The 2013 Building Energy Summit, to be held on March 26 in Washington, D.C., promises to address both the challenges and the opportunities associated with energy-efficient management and operation of commercial buildings.

Produced by CoR Advisors, the 2013 Building Energy Summit will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, which is itself a venue for green events and a premier example of energy-efficient operations. The program includes keynote presentations by industry leaders and energy experts, presentations of case studies demonstrating actual building energy-efficiency projects and results, four education tracks with more than 60 nationally recognized speakers in 15 different sessions and ample networking opportunities.

The Summit is hosted by the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID), in support of the “Better Buildings Challenge” and the “DC Smarter Business Challenge.” Sponsors for the event’s educational tracks include Constellation, Exp US Services and Lutron. Additional participating companies include APPI Energy, Boland, BuildingIQ, Cypress Envirosystems, DC SEU, Digital Lumens, Enernoc, Ingersoll Rand, Pepco, Schneider Electric, Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, Tridium, Washington Gas Energy Services, EMO Energy, Grundfos, Infor and Pace Controls. These companies will join keynote speakers, advisory council members and other presenters to discuss the value of technologically advanced building operations and present their vision for the future of energy-efficient buildings.

The 2013 Summit is drawing from a wide range of professionals within or connected to the commercial real estate industry. Attendees will include building owners and managers, energy experts and providers, technology pioneers, engineers, architects, asset managers, corporations, directors of sustainability, solution providers and federal and state government officials.

NREI: On the 2013 Building Energy Summit’s Web site, former CEO of Carbon War Room Jigar Shah, is quoted as saying at last year’s conference: “ If we aren’t serious about this, we should not be here talking about it. If we don’t care about energy efficiency, we should just move on…in the end, the people in this room are the ones who can make a difference.” That’s a very powerful call to make changes. Why did Shah come on so strong? Aren’t people listening?

Darlene Pope: Our theme for the 2012 Summit was “Less talk, more action.” It was great having such passionate speakers and activists participate in the event last year, because it really did motivate attendees and provide a “call to action.” We actually had to edit out the last part of Jigar’s quote, but let’s just say it was a pretty strong message! Between Jigar Shah, Kevin Kampschroer from GSA and Beth Heider from Skanska, we really had a great opening session. Just wait till you see who’s speaking this year!

NREI: When it comes right down to it, why are more people being drawn to making buildings more energy efficient? Is it more about cost or environmental factors?

Darlene Pope: People have to understand that owning and operating buildings is a business in itself. When I hear that building owners are only interested in making money, I think, well, isn’t that what all commercial businesses are interested in? But regardless of the type of building owner, they all need to be concerned about the financial impact to their business. So, yes, I would say that one of the major drivers for building owners and operators is cost—but that can be measured in energy cost savings, higher occupancy rates, better tenant retention, higher rental rates, health and safety of occupants—all of which are benefits of efficient, green buildings. It’s all about increasing the asset value of the property.

NREI: What tangible impacts did last year’s summit have on its attendees? Who are some professionals who were there and who have made big changes in the way they run their buildings since then?

Darlene Pope: Many of the case studies we are spotlighting this year are from companies who attended the 2012 Summit. Also, our advisory council has been instrumental in shaping the program and topics for this year’s event in order to maintain high educational content and relevant topics. Perhaps attendees from this year’s Summit will be presenting their own case studies next year.

NREI: This year’s conference promises to be even bigger than last year’s. How many and what kinds of attendees are you expecting?

Darlene Pope: The target audience for the 2013 Building Energy Summit includes public and private building owners, operators, managers—anyone who is involved in running buildings in a more efficient manner. There are so many stakeholders, from the owners all the way down to the individual tenants, who need to contribute to making a building more efficient. So we are focusing not only on those people involved in efficient building systems, but also on efficient operations and behavior. Last year was the first Building Energy Summit, so we really weren’t sure how many people we would attract. Based on the pre-registrations and activity so far this year, we are expecting between 500 and 600 attendees, many of whom are C-suite executives.

NREI: With its theme of “Seizing Opportunities, Building Value,” the conference should be practical and inspiring. Tell us about some of the high points that are planned.

Darlene Pope: We just confirmed Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) as our opening keynote presentation. Highlights of the summit include an address by Rick Fedrizzi, president of the U.S. Green Building Council; inspiring case study presentations by the GSA, Adobe Systems, Liberty Property Trust; discussions with leading real estate companies and property owners such as CBRE, Transwestern, Hilton Worldwide, Cushman & Wakefield, Colliers, Akridge, Vornado, Jones Lang LaSalle, Shorenstein, Forest City, The Tower Companies, Principal Real Estate Investors, Cadillac Fairview, Skanska, Glenborough.

In our government track, attendees can learn about the latest GSA initiatives for energy management in federal buildings, and hear what Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Seattle and Houston are doing for citywide energy management and sustainability programs. The business track will focus on financial models, ROI, and financing, while the technical track will address new solutions for energy savings. New this year, the corporate track covers portfolio-wide energy strategies and discusses the unique elements of corporate and enterprise programs.

In addition, industry executives from AtSite, Pacific Controls, exp US Services, Lutron, Constellation, Siemens, Tridium, Schneider Electric, BuildingIQ, Ingersoll Rand, Boland and others will spotlight leading edge technologies and energy efficient solutions and services.

NREI: This year’s conference is being promoted as “a landmark effort of leaders from both the public and private sectors coming together for a common goal.” How well are the public and private sectors working together on making buildings work efficiently and addressing climate change?

Darlene Pope: With the GSA as the one of the nation’s largest building owners and managers, it is critical that the government lead by example by making their buildings as efficient as possible. Having a cooperative effort between the public and private sectors allows us to share best practices in efficient building operations, as well as help shape policies that can drive change, create jobs and make the best use of taxpayer dollars.

NREI: It sounds like your program is very hands-on as well as inspirational. What can attendees expect to find there and learn about?

Darlene Pope: We have 15 educational sessions this year in four different tracks: Business/Finance, Technical/Operations, Government, and Corporate/Enterprise. The event is designed to provide a high-level, global message of the importance of efficiency in the built environment—but more importantly, to provide the tools to affect change. We’re covering everything from technology to policy to ROI. We’re fortunate to have such great speakers and compelling case studies to share, and I think that’s what really motivates others to do the same.

NREI: If attendees at the 2013 Building Energy Summit can only take away one thing, what should it be?

Darlene Pope: CoR Advisors has developed a program called “Roadmap to Energy Efficient Buildings,” which is a step-by-step, comprehensive approach to energy management. The Summit is one of the forums through which we are able to promote this roadmap process and provide attendees with the knowledge and resources to take the next step, regardless of where they are in the process. It’s all here, so everyone will leave with something that can help them.