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Time, Not Money, Deciding Factor for Salt Lake City Building Energy Benchmarking

Salt Lake City commercial building energy ordinance benchmarking
Credit: Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons

A new ordinance in Salt Lake City that passed last August requires the owners of large commercial buildings to start providing the city with annual measurements of their energy usage. The benchmarking is projected to lower annual energy costs and eliminate pollutants, but it could also save those owners significant time, according to Wendy Lee, a local city advisor for the national City Energy project.

Writing for TheEnergyCollective.com recently, Lee notes that the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department facilitated numerous meetings over the course of 18 months and gathered thick stacks of notes about ways to improve building energy efficiency. Yet there remained a disconnect between the building owners or managers and helpful resources.

“We heard over and over again how difficult it is to convince building owners and managers to take action on efficiency, even with robust utility incentives, free workshops, and free services,” Lee wrote.

Taking a closer look, the city’s team realized that the challenge wasn’t purely a financial one. Lee says that it came down to where building managers or owners would invest time and attention on improving and maintaining their businesses rather than where they were going to spend money.

Getting up to speed requires combing through materials detailing energy efficiency strategies, attending workshops, dealing with solicitations from vendors, going to professional events, and opening full inboxes — all while responding to building tenants or owners. Lee argues that Salt Lake City’s new benchmarking ordinance should help.

It creates a shared language, makes energy management and education accessible, and allows for relevant comparisons to industry leaders, she says. Then owners and managers can better give valuable time and resources to the lower-performing buildings.

“With better insight into building stock energy performance gained from benchmarking data, the city and local utilities can spend time identifying and reaching out to those in the real estate community who can benefit most from their service and incentives,” Lee writes.

The new ordinance applies to commercial buildings larger than 25,000 square feet as well as large municipal buildings, with exceptions for tax-exempt buildings and places of worship. The rules, phased in over the next three years, are expected to save owners $15.8 million annually.

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