Yesterday, President Obama and former president Bill Clinton announced a combined $4 billion commitment in public and private funding for energy upgrades to existing buildings. The cash is pledged as part of the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, which was announced earlier this year to motivate buildings to become 20% more efficient by 2020. The President, by way of a Presidential Memorandum, committed to $2 billion in upgrades to federal buildings over the next two year, which will save much more in the long run in reduced energy costs. That commitment was met by $2 billion in private sector funding to make 1.6 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, community college and school buildings more energy efficient.

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Upgrading the energy efficiency of America’s buildings is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to save money, cut down on harmful pollution, and create good jobs right now. But we can’t wait for Congress to act. So today, I’m directing all federal agencies to make at least $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades over the next 2 years – at no up-front cost to the taxpayer,” the President explained. “Coupled with today’s extraordinary private sector commitments of $2 billion to upgrade businesses, factories, and military housing, America is taking another big step towards the competitive, clean energy economy it will take to win the future,” he added.

Investments in building retrofits and energy efficiency can make a real difference in the American economy, by creating jobs, growing our industries, improving businesses’ bottom lines, reducing our energy bills and consumption, and preserving our planet for future generations,” the President said while adding that the Clinton Global Initiative has joined the challenge. According to some estimations this investment could create as many as 50,000 jobs nationwide in the struggling construction industry. Companies like General Electric and Walgreen’s have committed to the challenge and are joined by the cities of Atlanta, Denver and Sacramento as well as Delaware State University, Michigan State University, The University of California Irvine and the University of Utah. Though the minimum upgrades to participate must reach a 20% energy savings by 2020, many have decided to go above and beyond, pledging up to 50% reductions.

In the United States each year, buildings consume 39% of our energy and 68% of our electricity according to The Whole Building Design Guide. Taking steps to cut our buildings’ energy use — like those that have already been initiated in cities like New York — could make a huge dent in our nation’s emissions. This whopping $4 billion commitment is the kind of cash that will surely come back to us in the long run. Every dollar put into upgrading a building’s energy efficiency saves money for the life of the building in energy costs.

+ Better Buildings Challenge