City honors participants in Building Energy Challenge

Minneapolis City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden (right) shakes hands with Hennepin County Energy Manager Leah Hiniker on Thursday at the Building Energy Challenge awards ceremony. Photo courtesy City of Minneapolis

The City of Minneapolis recognized the operators of six buildings Thursday for their efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Awardees included operators of the Stinson Ramp in Northeast, the Basilica of Saint Mary, the Hennepin County Government Center, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage’s four-building campus, Butler Square and Calhoun Square. Operators of each took stops to curb energy use in 2016, such as installing LED light bulbs, more efficient boilers and more efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment.

Each operator received a wooden plaque from City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden and Katie Jones Schmitt, who runs the city’s Building Energy Challenge. Halston Sleets, a policy aide for Mayor Betsy Hodges, spoke before the ceremony.

“The work that we all do in combating climate change is not always visible, but it’s absolutely critical,” she said.

A Minneapolis ordinance requires operators of commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and over and city-owned buildings 25,000 square feet and over to benchmark their buildings’ energy consumption and report it to the city. The idea is to determine opportunities for improvement, recognize high performers and determine progress toward the goals in the city’s Climate Action Plan.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Glidden said Thursday.

The Building Energy Challenge came out of the benchmarking program, Jones Schmitt said. The challenge, which is voluntary, has participating building operators actively pursue a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in their buildings by 2020. In turn, they receive recognition from the city and potentially save money.

“It’s just another one of those things that brings attention to energy efficiency,” Jones Schmitt said. “Any time that we can lift up energy efficiency as something to be focused on, it helps move the needle.”

All 15 participating buildings have shown reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Jones Schmitt said. As a group, they’ve also reduced energy use by 9 percent.

Calhoun Square, for example, has seen its energy use cut in half in the past few years because of major lighting and HVAC upgrades, according to the city. The Ackerberg Group, which manages the building, has swapped out two oversized HVAC units, installed programmable thermostats and worked with tenants to upgrade to LED lighting, 

Property Manager Angela Richter said it’s been exciting to participate in the challenge, noting that the company won an award last year, too. She said they’re fortunate that The Ackerberg Group ownership values energy efficiency.

“They’ve been extremely willing to let us do all these projects as a capital expense,” she said.

Richter said Calhoun Square has seen a 50 percent reduction in electrical expenses in the parking ramp alone. The rest of the building isn’t too far behind, she said.

Minneapolis’ Climate Action Plan called for the city to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 30 percent by 2025, using 2006 levels as a baseline. For commercial and industrial buildings, the plan called for them to achieve 20 percent energy efficiency from the growth baseline by 2025.

The city exceeded the 2015 emissions goal by 2.8 percentage points.

For more information on this year’s challenge winners, visit