San Francisco requiring large commercial buildings to get energy audits

By Alison Hawkes

Adobe offices in San Francisco have reduced energy use by 23 percent. Photo: Alison Hawkes, Way Out West

San Francisco is hoping to sway building owners to reduce their energy footprint with the power of knowledge. City officials signed into law on Friday a new requirement that buildings 10,000 square feet or larger be subject to regular energy audits.

The idea is that once building owners know how much money can be saved, they’ll voluntarily take steps to increase efficiency.

“The first step is to know where you stand,” said Barry Hooper, San Francisco’s green building specialist at the Department of Environment.

One key component of the new law will mandate “benchmarking” from Energy Star, which provides an energy performance rating system that compares similarly sized buildings and uses. The results will be made public, creating transparency in a building’s energy costs that have never existed before.

“It enables buyers, tenants, and insurance companies to consider energy in valuing buildings,” Hooper said.

Although energy reductions are entirely voluntary, there are various tax incentives that San Francisco officials believe will entice commercial building owners to take the next steps toward bettering efficiency. Officials say that energy efficiency in buildings can be improved by as much as 50 percent with existing technology. As such, they’re hoping to see a 50 percent reduction in commercial building energy use in San Francisco over the next 20 years.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee signed the legislation at Adobe’s offices on 7th and Townsend, a 1905 brick building that has a LEED Platinum certification and an Energy Star rating of 98 (only two points shy of the maximum of 100).

George Denise of Cushman & Wakefield, the building manager, said the building’s energy footprint has been reduced by 23 percent over a five year period by the installation of motion sensors that turn off lights when rooms are not in use, efficient LED lighting, and timed boilers that shut down at night and in warmer weather, among other measures.

“Maybe, maybe more buildings like this one will get to Platinum,” said Mayor Lee. He and other city officials stressed that the new ordinance had the support of the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco (BOMA), the Small Business Commission, and the local Chamber of Commerce.

New York City and Washington State require similar green building audits, but San Francisco’s new code covers the most square footage, said Melanie Nutter, director of San Francisco’s Department of Environment. She estimates that several thousand properties in San Francisco will need to comply.

Buildings larger than 50,000 square feet will be required to start energy audits in October; the mandate will expand to properties 10,000 square feet or larger by 2013.

Tags: adobe, energy efficiency, leed, , san francisco department of environment,

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