Large buildings would have to disclose energy use under proposed city policy

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November 26, 2012 by Sarah M

By Nick Halter

A new city policy is in the works for Minneapolis that would require large commercial buildings to make public the amount of energy they use.

If a building’s energy ratings were made public, tenants and owners would be motivated to make energy efficiency improvements, thus creating green jobs, according to policy author Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8).

“We know that large buildings such as these are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, so being able to impact how these buildings operate can have a very significant positive impact on the environment,” Glidden said.

Glidden’s policy would apply to private commercial buildings of 50,000 square or larger and public buildings 25,000 feet or larger. It would not apply to industrial buildings.

In total, nearly 550 buildings meet those criteria.

Building owners would be required to plug their energy and water consumption information into a free Energy Star software program. The building’s energy score would then be benchmarked with buildings of similar size and use and would then be published on the city website for the public to see. 

The policy would be phased in over three years. Public buildings would need to comply by 2013, 100,000 square foot buildings would have to comply by 2014 and buildings above 50,000 would have to comply by 2015.

Kevin Lewis, executive director of the Greater Minneapolis Building Owners and Managers Association, said the policy would have unintended consequences. He said property would lose value because vacancy rates would increase when a building is “stained” with a bad energy rating.

A bad rating could mean the loss of tenants, he said.

“Things mandated upon private businesses are never welcomed with open arms, and many (owners) have already done things to make their buildings energy efficient,” Lewis said.

Brendon Slotterback, the city’s sustainability program coordinator, said building owners and managers often have “a lot of things on their plate” and they don’t always have energy efficiency on their minds.

“There are a lot of companies and a lot of buildings paying very close attention to their energy use, but some of the smaller buildings probably haven’t looked at it or thought about it a lot,” Slotterback said.

Dan Huff, the city’s manager of environmental management and safety, said the most of the costs of starting such a policy would be funded through a $40,000 grant that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency awarded the city.

The city’s Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee is likely to hold a public hearing on the policy on Jan. 14, Glidden said. 

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