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Philadelphia Law Requiring Large Buildings to Report Water and Energy Usage Starts October

Owners of large buildings in Philadelphia will have to start reporting their electricity, natural gas and water use to the public starting this October.

The new law is part of regulation the city council passed last June, called the Building Energy Benchmarking Law. The law requires owners of commercial spaces over 50,000 square feet, including hospitals, banks and schools, to track and report energy and water use. Beginning in October of 2013, owners will be required to annually submit this information to the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, which will compile and analyze the data. Starting in 2014, MOS will make results of this reporting process publicly available.

Owners will compile and submit their energy and water use data via the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Portfolio Manager program, which has become the standard for benchmarking across the nation. This tool tracks energy and water consumption as well as building characteristics (such as age, type of use(s), operating hours, and potentially use-specific information such as the amount of area heated and air conditioned) to create an aggregate energy score on a scale of 1-100 for each building, with 75 being the threshold for Energy Star certification. Each owner will receive an energy report card.

The reporting will allow building-to-building comparison citywide.

"So you're not just looking at your bill over the last year during the same period, but you're getting a much more informative peer-to-peer comparison that you can use to understand and gauge your performance in the marketplace," says Alex Dews, Policy and Program Manager in the Mayor's Office of Sustainability.

After getting the energy report card, building managers can work with city and utility resources to find areas for improvement.

"The first step is getting the building owners' attention on how their buildings are using energy, and then connecting them to a lot of resources that exist through the city, through utility programs like PGW's Energy Sense and PECO's Smart Ideas," Dew says. "These incentives are there specifically for the purpose of helping owners to understand the opportunity and to make those investments that are going to drive down their energy costs."

A lot of the improvements aren't necessarily costly, says Dews.

"In a lot of cases there are five or 10 simple things that you can do to decrease your energy use that cost nothing," he explains.

"If you're at the low end of the scale, there are a lot of simple things you can do that cost nothing that will save a lot of energy and money," he said. "And if you're at the high end of the scale, it's a great way to get some recognition for what you're doing with your energy performance."

Many large commercial buildings in Philadlephia are already LEED or Energy Star certified. The combined floor space of these eco-labeled buildings in Philadelphia amounts to almost 20% of total commercial stock, well above the national average of 2.3%. However, the absolute number of buildings meeting these certifications is less than 5%: only 403 out of the 9,500 commercial properties in the region have received one of these eco-labels. A report released by the Econsult Corporation confirms the potential for further energy savings; it estimates that approximately 80% of Philadelphia's commercial space is suitable for retrofit. The EEB Hub expects that, as public data on the energy and water efficiency of offices and buildings becomes more readily available, companies will have new opportunities to assess their energy consumption and take steps to reduce it.

More information about the city's program can be found at http://www.phillybuildingbenchmarking.com/index.php/home

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