Ignorance may be bliss, but it can be costly when it comes to energy usage. Commercial buildings in the U.S. account for 36 percent of total energy use and 65 percent of electricity consumption. Even small reductions in usage can help lower costs to building owners and tenants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), decreasing energy costs by 30 percent in commercial real estate is the equivalent of increasing net operating income by 4 percent. It would appear a no-brainer to invest in energy efficiency to reduce consumption and save money, yet many commercial building owners have no idea how much energy they use and how they stack up.
Thanks to Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown’s Energy Benchmarking Bill, which passed unanimously on June 21, 2012, city government and landlords will now have a much better understanding of energy usage in commercial buildings and how best to reduce consumption. The legislation requires commercial building owners with more than 50,000 square feet to record their yearly water and energy usage in EPA's Portfolio Manager, which will enable property owners, tenants, prospective purchasers, lessees, and the public at large to compare energy and water usage among comparable buildings. The law goes into effect on June 1, 2013 and will be administered by the city's Office of Sustainability. Failure to comply would be punishable by a $300 fine for the first 30 days and $100 per day after that.
With knowledge in hand, property owners can make informed decisions on how to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, and tenants can factor in energy performance before signing a lease. Similar benchmarking laws are already in place in New York, Washington, D.C., Austin, Seattle, and San Francisco.