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Better Homes, Better Buildings, Better Communities

March 21, 2011 - 6:34pm


Martha Stewart created an empire by inviting Americans into her home to show how one small improvement could dramatically transform a room or how tweaking an old recipe could surprise your palette. Martha Stewart, however, is not an engineer – so why would she take a personal interest in BetterBuildings, a U.S. Department of Energy program to reduce energy waste in homes and businesses?

Stewart’s attendance at the Better Buildings program launch in Bedford, New York, earlier this year actually makes perfect sense. Better Buildings programs are based on the same basic notion as Martha Stewart’s work - that a small change can make a huge difference in your home. Stewart and Better Buildings share a common goal: improving quality of life. By saving energy, families can save money and live in more comfortable homes.

The 41 grant recipients of the Better Buildings program were awarded a total of $508 million in federal funding to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and they're already passionately bringing about change in their communities. These projects are creating jobs, boosting local economies and helping consumers save money on their energy bills. By the end of March, almost all program recipients will be offering energy upgrades for homes and businesses throughout the country. For example, this week Clean Energy Works of Oregon is expanding their Portland pilot program to 17 communities throughout the state. Other programs scheduled to launch soon include Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Camden, New Jersey. The program is ramping up fast and soon all Better Buildings communities will realize its benefits.

However, Better Buildings is not simply about making buildings better – it’s about improving communities. The program’s mission is to create a self-sustaining market for building upgrades. Better Buildings aims to ultimately save Americans approximately $50 million annually and create or retain 30,000 jobs. Reducing energy waste in buildings is an important element in creating a clean energy future as buildings currently consume 40% of all energy in the U.S. and are responsible for 38 percent of our carbon emissions. Better Buildings strives to overcome barriers to improving building energy efficiency by improving financing, growing energy efficiency awareness and demand, increasing consumer confidence and supporting job growth.

Better Buildings is making an impact from coast to coast. Hilary Franz of Bainbridge, Washington, whose program launched last week, sees Better Buildings and her small community as two integral elements in a symbiotic relationship. In Bainbridge, Better Buildings is bringing the community closer by creating a project everyone can participate in. Roberta Kisker, a homeowner who received an upgrade in University Park, Maryland, said the rebates the STEP UP! program offered were a great incentive. And being part of STEP UP! helped her feel that she wasn’t acting alone, but was part of a team that was making her home, community and even the world a better place.

So, while Better Buildings may not have Martha Stewart’s degree of impact quite yet, it is making a huge impact in local communities across the country. And, this is only the beginning.

For more information on the Building Technologies Program, visit: