Energy Standards To Perform

Building performance standards will get a boost from national initiative.

Compiled by Facility Executive
From the February 2022 Issue

This past January, President Biden announced the establishment of a Buildings Performance Standards Coalition during remarks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting. The announcement highlighted the importance of enacting policy to support emission reductions in all buildings—both new and existing. The Coalition includes 33 state and local governments with a goal of advancing legislation or regulation in each locale by Earth Day 2024. Jurisdictions included in the partnership encompass 20% of the U.S. building footprint and 22% of its total population.

“New Buildings Institute lauds the White House announcement of this new initiative on Building Performance Standards,” said CEO Ralph DiNola. “Now is the time to put the $1.8 billion investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to work. NBI and others in our industry are prepared to support jurisdictions pursuing BPS policies, an essential component in the climate fight.”

energy standards
(Photo: Adobe Stock by Petovarga)

A total investment of $1.8 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be made available to state and local governments through the Department of Energy to expand building retrofits and policy implementation throughout the nation. Most existing buildings will still be operating in 2050 and beyond. BPS can help to incorporate existing buildings into a city or state’s climate action plan, signaling the importance of cutting their carbon footprint to fight the climate crisis.

Coalition Aims To Add Momentum

In its January 21 Fact Sheet, the White House stated: When building performance standards are designed in partnership with frontline communities and key stakeholders, innovative and equitable solutions can address multiple needs in a community. Energy efficiency improvements and electrification in multifamily buildings improve indoor air quality, eliminate drafts, and protect residents from extreme heat—delivering health benefits and lower health care costs. For businesses, high-performing buildings are not only good for the world, they are good for the bottom line—attracting higher occupancy rates and generating more revenue.

The White House Fact Sheet went on to share this overview for stakeholders: A New Buildings Performance Standards Coalition: This innovative partnership forms a coalition of state and local governments that represent over 22 percent of the American population. Supported by labor unions, philanthropy and non-governmental organizations, the Coalition has come together to scale programs and policies that reduce emissions across the buildings sector in local jurisdictions. This first-of-its-kind partnership will unlock energy efficiency and electrification across the buildings sector as an engine for job creation all while lowering energy bills for consumers.

The inaugural Building Performance Standards Coalition, which represents more than 15 billion square feet of applicable floor space, has come together to scale programs and policies that reduce emissions across the America’s buildings sector.

Advancing State and Local Building Performance Standards. In January, 33 state and local governments announced their participation in the National Building Performance Standards Coalition, founded on a commitment to work with stakeholders, especially frontline communities, to address health, energy affordability, and emissions reductions goals across the buildings sector. This participation includes developing policy roadmaps, convening place-based teams to co-create policy, identifying and acting on pre-requisites for building performance standards and complementary policies, and sharing results and experiences to forge a community of practice—with the ultimate goal of advancing legislation or regulation in each of the represented jurisdictions by Earth Day 2024.

Coalition members include: State of Colorado; State of Washington; Ann Arbor, MI; Annapolis, MD; Aspen, CO; Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Chula Vista, CA; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Evanston, IL; Fort Collins, CO; Grand Rapids, MI; Ithaca, NY; Kansas City, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; Montgomery County, MD; New York, NY; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Prince George’s County, MD; Reno, NV; Sacramento, CA; Saint Louis, MO; San Francisco, CA; Savannah, GA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced expanded technical assistance opportunities that can be accessed by Building Performance Standards Coalition members to design, measure, and manage local buildings performance policies:

Activating Technical Assistance. DOE’s Building Technology Office will support analyses of existing building stocks and will work with local governments to set emissions reductions goals with the assistance of better data collection tools. Additionally, DOE will share best practices for state and local governments that are adopting building performance standards, including public and private sector financing options, and will also provide analytical support to examine how policies targeting emissions reductions in existing buildings can pave the way for minimum new construction building energy codes.

Enhancing Support from EPA Climate Protection Partnerships Division. EPA will support policy development and implementation, including through analysis and recommendations of metrics and best practice toolkits. EPA will provide insight into current building energy use data as the foundation for jurisdiction-specific analysis and target setting, and will enhance ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® to provide new policy tracking and reporting capability, and will assist jurisdictions in using it. EPA will also provide new tools that calculate localized greenhouse gas emissions to inform reporting, compliance, and assessment.

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This map shows a list of participating cities in the National BPS Coalition. Participating jurisdictions are committed to passing a building performance policy by Earth Day 2024. (Image: Source – Institute for Market Transformation)

These actions follow a year of interagency collaboration at the state and local level. In 2021, the Administration:

Passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The law provides more than $1.8 billion to support building sector policies, including $500 million for DOE’s State Energy Program, which provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal governments to advance state-led energy initiatives; $550 million for DOE’s Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program to assist eligible governments to develop, promote, implement, and manage energy efficiency and conservation policy and projects in their jurisdiction; $250 million for grants to capitalize state-level revolving loan funds for energy efficiency; and $500 million for competitive grants to fund efficiency and renewable improvements in public schools.

Embedding equity expertise into federal assistance. The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Lab released a Request for Proposals for expertise in energy justice and in building performance standards to advance energy codes. Awards are expected in spring 2022 and will provide important federal capacity to support equity as a central tenet of building decarbonization policy.

As stated on the National Building Performance Standards Coalition website: Building performance standards are state and local laws that require existing buildings to achieve minimum levels of energy or climate performance. Working in tandem with new construction energy codes, these policies empower state and local leaders to deliver on their energy, and equity goals through accelerated retrofits.

The holy grail of decarbonizing buildings is cracking the nut of existing buildings. Building on the success of early adopters, the next wave of building performance standards and complementary policies promise to unlock additional uptake existing building retrofits. Nationally, we took a momentous step forward in 2021, when the federal government committed to the first-ever federal BPS that will include zero emission requirements, and the number of state and local jurisdictions adopting building performance standards doubled to nine.

The Coalition site goes on to state: Owners can use whatever technologies and operational strategies they decide are most effective and economical to meet their targets. BPS also recognize that not all buildings can be made into high-performing properties immediately. To address this, BPS establish long-term standards with interim targets that ratchet up over time. This combination of short-and long-term goals gives building owners the certainty they need to make confident investments in their properties, allows buildings to improve over time, and sends market signals to discourage investments in long-lived, inefficient, and environmentally damaging technology. In addition, throughout a BPS performance cycle, government leaders are ideally working with the private sector, utilities, community groups, and others to create incentives, programs, and technical assistance to support building owners and tenants in meeting performance targets.

National Building Performance Standards Coalition comprises a nationwide group of state and local governments that have committed to inclusively design and implement building performance policies and programs in their jurisdiction.

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