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Washington, D.C., Requires Building Energy Use Metrics

greenbuildingsBuilding owners in Washington, D.C., will start measuring the energy use of commercial properties on Jan. 1, 2010, under a new law aimed at reducing energy use and costs for building owners and tenants, according to the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT).

Under the new law, the Clean and Affordable Energy Act, passed in 2008, building owners will have to publicly disclose energy ratings starting in 2012, which will give prospective tenants and buyers an easy-to-understand way to compare the energy consumption and operating costs of buildings, according to IMT.

The requirement started with benchmarking public buildings greater than 10,000 sq. ft. in October, which will be followed by commercial buildings greater than 200,000 sq. ft. in January 2010. The requirement rolls out on a graduated schedule so that by 2015, all private buildings greater than 50,000 sq. ft. will be benchmarked annually and ratings made public, according to the nonprofit organization.

The new law also directs all commercial buildings to measure their energy use with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool.

In the U.S., residential and commercial buildings consume 70 percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. and generate 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, reports IMT.

A new study on energy efficiency in buildings (EEB) indicates that the global building sector needs to cut energy consumption in buildings 60 percent by 2050 to help meet global climate change targets. According to The World Business Council for Sustainable Development study, buildings account for 40 percent of the world’s energy use with the resulting carbon emissions substantially more than those in the transportation sector.

Building owners can cut energy costs significantly with low-cost energy saving measures such as fine-tuning heating and cooling systems, replacing lights and installing motion sensors, according to IMF.

For commercial building owners, these implementations can translate into higher rental premiums. According to a recent study on commercial buildings, Energy Star and LEED-certified buildings can command a higher rental premium, typically between 10 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Currently, Washington D.C. ranks (PDF) fourth in the nation for the number of Energy Star labeled buildings. Click here (PDF) for Washington, D.C.’s Guide to Green Buildings.

Washington, D.C., is one of only a handful of states with similar policies enacted including California, Washington and most recently in New York City, although NYC is facing an uphill battle with building owners.

Building owners in New York, citing cost as the major issue, are opposed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plans for energy-efficient buildings, which recently forced the mayor to drop one of his key initiatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to state laws, major real estate firms have recently signed up for a pilot program that would help building owners, prospective tenants and buyers determine the energy efficiency of a building through the Building Energy Quotient program, administered by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

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