Philadelphia recently passed legislation requiring the benchmarking and disclosure of energy and water usage in commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet. Measurement will be done through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and disclosed to prospective tenants and buyers as well as the city, which may eventually make the information publicly available online.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the law as it applies to energy is nearly identical to those passed in New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco and other cities. Measuring and reporting on water is new, in line with ENERGY STAR’s addition of water benchmarking capability in recent years.
Jones Lang LaSalle rarely takes a position on the wisdom of government mandates affecting commercial buildings, but we are strong supporters of energy benchmarking and disclosure as a way to improve our industry while addressing climate change. Portfolio Manager participation is free, and results in information owners can use to make cost-effective improvements. Disclosure of the data enables tenants to make informed location decisions, and may encourage owners and tenants to work together on efficiency programs.
In reporting on the Philly news, Cozen O’Connor noted that cities with similar disclosure laws have seen “a 6 to 7 percent decrease in energy use, as building owners saw the need to cut costs and level the playing field with their competitors.” Although I haven’t verified that statement’s accuracy, it aligns with our firm’s experience that measuring energy performance leads to improvement.
The Institute for Market Transformation, a DC nonprofit organization that is the definitive source of information on this topic, estimates that a national benchmarking and disclosure policy would save about $18 billion in energy costs by 2020 and would result in more than 59,000 net new jobs. So far, the action in the U.S. has been at the state and city level. Cities and states that reduce energy cost, create jobs and address climate change concerns are gaining an advantage when it comes to attracting residents and businesses. Philadelphia is the most recent city to join their ranks. It won’t be the last.