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4 Questions for a Better Buildings Case Competition Judge: Marc Costa of the Energy Coalition

June 24, 2014 - 10:21am


Marc Costa of The Energy Coalition was a judge in the Better Buildings Case Competition. | Photo courtesy of Marc Costa

Marc Costa of The Energy Coalition was a judge in the Better Buildings Case Competition. | Photo courtesy of Marc Costa

The Better Buildings Case Competition supports the broader Better Buildings Initiative goal to reduce energy consumption in commercial, multifamily, public, and industrial buildings across the U.S. by at least 20% in the ten years. The competition encourages university students to develop new, innovative energy-efficient approaches to help American families and businesses save energy and money. Since 2012, students have presented over 100 solutions to more than 60 businesses, organizations, agencies and governments.

The Better Buildings Case Competition also engages business leaders and students, serving as an effective networking platform and a recruiting tool between and amongst participants. In part one of this series, we interview Marc Costa of The Energy Coalition. Marc Costa, a judge in the 2014 Better Buildings Case Competition, hired student Harry Bergmann shortly after he and his team from the University of California at Santa Barbara won two awards. In part two of the series, we interview Harry about his experience.

Question: Tell us a little bit about the work you and your organization do.

Marc Costa: The Energy Coalition (TEC) is a California-based non-profit organization engaged in creating solutions for a more sustainable energy future. We work with governments, businesses and schools to help them be more energy-responsible. The work ranges from helping public agencies upgrade their facilities to education and outreach. The breadth of our activities and the network of our collaborators help forge cross-sector partnerships that ensure more enduring success.

Q2: You have obviously had success leveraging the case competition as a recruiting tool, can you say a few words about the caliber of students the Better Buildings Case Competition attracts and why it was a good resource for your organization?

MC: Two main things about the competition helped us find great candidates - one was the presentation format of the event, and the second was the networking opportunity after the award ceremony.  The caliber of students exceeded expectations.  In the Electri-city track, our judging panel commented that the student groups delivered presentations comparable to a seasoned, top-dollar consulting firm.  The quality of the students was apparent in their ability to tackle an industry challenge and creatively show a depth of understanding and analysis.  With that quality known, the networking allowed us to get to know the students on an individual basis and see if their studies, experience and passion were a fit for our organization.

Volunteers and emerging professionals in industry organizations offer great potential. Design and case competitions like the Better Buildings Case Competition are a perfect arena to see the caliber of available talent. Their participation shows they are passionate about the industry and offers insight into their talent.

Q3: What do you think a fresh/young mind, like your new hire, can bring to the table at your organization and similar organizations?

MC: More than ever, energy and environmental topics once learned on the job are being offered as degree programs and through fellowships.  To have a new hire bring this formal education and pair it with on the job training will raise the bar for our company and the communities we serve.  Market transformation is needed more than ever, and fresh ideas can be the catalyst for new programs and success in our industry.

Q4: Do you plan to participate in the next Better Buildings Case Competition?

MC: Definitely.  Last year was our first time and we are looking forward to participating again, hearing out-of-the-box ideas and meeting some of the best students in the country who are interested in sustainability.