We led a four-firm team in a five-year comprehensive evaluation of the Department of Energy’s four-year, $500 million stimulus-funded Better Buildings Neighborhood Program (BBNP). While the federal government has issued periodic funding opportunities for energy efficiency, none has been on the scale of BBNP. Forty-one state and local governments received BBNP grants and worked with nonprofits, building energy-efficiency experts, contractor trade associations, financial institutions, utilities, and other organizations to develop community-based programs, incentives, and financing options for comprehensive energy-saving upgrades. Based on their local objectives, each of the 41 BBNP grant recipients, assisted by 24 sub-grantees, targeted a unique combination of residential, multifamily, commercial, industrial and agricultural buildings.
Our evaluation of this effort had two primary goals:
- Provide a comprehensive assessment of BBNP’s impacts, processes, and market effects.
- Explore the potential for different marketing strategies and program designs to sell building energy upgrades that result in significant energy savings and stimulate the economy.
What We Did
Through a combination of cluster and multivariate regression analyses, our ground-breaking research evaluated and identified the program design and implementation factors associated with success across 54 residential upgrade programs. The process evaluation integrated findings from more than 200 hours of interviews, online participant surveys, and nonparticipant web-intercept surveys.
Our team found that BBNP generated more than 10,000 net jobs and more than $1.3 billion in net economic activity, for an estimated net benefit-cost ratio of 3.0. We found early indicators of program sustainability; grantee programs or program elements would continue past the grant period, as would financing for upgrades and contractor marketing and delivery of whole-home/building upgrades.
Our analyses indicated programs that offered multiple audit types (e.g., on-line, walk-through, and audits that use diagnostic equipment) were more successful than those that did not, and that installing measures during the audit was associated with program success. We also found that providing contractor training and developing large pools of eligible customers are drivers of program success.
DOE conducted multiple public webinars on this research and used our findings in crafting topics for its ongoing webinars and peer-exchange calls, offered through the Better Buildings Residential Solution Center. As one of BBNP’s legacies, DOE developed what is arguably the world’s largest electronic library to support residential energy efficiency upgrades. Our six-volume evaluation report can be accessed here.