Commercial real estate managers don’t need to wait for ordinance to take energy benchmarking initiatives

As commercial real estate property managers look for sustainable energy saving benchmarks, such as Energy Star, some legislators are taking the matter into their own hands.

In a recent National Real Estate Investor article, Kate Brown posits the question to real estate professionals around the world: What is the responsibility of real estate owners, investors and developers to the future of our planet's environment, given that buildings create more than 40 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions?

With the growth of urban areas – which account for 50 percent of the global population – the future success of any real estate company, commercial or otherwise, is linked to creating sustainable places for families to live and work and that align with energy benchmarks and natural resources.

The Energy Star debate
Many industry insiders say that energy benchmarks are just the beginning of any sustainability program. For example, the Energy Star certification program, developed by the federal government, uses Portfolio Manager, a computer program designed to compile a building's data points. 

"If you put good, accurate data into Portfolio Manager, you get good results," Tony Liou, president of Partner Energy, told the NREI. "But garbage in, garbage out."

Many buildings, Liou says, game the system by distorting the numbers. Some buildings do it intentionally, while others simply enter data in error. More importantly, there is a huge block of commercial real estate that is currently exempt from Energy Star ratings – the multifamily property and retail malls. While others call the system in question altogether because it compares buildings to a poor efficiency standard, pulling from a pool of data that originated during a technological time when buildings were inefficient.

And according to the NREI, compliance and reporting rating results publicly, even when required by law, is few and far between.

"Absent a really steep fine, I don't think a lot of these cities have a good way to convert everyone over," Dustin Gellman, owner of Green Per Square Foot, told the source. "While some companies were honestly ignorant about the law, he notes, others didn't want to know what they'd find. "It takes the health of your building and makes it public. A lot of owners don't want that."

Sebastopol, California
According to The Press Democrat, the small town of Sebastopol adopted legislation requiring all new residential and commercial developments to be equipped with solar power installations. The ordinance would require two watts of solar power per square foot of insulated building surface or offset 75 percent of the building's annual electric load. 

The Mayor, Michael Kyes, said that the ordinance will not only save money, but that it is the responsible thing to do.

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