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Boston releases building energy metrics to advance climate goals

October 1, 2015

Environment

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Environment

The City of Boston released today the first year of energy metrics for large buildings – including an interactive map for Boston residents to see their building energy and water usage – as part of its energy reporting and disclosure program. The metrics and findings from that data are available on a new website created by the City and can be accessed here: berdo.greenovateboston.org

“We’re eager to help residents and businesses save money by connecting building owners with energy efficiency incentives and financing programs,” said Austin Blackmon, Chief of Energy, Environment, and Open Space. “And because large buildings are responsible for about half of our citywide greenhouse gas emissions, increasing their energy efficiency is critical to achieving our climate goals.”

Boston’s updated Greenovate Climate Action Plan provides the framework for how to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Building energy reporting and disclosure is a key component of that plan by encouraging building owners to invest in energy efficiency.

"The information provided through energy reporting will assist in the education process for large commercial and residential building owners to understand how to reduce their energy use and costs. We look forward to working with the City to connect building owners with programs for energy efficiency," said Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board.

This is the first year of public disclosure. More than 1,300 large properties, encompassing over 30 percent of the built space in Boston, are now sharing their energy and water use.

"With a continued focus on education and outreach through programs like this and ABC’s Challenge for Sustainability we will increase our understanding of the energy performance of buildings. This will lead to new investments in energy efficiency and deliver real savings that benefit owners, tenants, and the city.” said David Straus, Director of Development & Programs for A Better City.

Many of Boston’s commercial and institutional buildings score highly on the current national scorecard, earning high ENERGY STAR scores. Offices, university dormitories, and Boston’s public schools have median scores that are significantly higher than the national median.

“Boston’s health care sector has been deeply committed to energy efficient operations and tracking institutional and sector energy use for many years; it is essential to our mission to care for our patients and communities,” said Paul Lipke, Senior Advisor of Energy and Buildings for Health Care Without Harm and Co-coordinator of the Green Ribbon Commission Health Care Working Group.

The building energy metrics and an analysis of 2013 data from municipal, commercial, and institutional buildings are available on the website here: http://berdo.greenovateboston.org/

Key findings from that data include:

  • In the first year, 84 percent of the floor area required to report complied with the ordinance.
  • The properties that reported in 2014 represent approximately 31 percent of all the energy used by buildings in Boston.
  • Buildings of the same type can vary greatly in energy use intensity. Among Boston's large office buildings, for example, the most energy-intensive buildings reported using over ten times more energy per square foot than the least energy-intensive buildings.
  • On average, older buildings perform well. Office buildings built before 1950 used significantly less energy per square foot on average than those built after 1950.

Boston enacted the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) in 2013 and shortly thereafter began sharing data on the City’s municipal buildings. BERDO requires large buildings to annually report their energy and water use to the City along with non-residential buildings over 50,000 square feet since the beginning of 2014. Residential buildings of this size began reporting in 2015.

By 2017, over 40 percent of Boston’s built floor space will be tracking and reporting its energy use and GHG emissions, but to achieve this, less than 4 percent of Boston’s buildings will report. Boston is one of fourteen cities nationally with similar policies for transparency on building energy performance.