Green Boot Camp Puts Cities Through Their Paces

Energy efficiency has grown in popularity thanks in part to the Obama administration, bringing new attention to retrofitting with promises of green jobs and meeting energy goals. A range of business people, experts and officials from 17 cities met this week at the Harvard Kennedy School to discuss how to build jobs and modernize buildings.

"Green Boot Camp: Recovery Through Retrofitting" brought together over 120 senior officials and experts with the promise of training and networking efforts towards a green economy. Organized and sponsored by Living Cities, who recently released the "Green Cities" report, the conference was designed to ensure the right strategies are employed to tackle problems related to cost, workforce size and knowledge.

According to Living Cities, cost-effective residential and commercial building energy efficiency improvements could lead to 500 megatons of potential emission abatement, and a slew of green jobs. Every $1 million invested in structural energy efficiency creates nearly 22 new jobs, per the Apollo Alliance.

The program is also sponsored by the Project on Municipal Innovation, a partnership between Living Cities and Harvard, coordinated by the Institute for Sustainable Communities. Seeking to answer the question presented by rising energy costs and economic strife, the boot camp is intended to complement and focus efforts to create jobs and reduce carbon emissions.

The boot camp agenda pursued the issues that confront the implementation of an integrated structural energy retrofitting initiative: sustainable finances, support for the resulting green jobs and increasing citizen participation. Building support for efficient retrofitting is sought through policy, marketing and community action.

Confirmed via his Twitter feed, Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, spoke at the boot camp. Another keynote speaker, Auden Schendler, author of the recent book "Getting Green Done," talked about how vital a massive building retrofit program is to "save the planet."

Director of Sustainability for Aspen Ski Company, Schendler has been vocal about the difficulty in really greening your company, an impossible task, he said in an interview with BusinessWeek. Green initiatives are all about making the insurmountable possible- one of the attendees, Cathy Polaski, Minneapolis Director of Economic Development, said that stimulus funds have provided for "unprecedented partnerships," reported USA Today.

These unlikely collaborations have been forged by the boot camp, bringing state and city officials, utilities, energy efficiency providers, university extensions, along with a variety of private sector professionals together.

One of the issues that Living Cities highlighted in their “Green Cities” report was a lack of initiatives towards low-income families, an issue that will inevitably need to be addressed in any mass retrofit initiative. Such concerns may have received attention, as Anne Keeney was in attendance, Executive Director of the Seattle Jobs Initiative, which trains and supports low-income individuals.

Director of energy efficient homes for the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development, Ken Strong, and Ted Atwood, city energy advisor also attended, from a city that is implementing green changes, like LED traffic lights, and has completed a greenhouse-gas inventory.

Mark Alan Hughes, Chief Policy Advisor and Director of Sustainability for Philadelphia, attended, bringing insights from a city that may soon reap benefits from it's university development of an exterior insulation, aptly-dubbed “Exolation.” Exolation was designed with low-income rowhouses in mind, after determining that existing exterior-wraps were inefficient.

Energy efficiency and conservation grant deadlines for $3.2 billion are rapidly approaching, paving the way for later funding towards green jobs and low-income home weatherization. As these deadlines loom closer, efforts like this boot camp that work towards implementing an infrastructure to support soon-to-be flourishing areas, like green jobs, are vital.