In the coming weeks, San Francisco city leaders face an important decision: Should the city allow buildings to continue draining more energy and money than needed from the local economy, or should San Francisco take steps to ensure that building owners get the help they need to stop energy waste and start saving?
Buildings consume more than 70 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. Much of that energy goes wasted due to building inefficiencies. It is well documented that improving building energy efficiency can reduce energy use and costs by up to 50 percent. So why don't more building owners take steps to improve building energy performance? Simply put, they don't know where to begin.
Most owners don't know how well or poorly their buildings use energy. This type of information is not typically included in a monthly energy bill. Consequently, many owners are spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars more than they need to on energy. In this economy, owners cannot afford to waste a single dollar on unnecessary expenses.
At the InterContinental San Francisco, we wanted to be as efficient with our energy use as possible. So two years ago, on the day before the opening of the hotel, I stood before a group of 250 staff and asked them to join me in making a pledge -- a promise to improve and sustain our world at work and reduce waste wherever possible.
We've come a long way and are making good on our pledge. We've learned that it pays to reduce waste -- in particular energy waste. We saved $200,000 on energy bills last year after making simple and low-cost improvements to the hotel, and the savings keep coming.
But we would not have known where to begin or understand the full potential for energy savings if we hadn't started regularly measuring and rating the hotel's energy use, a process known in the building industry as "benchmarking."
Now, San Francisco city officials want to make sure more owners have the information they need to reel in energy waste and spending. Next week, the city's Board of Supervisors will conduct its first reading of a proposed ordinance that would make benchmarking standard for commercial property owners.