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Project Purpose

The Climate, Buildings and Behavior (CBB) project (formerly the Real Estate Leadership and Climate Change Project) is a component of the Climate, Mind and Behavior (CMB) program. CMB integrates emerging knowledge from the behavioral and social sciences about what drives human behavior, with new thinking about climate change policies and solutions, in order to generate more achievable outcomes (read more about CMB here).

CBB helps real estate developers, managers, and owners utilize knowledge from the neuro-, behavioral, and social sciences to design effective energy consumption behavior change programs for their portfolios. Buildings account for 42% of all U.S. GHG emissions; therefore reducing occupant energy consumption through behavior change can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of buildings. 

Behavioral changes have little to no cost (particularly important in a weak economy) and require no regulation to achieve (for example turning off the lights when you leave the room). Recent studies show that simply giving office building occupants a web page where they can track their energy usage can lead to a 15% reduction in individual usage. Also, it has been shown that when given feedback, college students reduce their energy usage by between 12-40%.

The CBB project works closely with Urban Land Institute (ULI), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Working groups that emerged from the 2010 conference include: designing programs in buildings that induce behavior change; developing metrics to measure changes in energy consumption in buildings; and communicating the CBB message to the press and real estate community.



The CMB program has created a hub of learning networks which connect participants via the web, communities of practice, and face to face meetings. The CBB project's gatherings include:

In May of 2009, the Garrison Institute held its first retreat for real estate leaders, Real Estate Leadership in the Age of Climate Change. The retreat was attended by thirty diverse and influential industry leaders who desired to move their organizations away from business as usual and towards a new paradigm that would transform their climate impacts. Participants collaborated on ways to overcome endemic obstacles, drive organizational change, and cut GHG emissions amid economic uncertainty.

The Garrison Institute hosts Climate, Buildings, and Behavior symposia which focus on applying insights from the neuro-, behavioral, and social sciences to guide building managers and occupants. Many for-profit, not-for-profit, university, institutional, and governmental real estate owners and managers attend each year. Participants are actively implementing and continuing behavior change programs, some of which are described below.

Participant Programs

The following are examples of programs developed by CBB participants to change the energy consumption behaviors of their building occupants.

Common Ground Community is an international leader in the development of solutions to homelessness. They are an affordable housing developer and also work on outreach and prevention. Currently, they have an initiative that aims to change the behavior of their tenants and staff to "create a culture of self sufficiency as well as healthy living/green lifestyle..." To read about Common Ground's behavior and culture change initiative click here.

BetterBricks is the commercial building initiative of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, which is supported by local electric utilities. The BetterBricks initiative works to change the role of energy in Northwest buildings through their design, operations, and occupants. The Kilowatt Crackdown is a unique energy efficiency "competition" administered in partnership with BOMA Seattle. The program successfully engaged over 20% of the entire Puget Sound commercial office market in benchmarking energy use and addressing energy efficiency by tapping into personal motivations and competitive pressures. Over 50 buildings participated, representing over 20 million square feet, and the effort helped BetterBricks win the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year award in 2008.

Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation offers in all of its buildings in the Bronx, NY programs for tenants and their children that have a green theme. They hold workshops on topics such as energy efficiency, what is a green building, recycling tips, and improving indoor air quality. Their other green initiatives include bike helmet giveaways and stair prompts to encourage physical exercise and conservation of natural resources.


Climate, Mind and Behavior Events