Envision Charlotte is Helping Cities Find and Share Solutions

By Emily Yates

Emily Yates is the Deputy Director for Envision Charlotte, where she is responsible for leading and implementing local programming to create a smarter, more sustainable Charlotte.

Dec 7, 2017 | Governance, Society | 0 comments

Since the U.S. Federal government officially pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, U.S. cities and subnational actors have stepped up to continue to reduce emissions and stay in line with the agreement targets. This was never more evident than earlier this month at COP 23 where discussions focused on “further, faster ambition together” and how cities are poised to lead in the efforts to address climate change. At Envision Charlotte, a local 501 (c)3 organization in Charlotte, North Carolina, we embody this desire and have successfully led the City’s progress as a globally recognized Smart City.

Envision Charlotte (EC) is a public-private-plus collaborative that leverages innovation and technology to strengthen economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and positive community impact. We work to foster this innovation and first-of-their kind programs and ensure that our programming can be measured, scaled and replicated to improve quality of life – not only within our cities, but in other cities, as well.

Partnerships for Energy Efficiency

At the core of our work has been our energy program, which was launched in 2011 with a goal of reducing energy emissions and increasing energy efficiency in Charlotte’s Uptown through behavioral changes and low to no-cost interventions. The foundation of this program was a successful public-private-plus relationship between:

  • Envision Charlotte
  • Duke Energy (our local utility)
  • The City of Charlotte
  • University of North Carolina, Charlotte (UNCC, our local university)
  • Charlotte Center City Partners

With a strong team in place, Envision Charlotte secured the participation of 61 of the largest Uptown Charlotte commercial buildings. The buildings signed agreements to become part of Envision Charlotte’s energy program and reduce their energy consumption by 20% over five years. At the completion of the project this past December, we achieved a 19% reduction in energy consumption which equated to $26 million in billed energy savings or the reduction of CO2 emissions equivalent to removing 11,003 cars from the road.

A key component to the success of this program is our Energy Roundtables. Envision Charlotte designed this program in partnership with UNCC’s Sustainable Integrated Building Systems (SIBS) program. When 61 buildings agreed to participate, shadow meters and kiosks were installed in the buildings to collect granular data and allow tenants to better understand how the building was consuming energy.

UNCC engineering students collected and analyzed this data, and then presented building operators with recommendations and offered support for implementing those energy-reducing and cost-saving behavior changes. To date, 121 students have participated in the Energy Roundtables and the demand for this course continues to grow.

While we focus mostly on the collection of quantitative data in this program, there are many qualitative examples of this program’s success as well. For example, in one of the buildings the students noticed a peak in energy consumption on a specific floor each morning at 10:00 AM. By examining the data and the building systems, students found that a prior CEO had set the thermostat in one conference room to an extremely low temperature for the daily staff meeting. By adjusting this single thermostat to within the recommended range, the building saved over $10,000 annually in energy savings, proving that small interventions can have substantial impact.

The Envision Charlotte partners have proven that a cooperative approach to reducing energy use works. Because we saw so much success in this program, Envision Charlotte capitalized on this close working relationship between EC, Duke Energy, UNCC SIBS and the building operators or managers, and we secured a 3-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand the program to 200 buildings in the Charlotte area.

Envision America

In 2015 EC was identified by the Obama Administration as a national role model for the rapid deployment of smart city technologies and innovation. Rather than going to each city to share our model, we decided to invite cities to Charlotte to see it in action. We developed an annual conference called Envision America and each year we have welcomed city leaders from 10 U.S. cities. This 3-day conference and workshop was designed to create a peer network that can help diagnose and solve issues related to smart cities, sustainability and resilience.

Over the past two years, Envision America has connected the know-how and resources of our nation’s private sector with the innovative spirit of urban communities to help create America’s new smarter future and bring positive economic, social and environmental benefits to Americans everywhere.

The By Cities For Cities conference will be hosted in Charlotte from June 5-7, 2018. The conference will follow the same style of convening as Envision America, but will expand to the topics of energy, water, waste, transportation, governance, and safety. There will be panel discussions as well as opportunities for focused dialogue between cities. We are issuing a global challenge to cities to become smarter by accelerating deployment of innovative technologies that tackle energy, water, waste, and transportation challenges.

If you’re interested in learning more about this conference, please visit http://www.bycitiesforcities.com/ and enter your email to be notified when registration opens, and receive updates on the agenda.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

COVID-19 is Creating the Largest Ever Telecommunity, But Not for Everyone

COVID-19 is Creating the Largest Ever Telecommunity, But Not for Everyone

Social distancing is becoming the new normal, at least for those of us who are heeding the Center for Disease Control’s warnings and guidelines. But if you don’t have reliable, high-speed broadband, it is impossible to engage in what is now the world’s largest telecommunity. As many schools and universities around the world (including those of my kids) are shut down, these institutions are optimistically converting to online and digital learning. However, with our current broadband layout, this movement will certainly leave many Americans behind.

How to Move More People with Fewer Vehicles

How to Move More People with Fewer Vehicles

Accenture analysts recently released a report calling for cities to take the lead in creating coordinated, “orchestrated” mobility ecosystems. Limiting shared services to routes that connect people with mass transit would be one way to deploy human-driven services now and to prepare for driverless service in the future. Services and schedules can be linked at the backend, and operators can, for example, automatically send more shared vehicles to a train station when the train has more passengers than usual, or tell the shared vehicles to wait for a train that is running late.

Managing urban congestion and mobility comes down to the matter of managing space. Cities are characterized by defined and restricted residential, commercial, and transportation spaces. Private autos are the most inefficient use of transportation space, and mass transit represents the most efficient use of transportation space. Getting more people out of private cars, and into shared feeder routes to and from mass transit modes is the most promising way to reduce auto traffic. Computer models show that it can be done, and we don’t need autonomous vehicles to realize the benefits of shared mobility.

Planning for Arts and Culture in San Diego

Planning for Arts and Culture in San Diego

The role of government, and the planning community, is perhaps to facilitate these kinds of partnerships and make it easier for serendipity to occur. While many cities mandate a portion of the development budget toward art, this will not necessarily result in an ongoing benefit to the arts community as in most cases the budget is used for public art projects versus creating opportunities for cultural programming.  

Rather than relying solely on this mandate, planners might want to consider educating developers with examples and case studies about the myriad ways that artists can participate in the development process. Likewise, outreach and education for the arts community about what role they can play in projects may stimulate a dialogue that can yield great results. In this sense, the planning community can be an invaluable translator in helping all parties to discover a richer, more inspiring, common language.

Share This