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September 25, 2012

AT&T Works with RMI to 'Build a Consensus' on Real Estate Energy Retrofits



Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and AT&T (News - Alert) are teaming up to dramatically improve energy efficiency in the telecommunications company’s real estate holdings—comprising 65,000 facilities in more than 60 countries.

Based in Boulder, Colorado, RMI describes itself as a “think-and-do tank” that “excels in radical resource efficiency.” In March, the 30-year-old, globally recognized not-for-profit organization launched its Portfolio Energy RetroFit Challenge—which is dedicated to demonstrating to building owners and operators that deep energy retrofits are both technically feasible and financially prudent, especially when applied at scale.

The institute requested participation from companies that met a list of specifications—among them:

  • Partner must own or be the primary manager for at least 100 buildings, either office or retail.
  • Partner portfolio must include some archetypal buildings that share similar characteristics (e.g., use, envelope type, construction type, relative size, mechanical system).
  • Partner must demonstrate a track record of commitment to sustainability initiatives and building energy efficiency.
  • Partner must participate with RMI in a ten-week intensive engagement; and
  • Partner must participate in a post-Challenge networking group with other participants for one year to share best practices, tools, strategy adjustments, and discoveries.

Dallas-based AT&T already has a strong energy program in place to manage its growing demand for power. ”Effective energy management is critical to the competitiveness of our business and the reliability of our service to customers,” said John Schinter, executive director of Energy at AT&T. “In 2011, we implemented more than 4,500 efficiency projects that totaled an annualized savings of $42 million, but by working with RMI, we’re looking to identify ways to expand our program even further.”

Beginning with a high-level, portfolio-wide analysis, the RMI and AT&T teams will determine how efficiency investments can make the greatest impact. The product of that analysis will be a long-term capital and construction schedule for deploying extensive retrofits and other bundles of efficiency measures across a portfolio at the right time; utilizing the right technologies, business processes and operational strategies.

“The impact of this project goes far beyond these buildings, as the Portfolio RetroFit Challenge will ultimately result in a shared framework for other building portfolio owners based on observations and lessons learned,” said Elaine Gallagher Adams, RMI senior buildings consultant. “The content for that framework will include insights from RMI and AT&T, as well as the remaining Portfolio RetroFit Challenge partners. This is different from anything else happening in the realm of building portfolio energy strategy.”

The Portfolio RetroFit Challenge is intended to be a model for companies to select efficiency improvements that support important corporate real estate goals, such as improving space utilization or improving occupant satisfaction and demand.  That’s important, because America’s 120 million buildings consume 42 percent of the nation’s total energy and 72 percent of our electricity. The annual cost to fuel and power buildings is $400 billion—equivalent to the amount the United States spent on Medicare in 2009—and much of this is wasted. RMI’s research for its Reinventing Fire initiative, which maps pathways for running a 158 percent bigger U.S. economy in 2050, but needing no oil, no coal, and no nuclear energy,  revealed that this could conservatively represent $1.4 trillion in savings over the next 40 years.

“While progress has been made on a building-by-building basis, what’s needed now is a way to scale,” said Coreina Chan, RMI buildings consultant.   “By enabling large portfolio building owners to pursue upwards of 50 percent savings across multiple buildings through a deliberate and well-timed portfolio-wide strategy, we can demonstrate that building efficiency is a smart investment.”

The total cost of each real estate portfolio engagement is $100,000, split equally between RMI and its corporate partner.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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