Policy Issues

ENERGY STAR - For Buildings

ISSUE

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR for buildings program has been a success since its creation in 1998.  It is a proven platform for building owners and managers to “label” their assets as top energy efficiency performers in the marketplace.

 

The federal EPA estimates that 44 billion square feet — nearly 45% of U.S. commercial floor space — use “Portfolio Manager,” ENERGY STAR’s free online tool to measure and manage buildings’ energy, water, and waste consumption.

 

Investors, tenants, and a Millennial-dominated workforce seek buildings and workplaces with ENERGY STAR ratings because they signal well-managed, profitable assets with reduced carbon footprints. 

 

Energy Star

Position

The Real Estate Roundtable strongly supports EPA ENERGY STAR.  We have advocated for Congress to:

  • Appropriate sufficient funds for the program, so EPA has the resources it needs to maintain the same level of services it provides to building owners and managers; and
  • Authorize EPA to develop new platforms, so ENERGY STAR reflects the dynamism of the U.S. real estate sector and evolves with market demands for high performance assets. [See “ENERGY STAR – For Tenants” page]

EPA must ensure that ENERGY STAR equations result in equitable scores – regardless of a building’s size, use type, geographic location, or fuel source.  During the 2018-2019 “study period” to assess revisions to EPA’s scoring models, The Roundtable urged that a Heating Degree Days (HDD) factor must be used to adjust ENERGY STAR scores – so that buildings in colder climates are rated as equitably as buildings in warmer climates (that benefit from a Cooling Degree Day factor in the scoring model).  EPA agreed with this important recommendation.  The agency includes an HDD adjustment factor in its new ENERGY STAR scoring models finalized in July 2019.   

The underlying data set that provides the very basis for ENERGY STAR scores must be robust and capture energy used by the full range and diversity of U.S. commercial building infrastructure.  In particular, conspicuous gaps in prior data must be filled to ensure that energy consumption of “large buildings” is sufficiently accounted for in nationwide survey efforts.  [See “Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)” page)      

Background

The “business case” for ENERGY STAR shows a correlation between energy efficiency “labels” with properties that enjoy lower operating costs, obtain better mortgage terms, and command higher sales prices and rental rates.

ENERGY STAR does not impose federal mandates on private sector buildings.  However, buildings owned by the federal government, and private sector buildings in which federal agencies lease tenant spaces, have certain ENERGY STAR requirements

An increasing number of state and local laws leverage ENERGY STAR benchmarking and rating platforms as mandates within their respective jurisdictions.  It is critical that EPA provide guidance to help ensure that municipal-level programs synchronize with the rating scale and other components of EPA’s voluntary national program.        

From September 2018-2019, EPA embarked on a technical “study period” to update the models and equations used to determine ENERGY STAR building scores.  The update was required as EPA moved to peg scores with reference to the most recent CBECS data set from 2012.  The agency concluded its study period in July 2019.  It has published analyses and key findings for its scoring models on office, retail, hotel, warehouse and other property types. 

With the study period concluded, buildings are now eligible to apply to EPA for ENERGY STAR certifications for both years 2018 and 2019, through December 31, 2019.  

ENERGY STAR for Buildings Links:

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