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Cities Striving to Be America's Straight-A Students

March 15, 2018

Rating building energy use on an academic letter grade or star scale is one new policy that Chicago and New York are using – moves that will likely impact the market for energy-efficient buildings in the future.

Energy grades are different for building energy assessments because they are intended to be posted in a visible location at a building's entrance, informing occupants and enabling perks for high achievers, such as charging higher occupancy rates. More places are adopting new energy policies and programs that go above and beyond basic tracking and reporting requirements.

Chicago implementing new 4 star energy efficiency rating system for buildings

These newly adopted grading systems are based on a building's ENERGY STAR® rating of 1 to 100, which addresses building size, location, occupancy, and other factors to calculate an ideal performance measurement. That baseline, compared to the building's actual energy usage assigns the building a rank among its peers.

About Chicago's Building Rating System

While Chicago has had a benchmarking ordinance since 2013, the city's new rating system will recognize buildings with exceptional energy performance. Approved in November 2017, the city's rating system will require that benchmarked buildings post their rating in a prominent location and share the information when a property is for lease or sale. All buildings that are 50,000 square feet or larger will be rated with zero-to-four-stars, assigned based on each building's ENERGY STAR 1-100 scoring:

Read more about the new Chicago Energy Rating System.

About New York City's Building Rating System

New York soon followed Chicago's lead in late December 2017, when the city council approved a new law, which requires property owners post information about a building's energy efficiency in a conspicuous place, make the information publicly available online, and audit the information annually.

"This legislation will equip companies and individuals with the data they crave to make more informed decisions about the best place to buy or rent," said Manhattan city council member Dan Garodnick and reported by Habitat Magazine.

New York City implementing new letter grade energy efficiency rating system for buildings

New York's letter grade system will work similar to how the city's restaurants are currently graded based on health inspections, and is intended to help the average person better understand energy use. Any building required to comply with NYC Local Law 84 will be given a letter grade based on its ENERGY STAR scoring:

NYC's grading system also concedes a possible energy efficiency grade of "N" for several exceptions, such as if an ENERGY STAR score cannot be obtained.

Read more (PDF) about New York's new energy grades law.

Making the Grade - Improving Your Score

Improving building energy performance is the best way to comply with local regulations, which are changing rapidly in many places. Tracking and reporting energy use is often the first step to improving a building's performance – a task that SOL VISTA's Skywalk® software automates. Other actions include:

To learn more about benchmarking in your city or to address what efficiency measures your property should take, contact SOL VISTA for a customized audit and review.

More Cities Adopting Building Transparency Options

Other cities will likely follow suit: In 2017, Denver adopted a new tool to rank building energy efficiency across the city. Los Angeles has a building energy and water efficiency program that includes already includes benchmarking. Boston's comprehensive guide on how to report a building's energy use simplifies the process for local managers and owners – but as energy demands increase with development and population growth, more measures to improve efficiency will help cities save on costs.

Skywalk®, SOL VISTA's proprietary SaaS platform, empowers commercial building owners and managers to improve the performance and profitability of their buildings.

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