Study: Building energy intensity can differ greatly in cities

August 7, 2012

The efficiency of commercial buildings has become a significant issue for both property owners and the businesses that are tenants in these structures, and reducing the energy consumption levels of real estate in major cities has been a goal of many government agencies in the U.S.

This is because these commercial structures account for roughly 40 percent of the total energy consumption in the country, and because of this number the U.S. Green Building Council and the Department of Energy are working to cut these emissions.

The USGBC has relied on its popular and well-received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system to try and initiate a change in the sector, while the DOE has looked to spur innovation at a specific Hub in Philadelphia.

The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) is located at the city's historic Navy Yard, and is working to transform the commercial sector by highlighting the efficiency and cost-savings associated with green retrofits and renovation projects.

These advances in the sector have provided a framework for companies, building owners and city governments across the country, and a recent study highlighted the potential room for improvement in commercial real estate in NYC.

The report from PlaNYC, the New York City Local Law 84 Benchmarking Report offers an updated set of rules about how companies and building owners should manage and track their energy use.

According to the report, there is a wide gap in the performance levels of buildings, but on the whole the city's properties are efficient and considered quality stock.

"New York City’s buildings perform significantly better than the national average, having a median ENERGY STAR score of 64 out of 100," said the authors of the report.

One major issue was newer buildings versus older structures, and the data showed a surprising trend.

"Though many factors are at play, newer office buildings in New York City tend to use more energy per square foot than older ones," wrote the authors.

According to Environmental & Energy Management News, the city is looking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 from levels that were recorded in 2005, and the benchmarking system is expected to account for a majority of the change.

By requiring businesses to monitor and track energy use levels, the city is hoping that a reduction in energy consumption levels will come as part of a naturally progressing framework of laws and systems.