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Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law: San Francisco Passes Law Requiring Building Energy Audits and Benchmarking

Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law


J. Cullen Howe   By J. Cullen Howe, Environmental Law Specialist, Arnold & Porter LLP

Recently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to pass the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance, which requires owners of commercial buildings greater than 10,000 square feet to gather and publish data on the energy performance of their buildings, referred to as “benchmarking.”  Pursuant to the ordinance, non-residential building owners are now required to benchmark their buildings’ energy use using EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and file this information with the city on an annual basis.  Portfolio Manager is an energy management tool that allows users to track and assess energy and water consumption of their buildings and to compare them with buildings of similar type and size.


In addition, the ordinance requires the owners of these buildings to conduct energy audits every five years to optimize building energy efficiency.  Besides identifying the sources of energy use, a building energy audit seeks to prioritize the energy uses to find the most cost effective ways to reduce building energy use.  Beginning in October 2011, owners of commercial buildings greater than 50,000 square feet will be required to conduct energy audits.  By 2013, the rules will apply to all commercial properties over 10,000 square feet.



The ordinance codifies the recommendations of the Existing Commercial Building Task Force, which was convened to identify ways the city could work with the private sector to improve the energy efficiency of existing commercial buildings.  The Task Force was comprised of 18 members of San Francisco’s building ownership, developer, financial, architectural, engineering, and construction communities.


Reprinted with permission from Green Building Law Update Service.


The Green Building Law Update Service is a 2011 LexisNexis Top 50 Blogs for Environmental Law & Climate Change nominee.


J. Cullen Howe is an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter LLP. Much of Cullen's work focuses on climate change, where he attempts to educate lawyers and the public at large on the enormous cooperation necessary to adequately address this problem. In addition to his work on climate change, Cullen is the managing editor of Environmental Law in New York, edits the Environmental Law Practice Guide, Brownfields Law and Practice, the Environmental Impact Review in New York, and has drafted chapters in the Environmental Law Practice Guide on climate change and green building. Mr. Howe is a graduate of Vermont Law School, where he was the managing editor of the Vermont Law Review, and a graduate of DePauw University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.


These publications can be purchased at the Store by clicking on the above links. subscribers may also access them at the following links: Environmental Law in New York; Environmental Law Practice Guide; Brownfields Law and Practice; Environmental Impact Review in New York. subscribers may also access comprehensive Green Building materials at All Green Buildings Analytical Materials, Legal News, Surveys & Briefs.


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