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HOUSTON-Transwestern and USAA Real Estate Co. are marking their third and sixth consecutive years, respectively, as winners of the sustained excellence award in the EPA’s Energy Star competition. In all, the EPA handed out awards at all levels to 74 companies, representing a broad-based spectrum of the US economy.

The awards will be presented at a special ceremony tonight at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. Transwestern and USAA are the only commercial real estate companies out of 28 “sustained excellence” winners in this year’s competition. The award recognizes significant and continued strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions via energy efficiency.

In the past nine years, Transwestern benchmarked 1,000 buildings to implement energy-efficient changes. The firm’s president and CEO Larry Heard tells GlobeSt.com that the targeted reduction was 10% to 15%, but the measures produced 20% savings due to ongoing maintenance items in operations and management. He says the “smart moves that have had a major impact” were primarily changing lighting fixtures and air handlers, regulating water flow and using “green” cleaning and janitorial products.

“The big surprise is it costs much less to operate a building with energy-efficient practices,” Heard adds. “A year ago, there clearly was not as much momentum behind this as there is today. The fear was it was going to be costly.”

Transwestern’s green campaign netted Energy Partner honors in 2004 and 2005 and copped the highest honor, sustained excellence, for three consecutive years. According to Transwestern, it’s the only third-party real estate services company to achieve both designations, but that couldn’t be readily confirmed by the EPA. Transwestern also has 13 million sf in 51 buildings advancing toward LEED certification.

T. Patrick Duncan, president and CEO of San Antonio-based USAA, says “2007 was our highest per year energy consumption savings since becoming an Energy Star partner.” In USAA’s press release, Duncan says the past decade resulted in excess of $10 million in savings for the company, its partners and tenants.

The EPA had more than 12,000 entries for the 2008 awards. “EPA applauds these organizations for preserving our environment and our energy resources,” EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson says in today’s press release. “Whether you are running a business or a school, these energy all-stars prove a brighter future starts with each of us.”

The 74 winners crisscrossed industries like education, hospitals, CRE, manufacturing, chemicals and homebuilding. The EPA reported Americans last year, through Energy Star programs, saved $16 billion on energy bills and avoided greenhouse emissions equivalent to 27 million vehicles. To date, more than 2.5 billion of Energy Star-qualified products have been sold and nearly 840,000 new homes and 4,000 commercial and public buildings have earned Energy Star status since it was introduced in 1992.

The list of sustained excellence honorees companies includes Mooresville, NC-based Lowe’s Cos. Inc., PepsiCo of Purchase, NY, Food Lion LLC of Salisbury, NC, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. in Erlanger, KY, Bethesda, MD-based Marriott International Inc. and 3M in St. Paul.

Other sustained excellence winners are Advantage IQ Inc. of Spokane, WA; Austin Energy of Austin, TX; California Portland Cement Co. in Glendora, CA; CenterPoint Energy in Houston; Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, MI, GE Consumer & Industrial of Louisville, KY; Giant Eagle Inc. of Pittsburgh; Gorell Enterprises Inc. of Indiana, PA; Merck & Co. Inc. of Whitehouse Station, NJ; Nevada Energy Star Partners of Las Vegas; New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in Albany; New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City; Northeast Energy Star Products Initiative in Lexington, MA; Oncor Electric Deliver of Dallas; Osram Sylvania of Danvers, MA; ProVia Door of Sugarcreek, OH; Raytheon Co. of Waltham, MA; Sea Gull Lighting Products LLC of Riverside, NJ; Southern California Edison of Rosemead, CA; Whirlpool Corp. of Benton Harbor, MI and Wisconsin Focus on Energy in Madison, WI.

Another 46 companies were named Energy Partners of the year and accorded Energy Star awards for excellence. Also, Dallas-based Hillwood recently was recognized as an EPA green power partner for signing a contract to buy 100% of its power from renewable energy sources for its properties in North Texas–making it the second largest real estate company in the US and first in Texas dedicated to using renewable energy.

Hillwood is buying buy 65 million kWh from Dallas-based TXU Energy, the equivalent of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 9,000 vehicles per year or equal to annual electricity needs for more than 7,000 American homes. “This deal is part of Hillwood’s ongoing effort to be environmentally progressive in our developments and offices, not only in North Texas but across the country,” Ross Perot Jr., chairman of Hillwood, says in a press release. The contract, which went into effect in February, includes the 17,000-acre AllianceTexas in Tarrant and Denton counties and 75-acre Victory Park in Downtown Dallas.

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