Like New York City and San Francisco, Washington DC is about to require that all commercial buildings measure their energy use each year - it's already required for publicly-owned buildings.
DC is going even further, requiring annual benchmarks of water use too.
"Energy benchmarking is an important step toward realizing the Mayor's vision to make the District the healthiest, greenest and most livable city in the United States," says Keith Anderson, Acting Director of the District Department of the Environment. "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."
The District's Clean and Affordable Energy Act requires owners of buildings over 100,000 square feet to report on the energy and water used during 2012 by April 1, 2013. In 2014, all buildings over 50,000 square feet must submit reports.
Building owners must use software developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Energy Star buildings, which is free.
Because they're already seeing benefits from using EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager, 266 buildings, representing 90 million square feet, have gone the next step and been certified as Energy Star buildings.
The agency plans to share the results publicly later this year, making the information available to potential buyers and tenants.
"Our 'Building Sustainability' initiative's main priority is to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs," says Michelle Good, Director of Sustainability at Akridge, a DC-based commercial real estate firm. "Benchmarking energy and water consumption gives us the ability to assess building performance objectively and measure ongoing progress. It allows us to identify areas for improvement and potentially raise the value of the properties we manage."
Technical assistance is available for building owners, property managers, and service providers as they complete the benchmarking process. The DC Sustainable Energy Utility has set up a Benchmarking Help Center to answer questions about benchmarking regulations and ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software, and to connect them to energy efficiency programs designed to improve building energy performance.
Washington DC also leads the nation in LEED-certified buildings per capita.
Besides New York City and San Francisco, other cities now have similar programs, including Seattle, Philadelphia, and Austin.
New York, for example, has found that performance of its buildings vary widely, and if the poorest performers were brought up to speed, the city would cut greenhouse gases by 20%. It's also learned that some of its oldest buildings are more efficient than those with LEED-certification.