On Friday, new San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee signed legislation that will improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy costs, and create green jobs. The Existing Commercial Building Energy Performance Ordinance was passed by the Board of Supervisors on February 9th. The ordinance will require owners of existing non-residential buildings to determine how much energy each building consumes, and to annually disclose that information to the public. The new city code will also require commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet to conduct energy efficiency audits every five years in order to help the building owners and managers optimize building efficiency and utility savings. Buildings, which account for about 70% of the electricity consumed in the U.S., could be made up to 50% more energy efficient with currently available products and services. Presently, most owners don't know how efficiently their buildings use energy, and most consumers have no way of comparing the potential energy use and costs of buildings they plan to buy or rent. Studies show that energy-efficient buildings command higher rents, sell for more money, and have lower vacancy rates than other buildings.
Under the new law, Chapter 20 of the San Francisco Environment Code, building owners will be required to benchmark the energy use of their buildings using a free online tool provided by the U.S. EPA, the results of which will be filed annually with the city. The code also requires building owners to conduct energy audits, with a phased in process so that by 2013, the rules would apply to all commercial properties 10,000 square feet or larger.
This legislation follows on the heels of President Obama's "Better Buildings Initiative," aimed at reducing energy use in buildings by 20% by 2020 by improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
Benchmarking building energy performance is regarded as the critical first step towards improving energy efficiency in existing buildings. More cities and states are starting to require owners to begin this process. Still other stakeholder groups, such as Portland Oregon's BOMA, are attempting to thwart that city's proposal to mandate Energy Star Score disclosure. The issue of disclosure will be an interesting one to keep track of.
More on Green Buildings in San Francisco
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