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Data-crunching energy output of New York City buildings

<p>New York City joins Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington DC in reporting energy use of commercial buildings.</p>

Editor's Note: To learn more about energy benchmarking for commercial buildings be sure to check out VERGE@Greenbuild, November 12-13, in San Francisco.

New York City this week released energy benchmarking results from 2,065 commercial buildings to the general public. This marks the start of the city’s practical implementation of a law that went into effect last year and has recently been adopted in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington DC.

The law was designed to bring greater transparency to New York’s commercial real estate market by mandating that owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet measure and release records of their annual energy usage. Ideally, the results will influence the general public and the actions of potential commercial tenants by fully informing them of a building’s energy consumption, thereby incentivizing landlords to compete for lower usage costs.

Benchmarking data is also a powerful statistical tool, as it can be used by the city to analyze how building age, size, and construction affect energy usage.

NAC columnist Mark Alan Hughes, an advocate for Philly’s benchmarking policy, explained the benefit to consumers in a recent column. Benchmarking, he wrote, allows "people who want to buy or lease [a building to] know how much energy (or water, etc.) they [will] use each month, and how much it will cost them. And indeed, that information is crucial to getting the prices right in the market. All things considered, a building that costs less to operate should be worth more."

Since the passage of the law, property owners have been compiling data on their metered energy use for 2011, with this week's release standing as the first time such information has ever been made public under a benchmarking law. 

Image of buildings in New York City provided by carol_anne via Shutterstock

The newly released data set covers more than 530 million square feet of commercial space and is the largest publication of its kind ever released by a single city. New benchmarks will be released annually.

Laurie Actman, Deputy Director of the Energy Efficient New York Buildings Hub in Philadelphia, welcomed the news.

"The implementation of New York City’s benchmarking law has accelerated focus on energy-efficient building strategies, technologies and investments. This increased activity is fostering a market environment that recognizes the importance of efficiently managed buildings," said Actman, whose organization pushed for benchmarking in Philadelphia.

Actman indicated she was hopeful that the release of data will influence even more cities to consider energy benchmarking, just as Philadelphia was influenced by New York’s law. Philadelphia's own benchmarking data will be released on June 1st, 2013.

"I expect Philadelphia’s new legislation to also foster increased awareness, interest and activity in developing more energy efficient buildings and driving demand for them among tenants while contributing to Mayor Nutter’s Greenworks goal of reducing citywide building energy use by 10 percent by 2015," she said, adding that the law had already compelled PECO to explore better ways to furnish building owners with their own utility data.

This article originally appeared in Next American City and is reprinted here with permission. 

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