The Portland Metropolitan Association of Building Owners and Managers (BOMA) and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s Better Bricks initiative has launched Carbon4Square, a challenge to commercial office buildings in Portland, Ore., to reduce their environmental footprints over the course of 12 months. Eighty-five buildings that total over 14 million square feet of commercial space and represent over 20 percent of the Portland metropolitan market have signed on to the challenge.

The challenge also is supported by the Energy Trust of Oregon, the City of Portland’s BEST Business Center, City of Portland Department of Transportation, City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Energy Star, City of Gresham’s Great Businesses, and Business Smart Trips.

Participating buildings must develop strategies to reduce their carbon footprints in four categories: watts, water, waste, and wheels. Watts refers to the emissions generated through the energy in building operations. Water translates to the emissions generated through the energy used in pumping, treating, moving, and disposing of water. Waste is calculated by the emissions generated through the consumption of products and removing, hauling, and treating of waste. Wheels refers to the emissions generated in getting people, goods, and services to and from the buildings.

By participating in the project, building management teams will have access to local area experts, financial and technical resources, and educational opportunities to help them get started.  Additionally, each building will be assigned its own “4Square Coach” to guide teams through the competition and assist in outlining environmental priorities for the next two to three years. Participants also will be able to see what tracking other property managers have completed via the Carbon4Square Status Board, an online resource. Other resources provided through participation in the program include Energy Star certification for qualifying buildings; a scoping study to identify operational improvement opportunities to reduce energy consumption; cash incentives and technical assistance for energy-efficiency projects, system set up of a recycling program; a site visit and customized sustainability guide identifying opportunities in waste, water, and wheels; and a transportation audit.

To register for participation, the buildings must have been eligible to earn an energy-performance rating under the office category defined by Energy Star and must be over 20,000 square feet. The buildings must completed Energy Star benchmarking for 2010 and 2011 to be eligible for prizes or recognition. The grand prize is a trophy the winning building keeps for one year.

The winners will be announced in May 2012. For more information visit carbon4square.com.