Philadelphia: Energy-Efficient Building Policy

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On June 21, 2012, Philadelphia’s City Council unanimously passed an energy and water benchmarking and disclosure ordinance. The city joins a select group of cities, including Washington, D.C., New York City, Seattle, Austin, and San Francisco, that have all passed similar benchmarking and disclosure laws in recent years. The ordinance amends Chapter 9-3400 of the “Energy Conservation” portion of the Philadelphia Code to include benchmarking and public disclosure as a mechanism to increase energy efficiency in the city. Benchmarking provides information on the energy and, usually, water use performance of buildings to help owners and operators to make better informed building investment and management decisions while disclosure provides energy and often water use information to potential tenants and buyers, allowing them to make better leasing and purchase choices. Disclosure of building energy performance to peers and the public can also encourage owners and operators to better manage their properties to save money and energy and enhance environmental performance.

Energy and Water Benchmarking and Disclosure Ordinance

Bill 120428-A, known as the energy and water benchmarking and disclosure ordinance, requires commercial and mixed use buildings with 50,000+ square feet of commercial space to calculate and disclose energy and water usage data as well as building characteristics, such as a building’s heating and air conditioning unit(s) and the building’s designated use(s). The ordinance does not require but rather encourages the data to be publicly available online, instead of disclosing information only upon request by potential lessees or buyers. Energy and water data will initially be managed using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager digital database. The ordinance will be enforced starting June 1, 2013. Property owners who do not comply within 30 days after the deadline will be fined $300 with an additional fine of $100 per day following the first 30 days.

Greenworks Philadelphia

The passage of the energy and water benchmarking and disclosure ordinance is part of a greater campaign created by Philadelphia’s mayor, Michael A. Nutter. Mayor Nutter established Philadelphia’s first Office of Sustainability, which released the city’s sustainability plan, Greenworks Philadelphia, in 2009. The plan sets goals for 15 targets to be met by 2015 with the objective of making Philadelphia the greenest city in America. The plan’s targets address various environmental topics, with a number of targets focused on the city’s energy efficiency, including:

Over 7,800 Philadelphia homes have been weatherized since Greenworks Philadelphia began in 2009. Weatherization can include:

  • Weather-stripping building openings
  • Caulking structural cracks and window panes
  • Replacing or repairing windows and doors
  • Switching out inefficient lighting
  • Wrapping of pipes and heating ducts
  • Painting roofs with Energy Star cool roof pigments to increase solar reflectance
  • Insulating water heaters

Source: Greenworks Philadelphia 2012 Progress Report

  • reducing city government energy consumption 30% from 2008 levels,
  • retrofitting 15% of housing stock with insulation, air sealing, and cool roofs,
  • lowering citywide building energy consumption by 10% or 12.9 trillion Btus from 2006 levels, and
  • decreasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 10%.

Energy Savings Success

Greenworks Philadelphia has been relatively successful. According to the 2012 progress report, municipal energy use has been reduced by about 5% since 2009 and has helped the city avoid almost $4 million in energy costs between 2009 and 2011. Despite increased adoption of efficiency practices in building construction and retrofits of existing buildings, citywide building energy consumption increased between 2006 and 2010. To some extent this can be attributed to extreme weather, a slow economy, and historically low energy prices. With the continued implementation of innovative programs, such as the Revolving Loan Fund for commercial and industrial energy efficiency retrofits, the 2015 building energy use target is still obtainable. For instance, current projects funded under the revolving loan fund will save a projected $311,400 in energy costs annually.

Each annual report not only reports on progress but also identifies new initiatives to be implemented meet the 2015 goals. New initiatives in progress include providing green building training for city employees, improving the efficiency of major landmarks like City Hall and incorporating best practices of sustainability and energy efficiency into city building use decisions. The creation of a facilities task force, an increase in the efficiency of city vending machines and the establishment of an energy efficiency fund are among the completed sustainability plan initiatives.

According to the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the city of Philadelphia received $30 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009 to fund its Weatherization Assistance Program. ARRA funding strengthened Greenworks Philadelphia’s energy commitments by providing low-income, eligible homeowners with energy audits, air-leak tests, and general weatherization techniques and materials. More than 7,800 Philadelphia homes have been weatherized through publicly funded programs since Greenworks Philadelphia began in 2009.

Philadelphia’s Energy Efficient Buildings Hub

The energy and water benchmarking and disclosure ordinance along with Philadelphia’s sustainability plan will mark the first steps in making Philadelphia a model of energy efficiency. The city is also home to one of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Innovation Hubs. Philadelphia’s Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, led by Penn State University, was established on February 1, 2011, and brings scientists together to collaborate more efficiently on efficiency projects. The hub strives to reduce U.S. commercial buildings’ energy consumption by 20% by 2020 and to cut energy consumption in existing buildings, in general, by 50% by 2015.


BILL NO. 120428-A

“New Philadelphia Ordinance Requires Reporting Commercial Energy and Water Use”

“United States: Philadelphia Enacts Mandatory Energy And Water Use Disclosure Ordinance For Commercial Buildings”

DOE Energy-Efficient Buildings Hub

Philadelphia’s Energy-Efficient Buildings Hub

Greenworks Philadelphia

Greenworks Philadelphia: 2012 Progress Report

Office of Housing and Community Development

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