The Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce is the largest business membership organization in Northeast Shelby County and one of the largest in West Tennessee. It has over 600 members who represent a broad array of industries and professions within a market population of 250,000. The area consists of over 7.8 million square feet of commercial facilities. In response to getting numerous phone calls and questions from Chamber members on how to "go green", the Chamber worked with a regional energy efficiency expert, Clayton Poff, to establish the Team Green Zone (TGZ) in November 2010. The purpose of TGZ is to help remove the barriers that prevent private and public sector decision makers from utilizing ENERGY STAR materials and recommendations—and to help its members increase efficiency. TGZ is the vehicle that brings both Energy Solution "Seekers" and "Providers" together to increase efficiency. The team includes experts within the energy efficiency industry to provide businesses a step by step procedure for reducing their carbon footprint, establishing and marketing an environmental "Green" policy and, most importantly, improving operational efficiencies which can positively impact the bottom line.
Team Green Zone guides businesses in implementing ENERGY STAR for Buildings recommendations. They do this by working with businesses to enter their data into the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to create an energy benchmark for their buildings using the facility Energy Use Intensity (EUI). Once a facility knows its EUI, it can work with TGZ to assess their situation, set goals, and implement actions to decrease operations costs and increase its efficiency—thus reducing its EUI. TGZ also relies on the ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual (BUM) and ENERGY STAR calculators which help set financial parameters for projects. They created much of their energy efficiency plans by downloading ENERGY STAR publications like these and following them step by step. Once the initial benchmark is completed, TGZ then creates an action plan with the building owner and helps them choose a contractor who can perform the upgrades. The building owners use Portfolio Manager to gauge the impacts of the upgrades and after some time, the team re-assesses the facility for any other possible upgrades. In addition to shepherding facilities through the process, TGZ also performs the following services: occupancy and tenant education; plug load evaluations; lighting upgrades; controls upgrades; building envelope upgrades; and HVAC upgrades.
Their results to date are impressive. In less than a year, TGZ has benchmarked 38 buildings. They are currently working on 48 separate projects—all in different stages—including educational workshops, assessing facilities, setting goals, preparing action plans, and implementing projects. Nine projects have gone through the full cycle to date and TGZ sees a site EUI reduction of 193 and a source EUI reduction of 605. Beyond saving energy and costs on monthly utility bills, TGZ program benefits include extended life cycles of building equipment, an improved company image showing companies as good environmental stewards, and media recognition for companies through social media as well as local TV and national exposure.
The TGZ communicates their program to Chamber members through newsletters and events. To gain wider participation in the program, TGZ also provides continual outreach to all their Chamber members and local business through Chamber events, social media, and traditional media. The TGZ website also provides links to the ENERGY STAR web site with building sector specific links.
Although energy savings results have been impressive, the program has also had to overcome some obstacles. Many small businesses are understaffed, over-tasked, and lack industry expertise to have an internal team focused on all the resources available and may not see the longer-term benefits of increased energy efficiency. TGZ has also encountered some reluctance to participate in the ENERGY STAR program as it is part of the Environmental Protection Agency and TGZ found some business owners cautious about sharing data with an agency they see as focused on regulations.
To overcome some of these challenges, TGZ meets regularly with participants to create good working relationships. Also, they have found that breakfast and lunch meetings create opportunities to check in and further educate their members without taking a great deal of time. They have found that Chambers of Commerce can be an excellent outlet to provide educational platforms and practical hands on guidance to utilize the ENERGY STAR program—to save businesses money, increase facility comfort, and give members a more favorable "green" reputation with their customers.
Many organizations and companies have participated in this initiative to date from the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to general contractors and vendors to local businesses. To read more about the Team Green Zone and these partners, please see the website at: www.bartlettareavision.com/team-green-zone .