Indy Passes Benchmarking Policy to Address Climate

Downtown Indianapolis

Photo by Ryan De Hamer on Unsplash

Indianapolis City Council passed Proposal 185, a Benchmarking and Transparency Ordinance which is a key priority in realizing Mayor Joe Hogsett’s commitment to making the city carbon neutral by 2050. In order to tackle this goal, the city developed an ambitious multi-pronged plan—Thrive Indianapolis—that lays out steps for implementing change in a sustainable, inclusive way. The passage of the Benchmarking and Transparency Ordinance brings the city one step closer to achieving their goals. 

Indianapolis’s Office of Sustainability led a months-long stakeholder engagement process which included a Building Efficiency Advisory Committee to provide input into the development of the ordinance, a period for public review and comment, and a public meeting. Joining dozens of peer cities nationwide with similar ordinances in place, its passage is a win-win for Indianapolis’ developer and real estate community and residents. The city is poised to save $16 million in utility bills each year, create 1,400 green jobs, reduce CO2 emissions in the built environment by 27 percent, and save $77 million in public health due to improved air quality as a result of this ordinance.

Buildings accounted for 66 percent of Indianapolis’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. The first step to addressing emissions from the buildings sector is measuring them—you don’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s where benchmarking and transparency comes in.

Benchmarking is measuring how buildings use energy and water every year and comparing it to the average for similar buildings. By plugging utility data into the EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager, building owners learn how the energy and water use in their buildings stacks up against others and also follow their own progress over time. Transparency requires that owners report the building's energy and water use every year, unlocking critical information to inform how to take action to save energy, water, and money. 

Building and water information will allow prospective commercial tenants and residents to consider energy and water use as one of many factors in determining where to work and live. It will enable building owners to prioritize future efficiency investments and understand how their peer buildings are performing.

The city is leading by example. The ordinance requires city facilities over 25,000 square feet to benchmark and report their energy and water usage. Non-city buildings in the commercial, multifamily, and industrial sectors over 50,000 square feet will follow that lead. These requirements will phase in over time to ensure that building owners have the support they need to comply.

This policy was supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge. Indianapolis is one of the 25 winning cities in the Climate Challenge, which is helping cities set and surpass ambitious climate goals by ramping up action in the two highest emitting sectors in cities: transportation and buildings.

The passage of this ordinance affirms the city’s role as a leader in developing initiatives that will keep Indianapolis residents healthy and safe. 

About the Authors

Emily Barkdoll

Deputy Director, Strategy and City Engagement, American Cities Climate Challenge

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