All around Fairfax County, businesses are thriving. With more business activity in the area, the demand for commercial real estate is high and property owners are seeking ways to stand out in the crowd. Now, commercial property owners can take advantage of private financing to make substantial energy and resiliency improvements to their buildings and sites with very little or no up-front cost, courtesy of the county’s new Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resiliency program, or C-PACE.
An innovative financing tool, C-PACE combines the power of private lending with the support of the county government, allowing property owners to secure long-term loans with only minimal initial outlays. The loans are administered and guaranteed by private lenders, but repaid via a special assessment, and they carry with the property from one owner to the next. This arrangement sets borrowers up for success as they seek to make their properties more efficient, resilient and attractive to tenants.
While other jurisdictions in the state have also launched C-PACE programs, ours is the first to include resiliency improvements in addition to energy- and water-saving projects. Property owners can reduce risks to their buildings and sites associated with flooding, high winds and extreme temperatures using C-PACE funding. Making these improvements now will ensure their assets are in working order for decades to come and are prepared to withstand the worst impacts of climate change.
C-PACE is great for businesses but it’s also useful for nonprofits on tight budgets. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax is planning to use C-PACE to finance the wholesale replacement of their HVAC systems, a hefty project that would otherwise need to be completed in stages. Empowering local businesses and organizations to protect and enhance their investments is an important piece of a larger effort Fairfax County is making to address community resiliency and climate change.
All told, county government and school operations account for only three percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Fairfax County. The other 97 percent come from the community – residents, businesses, and organizations based here. With the development of a Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) underway, the county is leading a collaborative process with a variety of community stakeholders to identify emission reduction targets and strategies for the years to come. Improving the efficiency and resiliency of our commercial property stock is an essential piece of the strategy.
Kambiz Agazi is Director, Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination for Fairfax County Government.