Seattle Leads the Way in Tracking Building Energy Use

Enthusiasm for water and energy data collection for commercial and residential buildings has been growing strong across the U.S. in major cities such as Austin, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. It's no surprise to learn that Earth-friendly Seattle is ahead of the game when it comes to tracking its buildings; reports show that the city is receiving data for a whopping 87% of its commercial and multi-residential buildings over 50,000 square feet, which totals to 1,160 individual properties covering over 200 million square feet of the city.

But that's not all. New cities are hopping on the data collection bandwagon, most recently Minneapolis - the first city in the Midwest to adopt rules for energy benchmarking and disclosure. Other cities who already have a green reputation, such as Boston, are upping their game to adopt this beneficial practice in an effort to create even healthier and more prosperous urban conditions. With the President himself expressing support for cutting energy use by constructing more energy efficient buildings at last week's State of the Union address, water and energy data collection is finally receiving the attention and consideration it deserves.

More on tracking building energy use after the break...

Architecture 2030, inventor of the 2030 Challenge, an incremental set of energy-reducing targets for building sector professionals, says that the sector is undergoing a dramatic transformation. As of July 2010, 73% of the 30 largest Architecture/Engineering firms in America had adopted their challenge to incorporate into their designs "appropriate planning and passive design strategies, improved material selection, building envelope design, more efficient lighting, equipment and appliances as well as on-site and community-scale renewable energy technologies." If the building sector continues to lead, Architecture 2030 believes that it can "dramatically reduce U.S. and global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over the next twenty years and beyond."

Collecting, documenting and displaying the effects of these design decisions in a way that makes them useful for the future is a matter of governmental policy and it's clear that governments who choose to implement such policies are seeing real results. Cities experiencing disclosure requirements for energy and water are reporting lower energy costs for businesses - one of the desired outcomes - along with the bolstering of market forces and the motivation of owners and tenants to invest in energy efficiency improvements. New York City is uncovering intriguingly less-than-ideal performances of some of its LEED buildings while older buildings seem to be doing less harm than expected - evidence of significant knowledge that would otherwise go undetected.

Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston hopes to reveal similar potentials in his own city by filing the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance with the Boston City Council, another component of the Mayor's extensive action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lessons learned from experienced cities informed the Ordinance, which will similarly require "all large and medium sized buildings to report annual energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions tracked through Energy Star Portfolio Manager," only one of the many services offered by the EPA to educate and organize new leaders in this green endeavor. Other services include help centers, workshops, daily technical assistance and a how-to-guide to facilitate the transition to more earth and energy-friendly buildings.

According to Brian Swett, Boston's Chief of Environment and Energy, "the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance follows the principal of what gets measured gets managed. Through measurement and transparency, the Ordinance will encourage cost effective building investments in energy and water efficiency that will improve building performance, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” With this quickly-spreading concern for water and energy conservation, it's only a matter of time before the rest of our nation's cities follow Seattle's lead.

References:, Architecture Source, Architecture 2030, The American Institute of Architects, City of Boston

About this author
Cite: Barbara Porada. "Seattle Leads the Way in Tracking Building Energy Use" 24 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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