85 Office Buildings in Portland Competed in an Energy Efficiency Game

February 13, 2015 By Linda Hardesty

gamesACEEE has published a new report, Gamified Energy Efficiency Programs, which presents case studies of 22 games that have been used to encourage energy efficiency. Although most of the games were for residential energy customers, a couple involved commercial energy users.

For example, Carbon4Square was a competition involving 85 commercial office buildings in the Portland, Oregon, area in 2010 and 2011. Any building over 20,000 square feet was eligible to participate.

The goal of the competition was to earn as many points as possible out of a maximum total of 100, based on reducing emissions across the four categories of watts, water, waste, and wheels. Participants tracked and recorded their emissions in these four categories during both years of the contest, and performance assessment was largely based on improvements from one year to the next. Buildings also had the option of participating only in the energy – watts – category.

Carbon4Square buildings had to complete benchmarking during the first few months of the competition in order to establish a baseline for comparison after making improvements. Much of a building’s score was tied to improvements in its EPA benchmark rating and Energy Star rating. Participating buildings were assigned a 4Square Coach who helped them with benchmarking and data collection.

To incentivize timely benchmarking, Carbon4Square offered scoping studies valued at $2,000–$3,000 to the first 50 buildings to submit their benchmarking scores. Scoping studies included a building walk-through, interviews, and assessment of ways to improve performance. This highlights an important theme of Carbon4Square: whether or not a building was ultimately a contest winner, the program provided numerous opportunities for learning and performance improvement, with the goal of changing operating procedures over the long term, not just during the contest period.

Ultimately, a panel of jurors evaluated and ranked the contestants using their emissions scorecard and their Energy Star ratings. The grand prize winner – KG Investment Management in 2011 – was designated “The Carbon Samurai” and awarded a trophy of the same name.

Photo of games via Shutterstock

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