the Better Buildings Denver Challenge and seminar dates can get more information at the mayor's office website.

More from our environment archive: "Salamanders to join list of official Colorado trees, insects, icons and more?"

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