Alert: Benchmarking Expanding; New Ordinances Spreading
Recent developments in the realm of energy benchmarking mandates point to a rapid expansion in the near future. Already in 2015, three cities have had either new legislation or new programs introduced, with two more likely. This is more than the number of new ordinances passed in all of 2014, and makes 2015 the busiest year yet for benchmarking.
At the end of 2014, 11 cities had benchmarking ordinances. Of those, seven have requirements for multifamily buildings: Austin, Boston, Cambridge, Mass., Chicago, New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The spread of these laws has accelerated. The first two ordinances were introduced in 2008; the spread was steady until a spike in 2013.
Since the start of 2015 Orlando, Atlanta, and Phoenix have been dealing with new or potential new programs. In addition, Philadelphia, a city that previously exempted multifamily from benchmarking, has introduced an amendment to add apartments to the program. Finally, Los Angeles and Kansas City are both exploring energy benchmarking mandates and have begun vetting draft ordinances.
Benchmarking and disclosure mandates traditionally require building owners to track their energy consumption, usually with a software like EPA’s Portfolio Manager, and report that data to the city. The city then discloses the data to the public; some jurisdictions require additional disclosure to current and potential residents. While none of these laws include any official retrofit mandates, those are the feared “next step.”
Many of our local affiliates are actively engaged on these ordinances, working to educate their local officials about the adverse affects on our industry. Unfortunately, in many cases these laws arrive in council chambers almost fully formed, without sufficient stakeholder input from the apartment industry. In light of this, affiliates will need to expand legislative monitoring efforts to include non-traditional departments, such as the Office of Sustainability or equivalent. These ordinances are usually part of larger, city-wide sustainability initiatives to “green” the city, not exclusive to multifamily or even real estate.
NAA will provide background and support to our affiliates as needed, should more of these ordinances crop up. Please do not hesitate to contact Alison Berry if you need assistance, have questions, or have information to share.