Orlando Introduces Energy and Water Benchmarking Ordinance for Apartments

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ORLANDO – The City of Orlando has unveiled its “Sustainability Ordinance,” which would mandate multifamily energy benchmarking, as well as water usage. Properties will be required to use Energy Star Portfolio Manager and disclose information to the City – which in turn will publish for consumers to view on a website maintained by the City and the Orlando Utility Commission (OUC).

The Orlando ordinance is unique in that it will require all properties with an Energy Star Portfolio Manager score below 75 to perform a costly and complex Level 2 energy audit, and possibly require retrofits to improve energy and water efficiency.

The Environmental Protection Agency created the Energy Star Portfolio Manager software to assist commercial buildings track energy and water consumption. The software produces a 1-100 score that compares like size and type buildings in the system to “benchmark” use.  In concept, the tool is meant to give commercial buildings that have the ability to control whole building use, a measurement to compare and achieve cost savings.

The Orlando ordinance, like the multifamily benchmarking ordinances that have preceded it, suffers from the same programmatic deficiency in that it cannot take into account resident behavior.  Meaning that, while a property owner can maximize savings in the community and common use area, they cannot control the in-unit activities of their residents – who may or may not prioritize resource savings.  Further complicating the issue is the fact that, similar to other municipalities, not all Orlando-area utilities have the ability to provide the aggregated whole-building data – a basic requirement to implementing any benchmarking mandate.

The City has closed its stakeholder comment period, during which groups including the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando (AAGO), which has hosted feedback workshops in conjunction with the City, submitted their concerns regarding the harsher provisions of the proposed ordinance.

To date, the other cities that have implemented benchmarking mandates for multifamily properties are Atlanta, Austin, Berkeley, Calif., Boston, Cambridge, Mass., Chicago, Kansas City, Mo., New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. In 2015, California mandated multifamily benchmarking statewide.

Source: Apartment Association of Greater Orlando, City of Orlando, National Apartment Association