Denver Adopts Benchmarking and Transparency for Buildings

2016 concludes with another city showcasing leadership on sustainability and energy efficiency. Denver’s city council has unanimously passed a benchmarking and transparency ordinance for large commercial and multifamily buildings. This is a critical step for Denver to achieve its Sustainability and Climate Action Plan goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2020. Energy use in buildings is responsible for about 57 percent of Denver’s carbon emissions.

The ordinance requires that commercial and multifamily buildings over 25,000 square feet track and report their ENERGY STAR score. Starting in June 2017, buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to report their score, and then starting in June 2018, all covered buildings will have to report their score. The City will make the ENERGY STAR scores available to the public on an annual basis. An ENERGY STAR score is a 1 to 100 score for buildings based upon the building characteristics and monthly utility data (where 50 is the national average) produced by Portfolio Manager, a free online tool to manage building performance.

The ordinance is based on the recommendations of the Energize Denver Task Force over an eighteen month process. Mayor Hancock directed the Department of Environmental Health to create the Energize Denver Task Force to determine strategies to reduce energy consumption of commercial and multifamily buildings. The task force was comprised of property managers, building owners, investors, utility, energy efficiency contractors, affordable housing, hotels, and others. Encouragingly, the Task Force actually recommended an additional policy: periodic cost-effective, quick-payback improvements for buildings not in the top quartile of performance. While this piece of the proposal did not go before the council, Denver does have a deeply vetted roadmap for further action if desired in the years to come.  

Denver joins twenty other cities throughout the United States with a benchmarking and transparency policy. Cities truly are leading on climate change and sustainability, and 2017 will only deepen this resolve. 

About the Authors

Kimi Narita

Deputy Director, City Energy Project

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