Philadelphia looking to lead in energy efficiency benchmarking push

May 29, 2012

The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is looking to catch up with New York City and the District of Columbia in terms of energy efficiency benchmarking, as legislation was introduced to the local government to control usage levels in the metropolis.

The Naked City reported that councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown introduced a bill to the city council that would require benchmarking of energy and water use for nonresidential buildings or properties of 25,000-square feet or more in Philadelphia. The proposed legislation is similar to what New York City and Washington, D.C. enacted in order to curb emissions and cut usage levels.

According to the bill, an online tracking program – the Environmental Protection Agency's Portfolio Manager – would be implemented in order to help property owners, tenants, prospective purchasers, lessees and the general public to compare energy and water use levels among buildings that would be considered comparable.

The bill could potentially encourage property managers to make more informed decisions regarding energy use and consumption, especially for the rules and regulations they establish for tenants.

"We hope this would make buyers and tenants better informed and encourage smart energy upgrades by commercial landowners," said Andrew Sharp, who works for Next Great City and PennFuture. "We see this as the beginning of the process."

The city of Philadelphia, especially if this legislation were to pass, is a leader in terms of promoting the switch to more energy efficient practices for commercial building owners. A Department of Energy-designated effort is headquartered in the metropolis and is working to positively change the local real estate market.

The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) is a consortium of institutions from academia, the energy development industry, the private sector and government that are looking to transform the commercial buildings sector. Both economic and environmental benefits to using green and sustainable materials and structures have been presented by the effort in order to change the thinking of property owners in the city.

The New York Daily News reported that the commercially-viable component of energy efficient buildings is a large part of what can convince property owners to make changes to structures.

Maggie Koerth-Baker told the news outlet that facts need to be presented by environmentalists instead of just anecdotes, and promoting energy use reduction can best be achieved by using cost-cutting promotion.

"We need to start thinking about energy in a data-oriented way. A lot of the people who care the most about the environmental consequences of energy have serious misconceptions about the best way to do that," said Koerth-Baker.