#Swapped16: Energy Teams Swap Buildings and Uncover Energy Savings

Energy Efficiency Meets Reality TV

The Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2016

Companies usually don’t allow managers from other businesses to poke around their facilities, with television cameras no less, and criticize how they do things.

But that is just what happens in “Better Buildings Challenge Swap,” a reality-video series produced by the Energy Department in which two companies give each other an up-close look at their in-house energy uses and practices. The first season, with three episodes, stars Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc., and has more than 400,000 hits on YouTube.

Each episode is produced in the faux-dramatic style typical of competition-based reality television series. The two evaluating teams, comprising three members from each company, are free to roam about the other’s operation, take notes and issue judgments. Afterward, both sides join around a table to discuss what it thinks the other is doing right—and where it could improve.

The results can be revealing, sometimes embarrassingly so. But, the Energy Department hopes, productive as well.

“We want to accelerate energy efficiency in this country, and we want to talk to a business audience,” says Maria Vargas, director of the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Challenge program. It is time for organizations to look at energy efficiency as a strategic advantage, she says, which requires moving the conversation from the boiler room to the C-suite.

And beyond. The Energy Department wants everyone thinking about how to save energy, hence the inclusion of popular brands whose names are familiar to everyone. The campaign also is relying on various media, including YouTube, where the series has enlisted about 1,700 subscribers, and Twitter, on which the campaign says #Swapped16 has garnered some 11 million hits.

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