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Region targets policy gaps to help Northwest cities address worst performing buildings

Buildings represent almost half of all U.S. energy consumption (46%) with poor-performing buildings having an outsized impact on energy use. But without a systematic approach to track building performance, it is often difficult to identify the worst energy hogs.  By setting up systems to monitor and understand building performance, cities can identify potential improvement targets and significantly impact their total energy use.

In most cities, the energy code is the primary way of regulating building energy performance. And while code advancements have greatly increased new building efficiency, codes have a limited impact on already existing buildings. That’s because codes don’t take into account how the building is occupied, operated and maintained, all of which have major impacts on energy use.  As a result, cities are in need of new policy mechanisms that are grounded in actual building performance.

“Although many jurisdictions have adopted significant energy code advancements, few cities recognize how much potential energy savings exist in improvements to existing buildings.  Addressing the worst performing buildings can save as much energy as stringent new codes, while reducing operating cost and improving building comfort and performance” said Mark Frankel of the New Buildings Institute (NBI). 

With a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) and NBI are developing a pilot program to address these policy gaps. The Community Building Renewal pilot will give cities a toolkit that will help them to track and identify the worst performing buildings, including a selection of performance-based policies to choose from.

The City of Boise has agreed to be the first Community Building Renewal pilot location. Beginning in September 2014, NEEA and NBI will provide technical assistance to the city to identify the worst energy hogging buildings and set new performance targets. The program team will use the pilot results to build a business case for outcome-based energy policies, and to provide lessons learned for other cities.

Since its inception, NEEA has played a pivotal role in helping the Northwest deliver more effective and efficient energy codes. Outcome-based codes, which are grounded in actual building performance, represent the next horizon in code advancement. By adopting an outcome-based approach to regulating building energy use, new opportunities for energy efficiency, including operations and maintenance characteristics, are created. 

For more information on NEEA’s codes and standards efforts, please visit neea.org.