The Atlanta City Council unanimously passed legislation that will use cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities to spur local economic development, create thousands of jobs, improve public health, and reduce the city’s overall environmental footprint, according to the City Energy Project, a national initiative from the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Under the Atlanta Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance, the city aims to meet these goals by collecting (or “benchmarking”), reporting, and sharing energy use data for the city’s commercial buildings, along with periodic energy audits and potential improvements to existing building equipment and functions (called “retrocomissioning”).
Using these tools, the city projects that the ordinance will drive a 20 percent reduction in commercial energy consumption by the year 2030, spur the creation of more than a thousand jobs annually in the first few years, and cut carbon emissions in half from 2013 levels by 2030.
“Atlanta is paving the way for other cities to take advantage of the significant environmental and economic benefits that come with making city skylines more energy efficient,” says Melissa Wright, director of the City Energy Project at NRDC. “This ordinance is tailor-made for Atlanta, taking best practices from other cities and refining them to meet local needs. It will not only reduce harmful air pollution that threatens public health, but drive local job-creation, and help the city and local buildings lower their energy bills.”
Buildings currently account for 66 percent of Atlanta’s total energy use. This new ordinance addresses energy use in private and city-owned buildings more than 25,000 square feet in size. This includes 2,350 buildings that, as a whole, represent 88 percent of the city’s commercial sector.
“After its citizens, a city’s buildings are its most important assets, and in many cases, it’s shocking how much information about these structures remains unknown. Atlanta’s new ordinance combines four powerful tools that together can provide unparalleled insight into these valuable assets,” says Cliff Majersik, executive director of the IMT, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that is a proponent of building energy benchmarking across the country. “Benchmarking data establishes a baseline as to how a building is currently performing. In conjunction with this information, energy audits and tuning give building owners actionable information on the financial impacts of potential improvements and empower these owners to focus on the most cost-effective options for their building and their business. Providing building performance to the public informs leasing and purchasing decisions; it enables the market to function properly and reward efficient buildings with higher occupancy and faster lease-up.”
How It Works
Participating buildings will be phased in, starting with municipal buildings in 2015 and expanding to include private buildings in 2016. Under the legislation, owners of the designated buildings will be required to annually benchmark and report to the city their properties’ energy use via a free online tool.
Building off of this data, building owners will then be asked to complete an energy audit once every 10 years. An energy audit is a detailed assessment of how a building could improve its performance through upgrading its equipment and systems. Additional building tuning (or “retrocommissioning”) efforts, which ensure that existing equipment is operated as designed for efficiency, are optional but recommended under the new ordinance. In addition, building performance data collected under the benchmarking initiative will be made transparent to the public to allow the market to recognize, reward, and drive increased demand for high-performing buildings.
The Atlanta Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance is part of the city’s work under the City Energy Project, an initiative from the IMT and NRDC that is developing locally tailored plans and programs to create healthier, more prosperous, and more resilient cities by reducing carbon pollution from their largest source: buildings.
Other participating City Energy Project cities include Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, Orlando, Fla., Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City. By investing in building energy-efficiency programs and policies, together the City Energy Project participants are projected to cut pollution equivalent to taking 1.4 million cars off the road and save residents and businesses a combined total of nearly $1 billion annually on their energy bills.