This month’s Urbana Business and Economic Development panel was called “Green Built in Urbana-Champaign: A Panel on Local Energy Efficient Development." In addition to representatives from the City of Urbana, the audience included architects and property developers, individuals from several departments of the University of Illinois, the CUMTD, and Ameren. (And at least one interested citizen.)

The panel was moderated by Brandon Boys of the Urbana’s Economic Development Director and featured three local leaders who are “walking the walk” of sustainable building in Urbana and neighboring cities:

  • Sue Dawson, VP of Food Service, Hendrick House, Urbana
  • Scott Bahr, Passive House owner
  • Scott Tess, Sustainability Manager, City of Urbana

Sue Dawson described the 2009 expansion of Hendrick House in Urbana, which, at the initiative of the Hendrick family, followed the LEED Gold process. Now completed, the project includes geothermal energy, solar light pipes, high efficiency kitchen equipment, and a roof top garden, among other technology.  The project also required training and other behavioral changes, such as the elimination of trays in the food services. The results have saved significant amounts of energy and water.

Passivhaus, 704 E. Washington, Urbana. Image courtesy of Robert McGrath

Both Bahr and Dawson found that local providers and builders had limited knowledge and experience with the required techniques and technologies. Even today, in the early twenty-first century, sustainable building is more work than conventional building.  These folks have indeed put in the work to do something significant in our community.

Scott Tess described the Urbana Energ Star Challenge, which invites building owners and managers to participate in a friendly competition to see who can achieve the best score using the EnergyStar commercial building “Portfolio Manager” assessment tool.  Local building operators enter data describing their energy use, which can be compared the national database to derive the Energystar score, which are posted on the “leader board."

The first year of the program saw sixty-eight buildings register, of which four were “certified” (upper 25% nationally). It is generally found that measuring energy use leads to savings, and indeed, this program documented fifteen buildings that saved energy to the tune of over 2,500 metric tons of CO2, equivalent to something like the annual emissions of over five hundred cars.

The program was recognized by an Honorable Mention by the United States Conference of Mayors.

Image courtesy of UC Energy Challenge

This year’s “leader board” can be viewed here.

The City of Urbana’s Business and Economic Development Division holds four lunches throughout the year featuring panels about activities related to economic and community development. These meetings offer the public a view into current public, non-profit, and private sector activities, as well as an opportunity to hear from people involved.

Each Luncheon features a different topic, and builds upon our relationships with Business and Development Professionals to extend information about available incentives and properties, and for those professionals to meet and speak with one another about their ongoing projects. -Miles S. Thomas, Economic Development Specialist, City of Urbana.

Robert E. McGrath lives in Urbana and has been a member of the American Solar Energy Society since 1988.