03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Re-Skinning Competition -- Environmentally Smart Buildings and Cities

Ask anyone about the big causes of global warming and odds are that gas-guzzling SUVs will be a common reply. What those respondents do not understand is that SUVs are responsible for a percent or two of North America's carbon footprint. The big carbon culprits are our cities or, more precisely, the buildings in them.

Many of us already know that our cities are environmental troublemakers. Few, though, comprehend just how bad the problem is. That is because cities are so ubiquitous they are almost invisible. It is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

The existing buildings in New York, for example, produce more than 60 percent of that city's total carbon footprint. This dwarfs the output from all other contenders for worst environmental enemy of the year. It is hard to make SUVs look like model citizens, but buildings manage to do it.

It does not have to be this way. A little capital investment along with good design will solve our buildings' energy problem. Governments can put up small amounts of money to guarantee renovation loans to building owners. Owners can pay off those loans over ten to twenty years just on energy savings. What could be simpler?

In addition to capital, the other side of the solution is developing the technology needed to re-skin existing buildings so they are energy savers rather than energy wasters. Countries like Germany, Sweden and Canada are already coming up with commercial solutions to the building footprint problem. They employ thousands in new, green jobs while saving energy, money and the environment.

Zerofootprint™ is also advancing the cause of efficient buildings. We advocate a system where buildings, like cars, would have an energy performance rating. How many pounds of carbon does your building generate per square meter of floor space? Everyone would be able to look at a sticker on the front door to find out.

This year we are holding the first international Zerofootprint™ Re-Skinning Competition. We want to inspire designers and developers everywhere to create exceptionally beautiful, energy-efficient buildings. Winners of the competition will be announced to a global audience at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro this March.

The Re-Skinning Award entry deadline is February 22, 2010.

Zerofootprint™ is also offering the ZEROprize™ to the design team who can take an older concrete high-rise structure and, using re-skinning along with other retrofitting technologies, reduce its carbon, water and energy footprint to net zero while also maintaining the highest architectural design standards. To secure the ZEROprize,™ a candidate building will be required to have a net zero footprint for one year.

Together, these competitions will promote solutions to the long-standing problem of energy-inefficient cities. They are part of Zerofootprint's commitment to reducing the world's environmental footprint.

To find out more about the Re-Skinning Award, please go to