Building Owners Get Help Staying Ahead of New Green Laws

More than 50 cities, regional governments and nations have enacted rating and disclosure measures to regulate the energy performance of commercial buildings in the past 15 years. In the U.S., five cities and two states have put similar laws on the books in the past five years.

While the U.S. is relatively new to the process, the speed with which regulations are being developed and the federal push to make existing buildings more energy efficient make it likely that more local and regional governments will soon adopt building energy performance requirements.

How can policymakers and property owners stay ahead of the curve? Two tools released Tuesday are designed to help government agencies at all levels navigate what Andrew Burr of the Institute for Market Transformation calls "the relative wilderness" of the energy performance policy landscape in the U.S. And, though aimed at policymakers, the tools also can help building owners and operators.

The Institute for Market Transformation's report, "Building Energy Transparency: A Framework for Implementing U.S. Commercial Energy Rating & Disclosure Policy," provides a roadmap for cities and other local governments that are considering building energy performance measures, developing them or in the early stages of putting them into effect.

The report examines policy set in Austin, Texas, Washington, D.C, New York City, Seattle and San Francisco, and for California and Washington state. The 70-page report details the various requirements, what it took to draw up the policy and offers best practices in four key areas:

1. Outreach, Education and Training
2. Benchmarking Guidance
3. Compliance and Enforcement
4. Quality Assurance of Energy Consumption Data and Disclosures

Those recommendations, though drawn up for government agencies and policymakers, can be used as signposts by businesses that want to prepare for building performance requirements -- or participate in their development. Companies that own their buildings and real estate service firms that own or manage commercial property can take a cue from the cities of Seattle and San Francisco. They set up task forces on energy performance of existing buildings that involved public and private sector representatives, and their input was key in the framing and adoption of policy.

In concert with the IMT report, real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis introduced a tool to help businesses. CBRE's "Guide to State and Local Energy Performance Regulations" summarizes the building performance requirements in the five cities and two states.

Both tools are free and available online at and

Next Page: The business case for benchmarking buildings.