New Series on Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

November 21, 2020 | Posted In:

My name is Andrew Polich and I’m pursuing a Master of Science in Sustainability Studies at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Asheville. For my capstone project, I decided to collaborate with The Blue Horizons Project and focus on communicating local success stories in greener buildings. My goal is to help Blue Horizons Project in its mission to help promote energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the region by using what I’ve learned in my studies.

A Lenoir-Rhyne Summer 2020 “Communicating Science” course with a guest lecture by Helen Chickering (third from left) of Blue Ridge Public Radio

This series will highlight some of our local heroes–individuals and buildings that are helping to reduce their carbon emissions. The blog posts will pursue a positive narrative, one where the protagonist wins and the reader is left feeling inspired and motivated. In my research for this project, I learned that this can’t be accomplished with pure statistics. It requires a simple story arc, relatable characters, and even the occasional comedic relief. That will be my approach to this blog series.

More specifically, I will look at energy efficiency within the commercial community. I’ve been working with Sophie Mullinax, Project Coordinator at The Blue Horizons Project. She and her team are focusing on private residents and big industry. The largest tranche of the pie chart below–commercial–is consuming almost 34% of Buncombe County’s energy! I think with the right type of positive engagement, the commercial community can embrace its energy efficiency potential with a vengeance. Please see here for Blue Horizons Project’s resources for businesses to reduce their energy use and learn more about renewable energy rebates for businesses.


Source: Asheville & Buncombe County – Renewable Energy Goals

Energy efficiency in commercial buildings is a complex story to communicate to the larger public. I’ve been interested in communicating intricate stories to broader audiences for some time. Before moving to Asheville in 2017, I was working for the US Institute of Peace translating work in international non-violent conflict resolution to various stakeholders. Since then, I’ve been working with renewable energy groups to tell their story. I was lucky to travel to Puerto Rico and Cuba with fellow story tellers and videographers and explore the islands’ energy infrastructure. These projects have been anything but easy. But I learned that your information has to be simple, visual, recurrent, and is best told as a story. 

In Buncombe County, there are countless businesses making their buildings more energy efficient. These achievements are being shared often through a company press release or portfolios of engineering firms. My hope is that these blog posts through on The Blue Horizons Project website and social media will reignite the conversation and inspire more change.

Left to right: visiting a Water Mission project in Orocovis, Puerto Rico; interviewing at a Cuban solar farm; sharing findings at the App State 2019 Energy Summit

I hope you enjoy this series and learn something about the green buildings and energy heroes in our community! Find out more about how The Blue Horizons Project can help your company–reach out to Sophie Mullinax, [email protected]. For comments about these posts, drop me a line me [email protected].