2023 Fall Highlights
November 9, 2023
As I watch the last of the leaves fall silently from the hickory tree outside my office window (accompanied by the not-so-silent thuds of the nuts!), I’m struck by the significance of the events that came to pass this year. It’s been quite a year globally and here at Energy Shrink. I am just getting a chance to share it, and I ask that you grab a warm drink and give this newsletter/labor-of-love/ a read. And, as you peruse, consider what you could do with us in the coming months.
As Global Citizens
After this year’s hottest summer since 1880, these headlines stuck out for me. Did you note them too?
- The Pacific Islands Forum, which represents many of the most vulnerable countries at risk from rising sea levels, has invited international legal experts to consider whether a state is still a state if its land disappears below the waves leaving its citizens at risk of being stateless.
- Vanuatu, a South Pacific island state whose existence is at risk, initiated a resolution at the UN seeking to define the human rights obligations of governments.
Imagine that. While we were busy assessing policies and programs, some nation states were assessing their very existence. With Thanksgiving approaching, we have much to be grateful for here.
As some of my friends head to COP 28 in Dubai this month (Nov 30 – Dec 12), it’s not so great to know that the US became the world’s largest exporter of natural gas this year — although lower GHG emitting than coal, it’s still not better than energy efficiency. Which brings me to our work!
Our Work This Year
With the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) paired with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), we are starting to see the impact of the funds flowing from the Federal to the State and Local governments. Our industry is seeing the best and brightest of all stripes starting to coalesce around the purpose and the economic opportunity. That’s the silver lining.
At Energy Shrink, we pride ourselves on being able to work on both broad decarbonization policy and program work, and deep individual buildings analyses. Energy Shrink is part of teams competing to create climate action plans and perform GHG accounting. Our work on decarbonization has never been more acutely valued. Here are some highlights of the year so far, followed by partnering opportunities and some team updates that I’m pleased to share!
International work with the World Bank Group and UNEP-FI and…
Building Codes and Building Green papers: I was pleased to contribute to two papers published by the World Bank Group this year: A Building Code checklist for Green Buildings and a report on Building Green: Sustainable Construction in Emerging Markets (and I do appreciate their policy of acknowledging the contributors in print. It is a pleasure to be associated with these publications.)
UNEP-FI Training for bankers: Energy Shrink is working closely with UNEP-FI to produce a training on Green Buildings for Commercial Bankers to help them meet their Principles for Responsible Banking commitments. The presentation is ready and a complementary paper is in the works.
Green Building Retrofits for the Republic of Korea. A delegation of government officials and architects visiting from The Republic of Korea (South Korea) invited me for a paid engagement (thank you for paying a consultant for their time!) on the topic of Green Building Retrofits technologies and their acceleration with public policy. The officials from the departments of land, infrastructure, transport, climate, and sustainability and some architectural experts were on a learning tour to New York City and Washington, DC. It was my pleasure to host them at our DC office. Many spoke only Korean, and leaned on the interpreter. So, instead of launching into a typical presentation, I showed them only the outline of my material, and asked them what they wanted to discuss. This format for a discussion took time, but we had good engagement!
A book is in the works too!
Very excited to report that I have signed a contract with Wiley Publishers to write a book on ‘Decarbonizing Buildings’. Fashioned after my eponymous course offered through the George Washington University, the book will be out next year! (To be honest, I pitched it with great passion + clarity + supporting documentation, but you could’ve knocked me down with a feather when I received the news that it had been accepted. Now the important and hard work begins.)
In other noteworthy publications that are a big win for Zero Carbon and Passive Design – two topics after my own heart — ASHRAE has published two important standards recently: A method for evaluating Zero Carbon and a Passive Building Design draft that was released in September, which I am really pleased to see. With ASHRAE publishing these standards, we know the concepts are going mainstream!
US States and Cities Climate and Policy Work
New York, DC, and Virginia
- NYSERDA FlexTech awardee: Energy Shrink was proud to be selected among the select Flex Tech service providers at NYSERDA in the areas of Benefit Cost Analysis (Area E), and Policy Analysis and Technology Assessment (Area J). Energy Shrink led the proposal and our team included Synapse and DHI – two firms we are looking forward to working with again! See the full announcement here.
- Advisor to DC Public Commission: We delivered a confidential report to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia with our review and advisory on utility climate business plans for alignment with DC’s Carbon goals. (This project wins my favorite project of the year award for its complexity and depth!) You might have read the announcement about this last year. More about our valuable partners in there.
- A Green Building Policy for Fairfax City: Energy Shrink is serving as the policy lead on a team led by Cadmus to craft a Green Building Policy for Fairfax City. Cadmus is engaging the stakeholders, and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing how our policy recommendations develop through the engagement process. The goal is to achieve resolution on this matter by the middle of next year. We were able to offer this service with Cadmus under the MWCOG master contract that we won together last year.
- DC Train Green provider: We were thrilled that DCSEU selected Energy Shrink as a Train Green provider. We offered a course on Passive Design and Energy modeling for Architects (of course), while our partner Nicole Tysvaer of Symbi Homes fame offered a course on Resilient Remodeling.
- Program Support for NYSERDA Buildings of Excellence: Energy Shrink is pleased to partner with TRC (which is leading this work) to support the NYSERDA Buildings of Excellence track of the New Construction Program. We were invited to this project by TRC for our technical expertise. The work is ongoing and has been expanded upon. More on the awesome team members delivering this work at the bottom of this newsletter.
We love that our clients like us and keep coming back with more work. That’s the holy grail at Energy Shrink.
Mentoring, Reviewing and Jurying
- NextGen Mentor. It was an absolute pleasure to serve as a mentor with the New Building Institute’s NextGen mentorship program for a second time. My mentee Kaitlin N LaRosa was a wonderful young woman – inquisitive, prepared, humble — who was getting ready for her internship in corporate sustainability which led to an offer for permanent employment at EY once she graduates. I’m not surprised they wanted her back!
- BTO Peer Review of BEM Track. It is always a pleasure to serve as a Peer Reviewer for the Building Technologies Office of the US DOE. This year I served on the Building Energy Modeling (BEM) track. Wonderful to see the latest research and problems being tackled at the Federal level.
- Solar Decathlon Juror. Honored to be invited by the US Department of Energy as a juror for the Solar Decathlon at the fantastic Net Zero Research Support Facility at NREL outside Denver, CO. The inter-disciplinary collaboration, thoughtfulness, and intent of the participating teams – not only in building science but also in equity and justice – filled me with hope for our future built environment.
Boots on the Ground
DC and Maryland
At Energy Shrink, we like to keep our program and policy work informed by keeping our feet firmly planted in real buildings.
Identifying Building Performance Pathways for the iconic Ring Building: We assessed the Ring Building in DC for pathways to meet DC’s Building Performance Standards. (One electrical box in the building basement says “Blackstone”. How cool is that?) Brought in by local project developers ThinkBox, our technical team found several promising measures for performance improvement.
With the current challenges with commercial leasing, it may be a while before we see implementation. But we provided our client with both a simple and cost-effective package, as well as a clear direction for deep retrofits when the time is ripe for those.
Benchmarking Verification for St John’s Norwood: Energy Shrink performed benchmarking and verification services for the lovely St John’s Norwood church. We leveraged a grant from the Montgomery County Green Bank to subsidize the work. Here is what pastor and building manager Tim Dobbyn had to say, “Smita, that is breathtakingly fantastic news! You folks were great to work with. Let’s touch base in the new year (fresh budget!) about surveying our next best steps to save energy.”
Again, we love that we have repeat clients.
Doing Our Bit
By Women for Women
Comfort Assessment for the DASH Building: The DASH client reached out to us directly to find solutions for thermal comfort issues at their properties (we love when that happens!). DASH — District Alliance for Safe Housing — provides a safe shelter for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Considering their mission and the competing demands on their resources, Energy Shrink wrote off a majority of our fees. This project embodies who we are as a company. We are an integral part of the local community, and we want to apply our skills to make a positive contribution to our community. We hope to make our profits elsewhere to make it a win-win in the bigger scheme of things.
Some opportunities taught valuable lessons
Win Some, Lose Some
Yeah, we didn’t win these unfortunately. But I am very proud of the compelling proposals we crafted together, and for being rated at the top in each of these.
- Energy Efficiency and Resilience Action Plan for Mason University: Energy Shrink led this proposal and crafted the overall strategy for stakeholder engagement and technical response. The strategy included finding the right partners: Arup for continuity and advisory (who had already crafted Mason’s Climate Strategy), Lilker for MEP, and Stella for renewables strategy. We were invited to the final interview, but the university decided to proceed with a physical projects implementor.
- Efficiency Program Energy Consultant Services to MD DHCD: We nearly won this one (ah, it still hurts). We were rated the highest technically, but another team seriously underbid us on price. Public procurement rules don’t always allow open negotiation. Energy Shrink led this proposal with Tetra Tech as the key sub with local expertise in program delivery. The proposal process with this team was highly enjoyable!
- Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) at MWCOG: Energy Shrink was on the team with Cadmus that nearly won this pursuit of the first phase of the grant offered by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. We also partnered with JLL on an alternate proposal on which we collaborated closely.
As a local small business with technical subject matter expertise, we are sometimes invited to be on multiple teams, for which I am grateful.
New Partnering Opportunities
as a certified business in more places
- Energy Shrink has recently registered with the World Bank Group as a certified WOSB vendor. If the World Bank Group is your wheelhouse, contact Energy Shrink as a valuable partner on the decarbonization of the built environment.
- DC is becoming stricter about requiring and enforcing DC CBE requirements. We are one of the rare DC CBEs with a strong skillset in green buildings. Contact us for your green buildings needs.
- We are also a certified MBE in MA, and MD, and with CA CPUC, SWAM in VA, and WOSB with the US Federal Government. (One of these days, these organizations will centralize/optimize these certifications too.)
We also might have met here…
- MSNG (Midsummer Night’s Green): Organized annually by USGBC-NCR. Always a well-produced, fun night and great for networking!
- Greenbuild: Another glamorous event orgnized by the national USGBC. The Lorax/Steven Winter and JLL side parties were great too.
- ACEEE EER Conference: In Philly this year, this is a more academic event, but we love those too. Lots of learning and networking with thought leaders.
Team member spotlight
Analyst Rachel Chamberlain
The spotlight today is on Rachel Chamberlain, an Analyst who joined Energy Shrink early this year. With a background in sustainability, Rachel quickly distinguished herself with her thoughtful and intelligent work on the DCPSC contract. So when TRC asked for support on the NYERDA Buildings of Excellence program, I didn’t hesitate to ask Rachel. She has proved to be a steady and highly valuable team member, going above and beyond to help during transitions of other team members.
The Long and Short of it
On the lighter side, here is a picture of our wonderful intern, Harper Wolf. Harper is a Corporate Sustainability student at American University. Full of positive energy, Harper is seen here visiting the DASH apartment building with me. Can you guess how tall she is?
Could you guess? She’s certainly not as tall as a standard door! That’s an unusually short door to a half height room 🙂 Reminded me of floor 7-1/2 in Being John Malkovich.
I will leave you with one last thought. All the money flowing into our industry is bringing in equity investors who are consolidating the small and mid-size green consulting businesses of years past. Considering what it takes for boutique businesses like ours to carve out our space under the sun, I truly appreciate each and every one of you who have trusted us with projects, proposals, leads, and partnerships this year! I hope you will continue to challenge us with your innovative and ambitious projects.
In the meantime, wish you a good Fall, and a happy holiday season ahead!
Smita Chandra Thomas