Think of the Michigan Battle of the Buildings as the thrill of victory without the agony of defeat. Sure, winners get recognized and receive awards, but in truth, everyone who enters wins because they learn how to reduce energy usage. The resources, tools and personal guidance each participant receives help them save money on energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint.

The biggest loser

“This is one of those times when being the biggest loser is a good thing for a company, because it indicates a significant reduction in energy use,” said Cheri Holman, executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter, which organizes the competition. “In the end, everyone wins.”

Participation is simple. Contestants upload their energy use data for the calendar year to the ENERGY STAR ® Portfolio Manager. This data serves as the baseline for their Energy Utilization Index for the competition, and the company with the greatest percentage of energy use reduction from the previous year wins in its category. The Michigan Battle of the Buildings is free and open to all Michigan businesses and multifamily buildings. The competition is sponsored by DTE Energy and the Michigan Energy Office.

Engineering savings

Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber (FTCH), an engineering consulting firm based in Grand Rapids, was among the first companies to participate.

“We got involved because we wanted to reduce energy usage and save money, said Chelly Heeringa, FTCH facility director. “We believe the Battle of the Buildings reflects on our efforts to be good corporate citizens and stewards of our natural resources,”.

FTCH has been participating in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings since 2014. According to Heeringa, involvement has helped the company reduce electricity consumption by 6 percent and natural gas consumption by 25 percent. That equates to approximately $11,000 in electricity savings and $2,000 in natural gas savings annually.  

“The biggest benefit of this program is that it makes our facilities department aware of energy costs and acts as a catalyst to target new energy savings projects every year,” said Heeringa. “In addition, we enjoy the Energy Summit breakout sessions where we hear how other building owners are saving energy and talk to vendors about new products and services that can help us reduce energy usage.”

Small steps lead to great results

Every little bit helps, and multiple measures can add up to big savings.

“Any Michigan bar, retail store, brewery, small bank or warehouse can conceivably win this competition simply by upgrading their lighting to LED,” Holman said. “That alone can reduce lighting-related costs by 75 percent.”

She also suggested having the furnace inspected and tuned up, unplugging unused appliances and fixing leaky faucets.

“I can’t think of a reason why any company would not want to find out where they stand in energy consumption and improve. You can’t change what you don’t measure,” Holman said.

Small Business Energy Assistance Program

Measuring and analyzing a participant’s energy usage is offered free, thanks to the Small Business Energy Assistance Program. Sponsored by DTE and the Michigan Energy Office, the program provides a building audit and financial analysis to uncover systems and processes that are increasing energy usage. A team of experts develops a strategic plan and provides access to incentives that can drastically reduce the cost of new equipment. Funding for the program is limited, so businesses are urged to apply now.


Everyone who enters the 2019 Michigan Battle of the Buildings will win by reducing their energy bills while achieving recognition as an environmentally responsible organization. In addition to positive press, all battle contestants receive free registration for the annual Energy Summit.

“We’ve found that 90 percent of buildings in the competition continue in subsequent years. They keep looking for ways to continuously improve, and that’s good for them and for the planet,” Holman said.

Battle of the Buildings 2019

Registration runs January 1 through March 31, 2019. For more information and instructions on how to enter:

Check out these videos
Watch Battle of the Building competitors, including FTCH, share their stories on the USGBC YouTube channel.