By Amanda San Filippo
Published in Sustainable Biz Canada
Throughout the last century, technological advancements have revolutionized the way we live. From transportation systems to the expedition of communication, these contributions have created a level of convenience and economic prosperity unknown to previous generations.
While there are marked advantages, more recent concerns regarding the externalization of environmental and social costs related to the consumption of energy needed to fuel these processes have raised questions about the sustainability of current extraction and distribution of energy systems.
These issues have left many commercial building owners and managers looking for creative ways to reduce energy use. This could explain the rise of successful energy efficiency building challenges, like Manitoba Race to Reduce.
Manitoba Race to Reduce involves collaboration between commercial building landlords and tenants to encourage smart energy use. The objective is to reduce participants’ energy consumption by 10 per cent over four years.
The program attempts to mitigate barriers to energy efficiency by providing participants with benchmarking data and communication tools. Its focus on changing work place behaviour over expensive capital investments also enables smaller businesses to compete successfully.
Tapping into the competitive nature and public impression of commercial organizations, Manitoba Race to Reduce is modelled after a program by the same name in Toronto, implemented in 2011 by Civic Action.
Despite pressing issues plaguing Southern Ontario at the time, such as energy shortages and smog, local politicians hesitated to make any major policy changes. Recognizing the need for a creative approach to move energy efficiency forward, Civic Action worked with large-scale local commercial organizations to come up with a plan.
That plan morphed into a four-year race, aimed at reducing energy use from participating buildings by 10 per cent.
The results were a resounding success, with 69 million square feet of regional commercial office space, equal to 42 per cent of the Greater Toronto Area, collectively reducing energy use by 193 million ekWh (equivalent kilowatt hours) or 12.1 per cent. The program was the recipient of the national 2015 Clean 50 Award – Top 15.
Three years remain in the Manitoba version of the race. Final results are unknown.
But, the willingness of building owners to jump onboard with the program demonstrates a need for assistance in knocking down barriers to energy efficiency and a timely recognition that change starts from within.