Looking Up at Empire State Building

Convincing the building sector to implement efficiencies has proven to be a tall order.

How can we convince owners of mid-size commercial and residential buildings to do business with us? Because, frankly, we’re offering them a sweet deal.

This was the central question at the session I recently attended at the American Conference on Energy-Efficient Economies in Washington, DC. I went to this conference for the opportunity to exchange new ideas about the best ways to finance energy efficiencies in bigger buildings. I look for feedback from people who understand the need and the challenges to convincing property owners that installing energy efficient retrofits is affordable in the short-term and will save them money in the long term. Bonus: it will help the planet enormously; reducing energy consumption is a highly effective means to mitigating global warming.

But we need buy-in from the building sector. My colleagues south of the border are facing the same difficulty. There’s a lot of resistance out there – maybe it all sounds too good to be true. Toronto Atmospheric Fund offers owners up to 100% financing to pay for energy-efficient retrofits. This is not a conventional loan. The owner pays us back through the realized savings on their energy bill. Once the costs of the retrofit have been paid off, the owner’s operating expenses are reduced by the amount saved.

At the conference, I learned something about this message: Don’t just talk about cost savings. People don’t make decisions based on a single factor. You need to provide multiple reasons for entering such an arrangement in the hopes that one or more will be persuasive.

To building owners: Not only will our financing approach save you money in the long-term without you taking on a loan, installing energy-efficient measures will also add value to your building in that energy isn’t being wasted and operating costs are lower. Your building will be more comfortable – your tenants and residents won’t be opening windows because of over-heating in the winter or because the air conditioning is too high in the summer. Common sense tells you that being less wasteful and more comfortable, while spending less money is a very good idea. Finally, consuming less energy benefits the environment and what’s good for the environment is good for all of us.

Behavioral change takes time. We realize that this is still a relatively new approach. But we’ve been talking for awhile now, and we’re starting to get impatient!