Expert Voices: Jayson Antonoff, US Director of the Global Buildings Performance Network

In this post, we welcome the Global Buildings Performance Network, a new C40 partner supporting the work of our cities tackling climate change through the measurement and reporting of building energy efficiency

On September 11, the Chicago City Council adopted the Building Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance, calling for all non-industrial buildings 50,000 square feet or larger to track, verify, and publicly disclose their energy performance. This program will harness market forces to encourage cross-sector energy efficiency by creating standard measures of building performance and empowering citywide stakeholders to consider energy efficiency in real estate transactions. The ordinance will phase in over a period of four years, with public reporting of all covered buildings by fall of 2017.

Chicago now joins the ranks of eight other US cities, including C40 member cities Washington DC, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, Austin and San Francisco, which have enacted similar requirements. Policies on energy tracking and transparency can be powerful, market-based tools to reduce energy costs and mitigate risks associated with climate change. In Chicago, for example, where building energy use represents more than 70 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, the ordinance will apply to roughly 3,500 of the largest buildings. More than 260,000 buildings in the US have already benchmarked their performance using the US EPA’s free tool, Energy Star Portfolio Manager; and an EPA study showed that buildings that benchmarked their performance reduced energy use by an average of 7% over three years.

A Global Trend

Building energy benchmarking, also referred to as rating or building certification, is gaining momentum internationally. There are now more than 60 energy performance rating schemes in effect in more than 41 countries around the world. 

The EU was an early leader, with Denmark enacting one of the first mandatory energy rating programs in 1996. Under the European Union’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, all member states in the EU are implementing country-wide certification schemes. Such schemes have been in place in most countries since at least 2009. 

Whereas energy code requirements apply only to new construction and major renovations, benchmarking and disclosure schemes can more broadly influence the other 99 percent of buildings that are not subject to code requirements in any given year. European schemes, for instance, target buildings when they are sold or rented, while most mandatory programs in the US require annual disclosure. These benchmarking programs will have the greatest impact when they serve as the foundation for a suite of policies and programs that promote continuous improvement in building performance, driving energy efficiency improvements throughout the entire life cycle of a building.

New Partnership Supports Locally-tailored Solutions

Although standard benchmarking platforms and a growing base of city legislation are paving the way for broader adoption of building performance measurement, each jurisdiction must develop a program approach that addresses the unique needs of its own building stock and real estate stakeholders. To help cities meet this challenge, the Global Buildings Performance Network (GBPN) entered into a partnership with C40 to support targeted approaches that will be most effective for individual city circumstances. 

The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), the US regional hub for the GBPN, has already worked closely with many cities in the US to develop and successfully implement these programs, while the Buildings Performance Institute Europe, GBPN’s EU based partner, has been surveying the effectiveness of the European building certification schemes, which have been mandatory since 2006.

…And Best Practice Sharing

Based on its worldwide experience in this area, GBPN is uniquely positioned to help global cities learn from each other’s successes to move their initiatives forward. For example, since most European buildings are already required to comply with the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the effort there can focus on next steps such as increasing compliance rates, encouraging mandatory online disclosure of energy performance, and developing supporting policies to actually achieve savings based on existing certification schemes. US and Asian cities can learn much from the longer track record of program design and implementation in Europe, including the development of programs for single-family residential buildings, which has largely been untapped in other regions. By facilitating the sharing of best practices, GBPN is poised to help all C40 Cities apply and advance benchmarking, rating and disclosure schemes to reduce the carbon emissions of their building stock.

GBPN is a globally organized and regionally focused network whose mission is to advance best practice policies that can significantly reduce energy consumption and associated CO2 emissions from buildings. Click here to learn more about the organization.