At a time of rising energy costs and widespread concern about the effects of climate change, a number of state and local governments across the country are taking bold steps to adopt policies that leverage the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star tools for improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Much of this legislation requires the public disclosure of commercial building energy performance, a growing trend that is expected to increase in the near future.
As the drive toward disclosure continues, demand will increase for properties that can demonstrate that they are measuring, tracking, and improving their energy performance. Hotel owners and operators across the country should start now to incorporate Energy Star resources into their energy management strategies, including tools such as Portfolio Manager (to benchmark and monitor the energy performance of existing buildings) and Target Finder (to assist in the design and development of energy-efficient commercial new construction). By making a commitment to improve the energy performance of hotel properties, hotel owners and operators can demonstrate to both staff and guests their commitment to energy efficiency and climate stewardship, the core components of any “green” hospitality strategy.
The following is a brief overview of current legislation that incorporates Energy Star. The legislation discussed here targets privately-owned buildings, including hotel properties. A more complete list, including legislation aimed at state and local government-owned buildings can be found here.
• District of Columbia: the recently adopted Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 requires that, beginning in 2010, all commercial buildings larger than 200,000 square feet be benchmarked using Portfolio Manager. The same requirement phases in for smaller properties over the following three years. Buildings will be required to submit statements of energy performance to the District Department of the Environment, and this information will be published in an online database after the second year of benchmarking activity.
Further, as of January 1, 2012, sponsors of new construction or significant improvement projects for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to estimate energy design intent with Energy Star’s Target Finder tool, and to submit the results for publication in an online database. Full text of this legislation is available here.
• State of California: As of January 1, 2009, Assembly Bill 1103 requires California electric and gas utilities to maintain and make available to building owners the energy consumption data of all nonresidential buildings in a format compatible for uploading into Portfolio Manager. It also requires, as of January 1, 2010, that all nonresidential building owners and operators disclose Portfolio Manager benchmarking data and ratings to prospective buyers, lessees, or lenders as part of a whole-building transaction. Full text of this legislation is available here.
• Borough of West Chester, Pa.: a March 2008 borough ordinance requires that private commercial construction projects use Energy Star’s Target Finder to demonstrate that the building has been “Designed to Earn the Energy Star.” Once in service, these buildings must also benchmark energy use data with Portfolio Manager on an annual basis. For more information, click here.
• State of Minnesota: the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 set a goal of earning 1,000 Energy Star labels for Minnesota commercial buildings by 2010. Grants may be made available to assist efficiency improvements and professional engineer verification of label applications. Full text of the act is available here.
New York Pushing Energy Star
Not only are the states and communities mentioned above taking a proactive stance toward energy management and climate stewardship, but these decisions may foreshadow future trends in energy management and reporting in the United States. New York City, for example, has stated in its PlaNYC document that it will seek to “make energy usage in buildings more transparent” by encouraging building owners to benchmark using Portfolio Manager, and will use this information to better understand energy consumption patterns and to design targeted efficiency strategies (see p. 110 of the PlaNYC report).
Overall, this drive for disclosure reflects the fact that consumers want to understand the energy and the environmental performance of the buildings in which they live, work, and play, just as they do for the products they buy. And, regardless of specific legislation or initiatives driven by state and local governments, disclosure activity is already taking place in the market—for example, the recent decisions by services such as Orbitz and CoStar to highlight properties that have earned the Energy Star.
Now, more than ever, is the perfect time for commercial property owners and operators, including hoteliers, to get involved with Energy Star and to start benchmarking and reducing their energy consumption. Energy Star offers partners a broad array of resources and guidance, including free trainings on the use of Portfolio Manager. To learn more about Energy Star, visit www.energystar.gov/.
Anna Stark is the national program manager for commercial property markets, Energy Star, United States Environmental Protection Agency.