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Published on January 31st, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci


Washington DC Requires Commercial Buildings To Track Energy And Water Use

January 31st, 2013 by  

Washington DC just took another step toward its stated goal of becoming the greenest city in the United States, with a new requirement for all large commercial buildings to report annual energy and water use. 

Washington DC skyline

Washington DC skyline image via Shutterstock

As of April 1, 2013 all privately owned buildings over 100,000 square feet must benchmark their 2012 energy and water use to the District’s Department of the Environment (DDOE) and then continue reporting on an ongoing annual basis. All reporting will be uniformly conducted under the EPA’s free Energy Star Portfolio Manager software. 

This ambitious effort falls under DC’s Clean and Affordable Energy Act, and adds to existing energy reporting requirements for all publicly owned buildings. The commercial reporting scope will expand next year to cover all buildings over 50,000 square feet, and all reported data will be publicly available starting in late 2013 to democratize data and help inform potential buyers and tenants looking for efficient properties. 

America’s Green Building Capital?

Combined with an existing efficiency push that’s seen 266 buildings certified under EPA’s Energy Star label and made it the US leader in new LEED certifications, DC could soon be America’s green building capital. Other US cities like New York City and Philadelphia require commercial buildings to measure energy use, but DC would go furthest in combining energy and water efficiency with public reporting.

“By measuring and reporting energy use in large buildings, we raise awareness of energy and water efficiency and help business owners and tenants identify ways to save energy, water, and money,” said Keith Anderson, Acting Director of DDOE.

Major Energy And Emissions Effects

Beyond informing potential occupants about the office efficiency features installed in each building, benchmarking can help target future efficiency and emissions reduction efforts. A district-wide inventory found that building created 75% of DC’s greenhouse gases, and with one-fifth of US energy consumption coming from commercial buildings, efficiency upgrades will be key to cutting total emissions.

New York City’s efficiency benchmarking effort, for example, found some older buildings were more efficient than even LEED-certified structures and minimum efficiency upgrades in the poorest-performing buildings could cut energy demand 18% and reduce emissions 20%.

As part of the final regulation release, DDOE also published energy efficiency benchmarking results for more than 200 government facilities across DC from 2009-2011. Among other findings, 11 additional DC public school facilities may now qualify for Energy Star certification.

Boost To Commercial Values

The new regulations are the result of two years of stakeholder engagement with building owners, developers, utilities, and tenants to establish a realistic set of rules that boost property value and appeal to potential occupants.

Taken together, DC’s efforts demonstrate the value of energy efficiency in existing buildings and could improve the economy and environment. Benchmarking “gives us the ability to assess building performance objectively,” said Michelle Good, sustainability director for DC-based real estate firm Akridge. “It allows us to identify areas for improvement and potentially raise the value of the properties we manage.”

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

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