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Twenty Years of Transformation: What’s Next?

Published: Feb 1, 2017 Codes | Policy | Finance & Real Estate | Blog Post

In the final post of our three-part series recognizing IMT’s 20th anniversary, Executive Director Cliff Majersik builds upon past posts looking at the organization’s founding and evolution to examine what lies ahead.

A tiny organization at its outset, IMT started 20 years ago to tackle the big task of moving the real estate market to appropriately value and reward efficiency throughout a building’s lifecycle, and in the process put in play important changes to reduce buildings’ consumption of energy and the resulting cost and pollution. Over the following two decades, IMT grew from two people to over 30 professionals whose expertise includes energy policy, real estate, design, utilities, data analytics, change management, and more. We have teamed with leading government agencies, real estate and environmental stakeholders, and trade associations to identify and overcome major barriers to more efficient buildings.

It’s been a productive and exciting ride thus far, but much work remains ahead.

As IMT strengthens our efforts, we hew to our founding vision that harnessing the opportunity offered by energy efficiency is essential to the wellbeing of cities and businesses. Efficiency has the power to unlock billions of dollars in savings and investment, creating jobs, making our cities healthier, and addressing critical climate challenges. Over the past 20 years, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with many efficiency pioneers to develop and test best practices and start tracking the returns. Now, we focus on not only expanding the horizons with those leaders, but also expanding to engage the majority of America’s 5.6 million commercial buildings whose potential remain untapped. The stakes are high: if U.S. commercial buildings reduce energy consumption by just 20%, resulting annual savings will be worth $37 billion and be roughly the equivalent to the emissions from 52 coal-fired power plants.

IMT’s future will build upon the solid foundation of policies and programs we’ve helped build over the last two decades, and will emphasize:

Pathways to scale: IMT’s effectiveness arises from the integration of both public and private stakeholders to drive collective change. We work on policy with counties, states, and with over half of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. that collectively represent 20 billion square feet, or 23% of all U.S. commercial building space. Much of this work takes place through partnerships we spearhead such as the City Energy Project. Similarly, joint projects with industry partners like the Landlord-Tenant Energy Partnership and our initiatives with small businesses and chambers of commerce across the U.S. enable IMT to work directly with building owners and tenants who collectively own or occupy 3 billion square feet, over 3% of all U.S. commercial floor space.

New industry best practices: Lasting market transformation occurs when new industry practices replace inefficient, “business-as-usual” practice. For example, supporting new building and renovation standards is the focus of IMT’s building energy codes work. Similarly, benchmarking and transparency requirements are emerging as an industry standard: to date, more than 10 billion square feet of U.S. commercial building square footage is covered by a benchmarking policy, or 9.5% of all total U.S. commercial and multifamily floor space.  And, in only three short years, IMT’s Green Lease Leaders standard is now being used by companies collectively accounting for 1 billion square feet of commercial space, creating new pathways for investments in energy efficiency and opportunities for shared savings and health benefits that accompany building performance improvement.

Proof of Concept: A growing body of data shows the transformative impact of IMT’s current policies and market programs. Consider Chicago’s new benchmarking report, which shows that properties that have benchmarked and reported consistently over the last three years are using less energy to the tune of estimated savings of $6.2-$11.6 million a year. IMT and others will continue to use this data to make the business case to the broader market to drive more efficiency in buildings. And, the case will grow more compelling as these innovative policies and programs mature in the market. Guided by data, IMT will engage the market, foster experimentation to overcome market barriers, and deliver applied, market-facing research.  

Practical support: As the market uptake of energy efficiency grows, IMT is responding with technical support to both those at the forefront and those just getting started, via "How to" guides, model resources, case studies, and other practical resources—all grounded in our field experience. IMT also participates in efforts to integrate energy efficiency data directly into the “business-as-usual” platforms and tools that building brokers, investors, appraisers and their clients use every day.

When Board Chair David Goldstein founded IMT two decades ago, he saw the new organization as a vehicle for innovative but perhaps untested work that others were not willing to try. As IMT pivots its communications, resources, partnerships, and projects to engage the broader market in the coming years, David’s founding vision still drives us.

We look forward to increased and vibrant partnerships that will help us achieve these goals, and we are grateful to all of the stakeholders who have helped to provide such a strong foundation during our first two decades.