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EPA Contest Seeks the Biggest (Kilowatt) Loser

Looking to tap into the popularity of contest-based reality shows, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is staging its version of "The Biggest Loser" -- a competition to see which commercial building can shed the most energy waste and be declared the most efficient in the country.

With encouragement from TV personality Bob Harper, the fitness trainer featured on NBC's weight-loss reality show "The Biggest Loser," the EPA is keeping tabs on 14 buildings until August 31 as part of its National Building Competition.

The building that trims the greatest percentage of kilowatt hours from its energy use will be named winner on October 26, the day the EPA is dubbing as the contestants'  "final weigh-in."

The 14 buildings -- which include schools, college dorms, hotels, department stores, a mall, a healthcare center and office buildings -- were selected as contest finalists from a pool of almost 200 applicants.

The building finalists are being judged on energy performance for 12 months -- from September 1 of last year through August 31 this summer. Energy usage is being tracked with the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, the online energy measurement tool that's central to the EPA's energy efficiency program for buildings.
{related_content}Along the way, Harper will provide "energy fitness" tips in videos that will be available on the EPA's contest website. Profiles of the contestants and stats on their performance are also available on the website.

In addition to showcasing contestants' efforts toward energy efficiency, the competition is intended to put the Energy Star program in the spotlight. More than 17,000 companies, schools, colleges, hospitals, municipalities, utilities and other organizations participate in the program.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings in the United States account for 72 percent of electricity consumption, 39 percent of energy use and 38 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions.
 Commercial buildings are responsible for 17 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year, says the EPA, which estimates that on average 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted.
“It’s time for buildings to tighten their belts and we’re happy to help them go on an energy diet,” said Gina McCarthy, the EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, in a prepared statement.

Here is the list of finalists in the agency's National Building Competition:

  • The 522 Fifth Avenue Building, New York, N.Y.
  • The 1525 Wilson Boulevard Building, Arlington, Va.
  • Crystal River Elementary School, Carbondale, Colo.
  • Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown, San Diego, Calif.
  • JCPenney Store 1778, Orange, Calif.
  • Maplewood Mall, St. Paul, Minn.
  • Memorial Arts Building at the Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Morrison Residence Hall at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • Sears, Glen Burnie, Md.
  • Sheraton Austin Hotel, Austin, Texas
  • Solon Family Health Center at the Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Tucker Residence Hall at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Van Holten Primary School, Bridgewater, N.J.
  • Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia Beach, Va.

Image of 1525 Wilson Boulevard Building, courtesy of Glenborough LLC. Contest logo courtesy of the EPA.


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