ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 120 - 08/11/2011

Jurisdictions Requiring Energy Transparency Should Take Proactive Steps: Report

Local and state governments adopting policies to require large commercial building owners to both measure and disclose their properties’ energy use should take some proactive steps to maximize compliance, according to a report that the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) recently released.


The advice comes as energy-transparency policies are drawing interest from states and cities across the United States. Jurisdictions have adopted building energy rating and disclosure laws in the states of Washington and California as well as in the cities of Austin, Texas; New York City; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. Worldwide, about 50 national, regional, and local governments have such policies in place for commercial buildings.  


 Among other things, the report urges jurisdiction officials to “develop and deploy a comprehensive public outreach, benchmarking training, and stakeholder education program in advance of initial policy implementation.” The document, entitled “Building Energy Transparency,” asserts that proactively administering this type of program can “significantly increase stakeholder awareness, potentially boosting” compliance rates and benchmarking data quality.

IMT recommended that outreach, benchmarking, and education programs contain the following components:


  • Communication plans to reach different constituencies, including large and small building owners, operators and investors, property and facility managers, energy-services businesses, tenants, utilities, and the general public.
  • Partnerships with organizations and industry associations to help conduct outreach and benchmarking training sessions.
  • Direct correspondence with building owners and operators to explain compliance responsibilities.
  • A media-outreach campaign to increase awareness and build public support.
  • Robust Internet and social-media resources.
  • Ongoing benchmarking training and assistance as resources allow.  


By making building energy use and costs more transparent, these laws are expected to encourage building-energy improvements and stimulate market demand for energy efficiency. The recently enacted laws in the U.S. are starting to be phased in and “will have an enormous impact” on American real estate, affecting approximately 4 billion square feet of building space, about three times the current impact of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, IMT asserted. 


IMT Representatives Provide Green Building Insider with Additional Details


In an email interview with Green Building Insider, IMT spokesperson Amanda Hurley and David Leipziger, managing editor of the company’s website (, provided the following additional details:


GBI: Which types of officials and professionals are expected to use the report?


Hurley: The report is aimed primarily at city and state policy makers. It should also hold strong interest for commercial/multifamily real estate, the construction industry, building-controls companies, sustainability consultants, engineers, and architects.

GBI: About how many jurisdictions are expected to use this document and by when?


Hurley: There is no set number of jurisdictions we expect to consult the report. We do expect that as the number of jurisdictions considering rating and disclosure policies grows, more cities and states will find it to be an essential roadmap to policy implementation.


GBI: How will the availability of the report be communicated to the target audience? Press releases? Letters sent to individual legislators?


Hurley: We are very pleased that the report got such a positive press response. It has already been covered in about 30 publications, including USA Today and the New Republic. That was an important means of getting the word out, but we also emailed local-government officials, real-estate leaders, and green-building and energy-efficiency experts to let them know that the report was available. It will be available permanently, for free, on our website at

GBI: Approximately how many additional jurisdictions are expected to adopt similar laws/ordinances on energy transparency anytime soon? About how many jurisdictions are considering such bills/ordinances now?


Hurley: It's hard to predict which draft bills will be introduced next session, but several cities and states are interested in rating and disclosure policies right now.


GBI: What are 3-4 of the most important ways in which the report can help jurisdictions that are seeking to adopt rating and disclosure policies? In what ways will this report be of most use to them? Organizing data on energy usage?


Hurley: The report does not organize data on energy usage. That data is still being collected, so organization and analysis will happen later. The report highlights some of the common challenges that local and state governments often run into when implementing this kind of policy. To help surmount these challenges, the report authors identify emerging best practices in several areas: outreach, education, and training; benchmarking guidance; compliance and enforcement; data-quality assurance; energy-consumption data (i.e., access to data); and disclosure.


GBI: The report states that more than 50 national, regional, and local governments worldwide have such transparency policies already in place. What results can you report thus far about the effectiveness of those policies (i.e., compliance rates), deficiencies, surprises regarding the amounts of energy usage reported, etc.?


Leipziger: The [European Union] has seen issues with the cost of ratings, and that affects compliance. Although, in places where energy labels have had longer traction, like Denmark, compliance rates are higher and energy use in buildings is lower. Luckily, all of the U.S. jurisdictions with laws in place require the use of Portfolio Manager, a free tool.


GBI: Would you characterize the U.S. as lagging behind other nations in embracing these types of transparency policies? Why or why not?


Hurley: I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘lagging behind’, but it’s true that these policies are already entrenched in Europe, thanks to a European Union directive of 2002, and there are policies in place in Australia, Japan, and elsewhere. It’s interesting that the policy making is not happening at the national (federal) level in the U.S. but at the city and state level. That may be one reason why building energy transparency has received relatively little attention to date even though the U.S. policies will affect nearly 4 billion square feet of real estate when fully implemented.

A follow-up report is planned for next summer. 




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