Efficiency and green building thriving in the capital of Deseret | U.S. Green Building Council
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*This article was co-authored by Grant Olear.

From 1849-1851, the United States of America included the provisional state of Deseret which spanned large parts of present-day Oregon, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. It was a gigantic, awesome, and unforgiving landscape that surely left people thinking about how best to thrive in a world of limited resources. These 19th century ideas of sustainability must surely have been alive and well in the capital city that sat by the Great Salt Lake...

Today, Salt Lake City echoes these roots in sustainability with a long list of green building accomplishments and a new government leadership commitment to energy efficiency recently ordered by Mayor Ralph Becker. In January, the Mayor issued an Executive Order (E.O.) calling for comprehensive energy management of city facilities, and establishing the Energy Management Steering Committee. The committee is charged with developing guidance and rules to assist the departments required to comply with the E.O. Chaired by the city’s Sustainability Director, the committee will include representatives from the city’s Airport, Public Services, and Public Utilities departments. 

The Mayor’s new order calls on participating departments to develop an Energy Management Plan for their respective operations by Sept. 30, 2015. The plans will outline the implementation strategies for maximizing efficiency savings. While any number of strategies can contribute to the targeted savings, the E.O. highlights a few, such as building benchmarking, building operator training, renewable energy applications, and more. 

This E.O. is just the latest bold step by Mayor Becker in his efforts to create a more sustainable and resilient Salt Lake City. Already, the city is a leader in high performance building. The city commits all new city buildings to earn LEED Gold certification and all city buildings over 10,000 square feet to be assessed for their Net-Zero Energy potential. If ‘feasible and cost-effective,’ these buildings will balance their annual energy use with on- or off-site renewable energy.    

Mayor Becker also initiated the Mayor’s Skyline Challenge in May 2014. The Challenge encourages building owners across Salt Lake City to proactively meet and exceed the goals set forth in the Sustainable Salt Lake – Plan for energy and emissions reduction. Participants in the challenge are asked to set an energy savings goal, create an energy action plan, implement energy savings projects, track performance data, and share best practices with other program participants. The program’s goal is to reduce citywide building energy use by 5% by 2015 and by 15% by 2020. Technical assistance is available to participants at no cost. 

The Sustainable Salt Lake – Plan 2015 focuses on long-term goals and includes specific strategies that will be implemented to help the city reach various measurable targets by year’s end, 2015. Some notable objectives include:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from city operations by 13%, or 72,400 tons annually
  • Decreasing energy use in city-owned/operated buildings by 10%
  • Increasing energy-efficient buildings citywide by 10% to 42 LEED buildings, 37 ENERGY STAR facilities, and 13,000 ENERGY STAR homes
  • Supporting the development of a robust environmental education program

Hats off to Mayor Becker for his leading work to push the envelope for a more sustainable Salt Lake City. From the capital of Deseret to the capital of the USA, cities find great value in tapping the potential of green buildings to support the achievement of city sustainability goals. 

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