This week the federal ENERGY STAR program announced the list of the 25 cities that had the most ENERGY STAR-certified buildings in 2014, and we're proud to say that City Energy Project (CEP) cities were well represented among them. Not only were six CEP cities listed in the top 10, including Los Angeles (2nd place), Atlanta (3rd), Chicago (6th), Houston (8th), Denver (9th) and Boston (10th), but eight of the 10 CEP cities found places in the top 25. (Philadelphia came in at 12th and Salt Lake City at number 25.) The total number of ENERGY STAR buildings in CEP cities is now 1,873 which is 103 more buildings than this time last year. These CEP cities should be commended for their continued leadership in promoting energy efficiency in buildings.
ENERGY STAR certified office buildings cost 50 cents less per square foot to operate and use almost two times less energy per square foot, compared to average office buildings. Not only are more efficient buildings cheaper to operate, owners experience compounding benefits from increased marketability, higher rents, and increased asset value. When building owners and municipalities prioritize energy efficiency, benefits accrue not just to owners, but to communities too. That's because energy savings lead to cost savings that can be reinvested in the community. Further, improving energy efficiency in buildings mitigates climate change and makes the air our kids breathe a whole lot cleaner. ENERGY STAR certified buildings on average use 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent less carbon dioxide emissions, than typical buildings.
To become ENERGY STAR certified, buildings must benchmark their energy use in Portfolio Manager (a free online tool) and perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide. Their data must be independently verified by a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect to ensure accuracy. To date, over 25,000 buildings throughout the United States have been ENERGY STAR certified, but there are 5.6 million commercial buildings in the country. There's a tremendous amount of value still to be realized and a lot of carbon and other harmful pollution we can cost-effectively prevent.
That value and carbon reduction can be achieved using proven energy efficiency strategies that are low cost. Retrocommissioning--tuning up building systems such HVAC and elevators so they work as efficiently as they were designed to - can save a walloping 15 percent of building energy and pay for itself in only 8-9 months. Investing in lighting improvements can save significant amounts of energy without sacrificing lighting quality and has a short payback period of 2-3 years, at most. There are also opportunities to cut down on other energy wasters: energy-hogging office equipment and wasteful behaviors, like leaving the lights on all night, that needlessly squander power.
The climate impacts of buildings are significant, and each building that becomes more efficient makes a difference. More than half of carbon emissions produced in most U.S. cities comes from buildings. For instance, buildings are responsible for at least 51 percent of Los Angeles' carbon emissions and 70 percent of Chicago's emissions.
Having the most efficient buildings on the market recognized for their leadership through ENERGY STAR is key to inspiring less efficient buildings to follow their lead. We also need broader programs and policies that bring energy efficiency solutions to scale across cities and to all large buildings. The City Energy Project is working with ten U.S. cities, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City, to do exactly that. The needs of each city vary as they drive towards a more sustainable future, so we work to create tailored solutions that make sense in each locality.
If we're doing our jobs right, we'll continue to see more and more ENERGY STAR buildings in CEP cities. Between 2014 and 2015 there were 103 new ENERGY STAR certified buildings in CEP cities and we fully intend to increase that number dramatically for 2016.