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The U.S. Department of Energy has announced $15 million in awards in a program to slash energy use in commercial buildings.

As part of the DOE Net Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative (CBI), 21 companies will team with two DOE National Laboratories to speed market adoption of current energy-saving technologies and produce real-building design solutions that yield significant, measurable energy savings in their commercial buildings.

The DOE requested proposals from its national labs and private sector companies to achieve cost-effective savings of 50% above the ASHRAE standard for new commercial buildings and a savings of 30% for retrofits to existing buildings.

Each private sector company proposed to have their design and facility management team work with DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory to design, build, tune and operate at least one new prototype building and to retrofit an existing building project to achieve the target energy savings.

The $15 million funding provides access to the labs' unique expertise in low-energy building design and retrofit. In designing approaches that can be replicated across the U.S., the labs will provide technical experts to assist researchers, building professionals, the construction industry and component and equipment manufacturers.

Among the companies receiving the awards were financial institutions such as Bank of America, commercial real estate firms such as InterContinental Hotels Group, and retailers such as Target.

In 2007, commercial buildings consumed some 19% of U.S. Energy and accounted for some 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to DOE. For more information, click here.