Seattle Launches Energy Benchmarking Program for Commercial Buildings

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Historic Dexter Horton Building in Seattle Photo source: CB Richard Ellis

Measuring and tracking the energy efficiency of its commercial buildings is now included in a formal benchmarking program that has been launched by the City of Seattle.

The city has sent letters today to some 800 large commercial property owners and managers informing them about a new citywide program designed to help owners and managers assess and improve building energy efficiency and spur the market for building energy retrofits.

“This new program will help building owners take a key step toward increasing building energy efficiency,” said Department of Planning and Development Director Diane Sugimura in the press announcement.

There are many solid reasons a growing number of cities are reporting on issues like energy efficiency. For starters, commercial buildings consume more than 70 percent of the total electricity generated in the United States, estimates the U.S. Department of Energy. Experts believe these buildings can become 30 to 50 percent more energy efficient with modifications.

Unfortunately, many property owners have little idea of how their building’s energy performance compares to similar buildings. Nor do consumers have an efficient method for comparing the energy performance of any buildings they might buy or lease.

Under the Seattle program, all commercial and multifamily residential buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet in size will be benchmarked for their energy performance by using the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager program.

Building energy ratings will also be provided to prospective buyers, tenants and lenders upon request during real estate transactions.  The program will launch this fall, targeting nonresidential buildings 50,000 square feet or larger. It will then include nonresidential and multifamily residential buildings exceeding 10,000 square feet on April 2012.

Energy benchmarking is becoming a common practice among many large property owners and managers working to lower building operating costs and make buildings more competitive on the real estate market.

A number of studies show that energy-efficient buildings – in particular those with green certifications – out-compete inefficient buildings in terms of higher rental and sales prices and building occupancy levels.

“Our clients are looking for energy-efficient buildings because they understand these properties cost less to own and operate, hold their value, and make for better and more productive working environments,” says Dave Low, director of sustainability practices at Kidder Mathews, a commercial real estate firm.

Seattle’s historic Dexter Horton building, shown in the lead photograph, will soon be a case study on the city’s website highlighting this building and efficiency work that has been done.

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

Glenn Meyers has 449 posts and counting. See all posts by Glenn Meyers

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