During a live online chat at the White House, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that 24 projects are receiving a total of $21 million in technical assistance to dramatically reduce the energy used in their commercial buildings.

This initiative, supported with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will connect commercial building owners and operators with multi- disciplinary teams, including researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national laboratories and private sector building experts. The teams will design, construct, measure and test low-energy building plans and will help accelerate the deployment of cost-effective energy-saving measures in commercial buildings across the United States.

“These Recovery Act projects are bringing together experts from our national laboratories and the private sector to help businesses and organizations reduce the energy they use in their facilities, saving them money on their energy bills and making them more competitive economically,” Chu said. “This initiative will also demonstrate to other commercial building operators that cost-effective, energy-efficient technologies exist today that will help lower the operating and energy costs of their buildings.”

Through the DOE’s Commercial Building Partnerships, teams composed of private sector technical experts and personnel from national laboratories will help guide projects to achieve 30 percent measured energy savings in existing buildings and 50 percent energy savings in new construction projects. About half of the two dozen projects focus on energy-efficiency upgrades for existing buildings. The three-year projects will provide comprehensive business and technical case studies for broad publication, including actual energy performance data from the completed projects, to help spur wider adoption of energy-efficient building practices.

The projects are funded with a public/private cost-sharing agreement, where the building owners and operators contribute at least 20 percent. They do not receive direct funding through the project, but instead get access to state-of-the-art technical guidance to implement energy-efficiency technologies throughout the design, construction and evaluation phases of their building and retrofit projects. This expertise includes energy modeling and energy-performance verification by laboratory researchers and private sector experts.

The selected building owners and operators benefit by learning about measures they can apply across their extensive building portfolios. The use of private sector consultants and national laboratory experts helps ensure that the measures and lessons learned in the projects will be quickly adopted by the marketplace.

Three DOE national laboratories—Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory—will manage the effort and provide technical assistance for the projects. The aggressive energy-efficiency design goals for each project include reasonable returns on investment and must meet other business criteria established in collaboration with the partners.

Each project will receive technical assistance valued at between $200,000 and $1.2 million, depending on the scope.