Energy efficiency legislation in Philadelphia sets high, but achievable, goals

October 24, 2012

When Mayor Michael Nutter recently signed a bill designed to improve energy efficiency and sustainability in the Greater Philadelphia region, he declared it to be a significant step on the way to making the city "the greenest in America."

According to a recent article published by AOL Energy, the mayor is one part of a push toward energy efficient commercial buildings and the continued development of a citywide initiative to take advantage of advances in green building technology. Nutter may have signed the bill into local law, but Philadelphia is already on the map when it comes to energy efficient building and sustainability.

Federal government-backed initiatives such as the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) are already receiving column inches in the energy media, with industry analysts using the research and development of this model project to look at nationwide implementation. Sponsored by the Department of Energy, the EEB Hub has brought together a consortium of institutions that include academia, the private sector and innovative energy development companies, all under the leadership umbrella of Pennsylvania State University.

The new legislation enacted by Nutter requires commercial real estate companies and owners of buildings to provide information, specifically the energy and water usage data that can identify where organizations can improve on their consumption requirements. This will allow regional building officials to set achievable targets for efficiency and provide the public domain with critical information for the construction of buildings in the future, while setting an example for other cities to follow.

The EEB Hub has received $122 million from the DOE after it won a nationwide competition for R&D into commercial buildings, an achievement that some believe will make the city an excellent testing ground for energy efficient building technology. Philadelphia is blessed with an abundance of 19th century buildings, many of which are energy-inefficient, and while the targets set by the DOE are high, officials at the initiative see it as the chance to educate as well as innovate.

"The construction industry can be a tough nut to crack because it wants energy solutions that are tried and tested," said Laurie Actman, EEB Hub Deputy Director, speaking to AOL. "It's a conservative industry. A lot of people don't know the right questions to ask, it's hard to create the demand if the owners don't know what they should be demanding."