Building Efficiency Disclosure Expands in 2013

Three more cities joined the ranks of jurisdictions requiring buildings to disclose energy performance information.  Minneapolis, Boston, and Chicago all passed building energy performance disclosure ordinances in 2013.  Minneapolis and Boston’s ordinances are focused on non-residential buildings, while Chicago’s ordinance covers commercial, larger residential and government buildings.  This brings the total to 11 jurisdictions in the United States (2 states and 9 cities) requiring building energy performance disclosures.  In all, these disclosure policies cover 5.8 billion square feet of real estate in major markets in the U.S.



By Joshulove (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2013       Boston, MA
2013       Chicago, IL
2013       Minneapolis, MN
2012       Philadelphia, PA
2011       San Francisco, CA
2010       Seattle, WA
2009       New York, NY
2008       Austin, TX
2008       Washington, DC

2009       Washington state
2007       California


Why are more cities and states focusing on building energy performance?  According to the Department of Energy in 2010 the building sector accounted for 41% of annual energy use in the U.S.; more than either the industrial sector or the transportation sector.  In the global perspective, U.S. buildings accounted for 7% of worldwide energy use in 2010.  U.S. EPA data shows that when building energy use is consistently collected and benchmarked it leads to an average reduction in energy use of 2.4% per year, and a 7% reduction over three years.



Requiring building owners and managers to collect building energy information, and to benchmark against other buildings, provides the information needed to understand a building’s energy performance.   This also can help to identify opportunities to improve building energy efficiency.  Requiring disclosure creates a market-based incentive to improve building energy efficiency.  In those jurisdictions where disclosure is required the market will now judge buildings on energy performance as well as location, cost and other factors.

The existing building disclosure requirements share many similarities with regard to implementation.

  • All define disclosure requirements based on the square footage of the building, with disclosure requirements phased in for larger buildings first, expanded to smaller buildings over time
  • All of the programs cover commercial buildings
  • All use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star for Buildings Portfolio Manager as the system of record for building energy information, and to benchmark building energy performance

Despite these similarities some key differences exist as well:

  • In addition to commercial buildings some programs also cover multifamily residential (i.e. Austin, Boston, Chicago, DC, New York, and Seattle)
  • Required disclosure falls into two main categories with most programs requiring disclosure on a public website, while California, Washington State, Settle and Austin only require disclosure to transactional counter parties (e.g., sale, lease, finance)
  • Some programs require additional steps such as building energy audits (e.g. Austin and Boston)

The push to reap the economics and environmental benefits of more efficient building operation continues.  Both the state of Massachusetts and the city of Portland, Oregon are actively pursuing their own benchmarking and disclosure programs.  City level ordinances can be very impactful and should not be discounted.  Of the 11 existing ordinances New York City alone accounts for over 48% of square footage covered.  The top three jurisdictions are all cities and account for 70% of square footage.  More information on the existing ordinances can be found at the website, which includes this helpful Commercial Building Policy matrix.  In a future blog post I’ll cover the main tool used by all the building efficiency disclosure policies, EPA’s Energy Start for Buildings Portfolio Manager.


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