ENERGY STAR: Local Governments Unlock Building-performance Information
The energy used by U.S. commercial and industrial buildings is responsible for nearly half our national greenhouse-gas emissions, making our built environment one of our best opportunities to increase efficiency and protect the climate. In areas with dense building stock, this figure can be even higher. For example, in New York City nearly 80 percent of citywide emissions result from the electricity, heating and hot water consumed in buildings. The city’s largest buildings—the 22,000 buildings consisting of more than 50,000 square feet—account for roughly 45 percent of the city’s total floor space and energy consumption, according to New York City Greener, Greater Buildings Plan.
Better information about how much energy buildings use and how buildings compare to one another is critical to unlocking the potential for energy savings. As a result, the use of building-level energy-use information as an effective energy-management tool is growing and many communities are looking to ENERGY STAR for gathering this. Almost 15 percent of commercial square footage has been assessed for its efficiency through the end of 2009 using Portfolio Manager, a standardized assessment tool developed and managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A growing number of local governments have taken action to make energy-performance indicators of public and private commercial buildings available to key stakeholders, such as prospective buyers or tenants, government managers or the public, and many are taking action in the form of policy and legislation to get the job done. Below are examples of what three local governments--from communities large and small--are implementing.
The Green Building Act of 2006 went into effect on March 8, 2007, and rolls out green-building requirements for Washington, D.C., building projects during a five-year period, including LEED certification for commercial buildings and Green Communities standards for residential buildings. It also requires district-owned commercial buildings to be “designed to achieve 75 points or higher on the EPA national energy-performance rating scale as determined by the ENERGY STAR Target Finder tool” and benchmarked annually in EPA’s energy-management tool, Portfolio Manager.
To bring to light the efficiency of privately owned commercial buildings, the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 establishes benchmarking requirements for these buildings. Beginning this year, buildings of 200,000 square feet or more must be benchmarked. Each subsequent year, the size threshold decreases by 50,000 square feet until reaching a minimum requirement of 50,000 square feet in 2013. Annual disclosure will occur via an online database open to the public and administered by the District of Columbia. Disclosure begins for the first class of buildings above 200,000 square feet in 2012.
The city of New York also has passed legislation requiring public buildings and large private buildings to track energy and water consumption using EPA’s Portfolio Manager. As of January, city buildings with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space are required to benchmark energy and water. Private buildings with more than 50,000 square feet of floor space will be required to do so starting in 2011. Benchmarking results for public and private buildings will be disclosed annually in an online database open to the public and administered by the city.
The new legislation is part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a six-part plan to tackle energy and water efficiency by doing the following:
1) Improving the city energy code
2) Upgrading lighting and sub-metering
4) Performing audits and retro-commissioning
5) Training workers
6) Providing financing for green-building projects
The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan is one of several initiatives under PlaNYC, a comprehensive plan to enhance New York’s urban environment by pursuing 10 key goals across five areas—land, air, water, energy and transportation. Tracking energy and water use in Portfolio Manager and making energy-efficiency improvements will help meet the plan’s goal of reducing the city’s annual GHG emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.
West Chester, Pa.
Located about 25 miles west of Philadelphia, the borough of West Chester is the first locale in the U.S. to pass a bill requiring buildings to earn the ENERGY STAR. In January 2008, West Chester passed a broad Borough Ordinance pertaining to the energy efficiency of new commercial buildings. The ordinance requires new commercial construction projects to achieve Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR using EPA’s Target Finder tool. Once these buildings are built and in full operation, their energy use must be benchmarked annually in EPA’s Portfolio Manager and earn a minimum energy-performance score of 75 out of 100.
These communities represent just a snapshot of the steps local governments are taking to improve energy efficiency in their jurisdictions. To learn more about state and local efficiency programs and find out how you can help improve energy efficiency in your area, visit www.energystar.gov/government.
Leslie Cook is the public sector program manager for EPA’s ENERGY STAR Commercial and Industrial Buildings program.