How Low Can We Go?

Achieving energy performance goals for new commercial buildings

A few years back, I began to think about all of the commercial building space that exists in this country. I wondered how much energy was being wasted to heat, cool, and light this typically inefficient space. After the economy took a nosedive, I moved on to other topics, realizing that commercial property owners really had no incentive to improve the energy efficiency levels of these older buildings, unless they were lucky enough to tap into some sort of government, state, or local rebate program. Even then, it was still a tough sell to get them to approve these types of projects. However, recent news reports have once again got me thinking about this topic.

Earlier this year, the City of San Francisco enacted the Existing Commercial Building Energy Performance Ordinance, which requires non-residential buildings to make annual energy-usage reports available to the public. It also requires owners to perform an energy efficiency audit every five years for buildings with more than 10,000 sq ft.

More recently, the City of Seattle developed a program that requires all commercial and multi-family residential buildings larger than 10,000 sq ft to measure their energy performance using the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The reporting requirements will begin on October 3 of this year for non-residential buildings 50,000 sq ft or larger and extend to both non-residential and multi-family residential buildings 10,000 sq ft or larger in April 2012. Although the ordinance doesn’t include energy performance targets or mandates, the city hopes the ordinance will encourage building owners to make energy-efficient investments on their own.

I guess the thinking is if tenants have the option of taking up space in several different building spaces, they would be wise to choose the space that offers them the most energy-efficient option. Do you think commercial energy performance benchmarking and reporting mandates make sense? Are these programs good for the country and for your business? I believe the answer to these questions is a resounding yes.

If building owners are required to disclose the performance rating of their properties, they should be doing everything they can to make sure their numbers are as good, or better, than their competitors. It’s a tough rental market out there right now. They should be going above and beyond to make their existing tenants happy and make their empty spaces more appealing to potential tenants. They should also be much more interested in retrofitting and upgrading their old and outdated mechanical and electrical systems. This is where you should be ready to step in and help them out.

Now is the time to really foster those relationships you have with commercial building owners. Make sure they’re aware of these new ordinances being put in place, and let them know how you can help them prepare for this trend. One good resource to help you keep track of U.S. building energy performance benchmarking and disclosure initiatives taking place across the country is

Just how low can we push energy consumption levels in new commercial buildings? For a look at what’s happening on this front, check out this month’s cover story, “A Step Closer to Net Zero,” starting on page 22. In this special report, Staff Writer Beck Ireland reveals the details of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which is scheduled to be released this month, as well as outlines the latest trends in energy efficiency for this market segment.

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