Atlanta Mandates Building Energy Benchmarking

AtlantaThe Atlanta City Council unanimously passed legislation to undertake a series of measures, including energy benchmarking and audits, to boost efficiency in its commercial buildings.

Under the Atlanta Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance, the city will collect energy benchmarking data and require periodic energy audits and potential improvements to existing building equipment and functions.

Using these tools, the City projects that the ordinance will drive a 20 percent reduction in commercial energy consumption by the year 2030.

According to Melissa Wright, director of the City Energy Project at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “This ordinance is tailor-made for Atlanta, taking best practices from other cities and refining them to meet local needs.”

Buildings currently account for 66 percent of Atlanta’s total energy use. The new ordinance addresses energy use in private and city-owned buildings over 25,000 square feet in size. This includes 2,350 buildings that, as a whole, represent 88 percent of the city’s commercial sector.

Participating buildings will be phased in, starting with municipal buildings in 2015 and expanding to include private buildings in 2016. Under the legislation, owners of the designated buildings will be required to annually benchmark and report to the city their properties’ energy use via a free online tool.

Building off of this data, building owners will then be asked to complete an energy audit once every 10 years. Additional retro-commissioning efforts, which ensure that existing equipment is operated as designed for efficiency, are optional but recommended under the new ordinance. In addition, building performance data collected under the benchmarking initiative will be made transparent to the public to allow the market to recognize, reward, and drive increased demand for high-performing buildings.

The Atlanta Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance is part of the City’s work under the City Energy Project, an initiative from the Institute for Market Transformation and NRDC.

Other participating City Energy Project cities include Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City. The mayors of these cities have pledged to work with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation to significantly boost energy efficiency in their buildings, although that may or may not include mandatory energy benchmarking.

Meanwhile, the Portland City Council held a hearing last week on a new Energy Performance Reporting Policy and will make a decision whether to approve it on April 22. A spokesman for the city said, “it looks positive” that the new mandated energy reporting for commercial buildings will be approved.

Takeaway: Which city in the City Energy Project will be the next to announce mandatory benchmarking? Denver might be a likely guess, given its consistent ranking in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s annual list of the top 25 US metropolitan areas with the most Energy Star certified buildings.

Photo: Atlanta via Shutterstock

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