A push for energy efficiency

How much energy every major commercial building in San Francisco uses will become much clearer if legislation by Mayor Gavin Newsom is drafting is approved.

The legislation, which will likely be introduced early next year, would require The City’s building owners to “identify all cost-effective ways to reduce energy use” in terms of lighting, waste disposal and water consumption, officials said.

The initiative would not force buildings to make improvements, but would encourage the changes by showing how much owners could save in annual energy costs, Newsom said.

Anywhere from 40 percent to 75 percent of the audit costs would be covered by programs offered by The City’s Department of Environment and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the mayor said.

The department conducts audits free for some smaller commercial buildings.

Audits recommended for city buildings larger than 50,000 square feet would typically cost 10 cents per square foot when counting utility incentives, according to a new 62-page report released by a task force the mayor assembled last year.

The task force is comprised of building owners, architects, engineers and other stakeholders.

Buildings would also have to submit annual energy reports to The City, the Mayor’s Office said.

The City’s commercial buildings account for near 40 percent of The City’s greenhouse gas emissions, the task force report said.

Owners of the iconic Transamerica Pyramid Building, which recently received LEED Gold-certification, said energy improvements slashed their utility costs by 25 percent, or $600,000 annually.

Last week, New York City passed similar legislation requiring audits for buildings greater than 50,000 square feet every 10 years, with the goal to reduce the city’s carbon count by 30 percent by 2030.

Newsom wants city buildings to use 50 percent less energy in 20 years, which he says can be achieved in a fraction of that time.

Due to the savings potential, “40 percent of people that get energy audits tend to do the entire energy retrofit,” the mayor said.

There are already city regulations on efficiency standards at newly constructed buildings, “but the majority of San Francisco is old buildings,” Department of Environment chief Jared Blumenfeld said.

Newsom’s legislation has received support from the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco, which represents about 275 buildings accounting for 80 percent of The City’s commercial space.

“Most members of high-rise office buildings have already done that assessment, said Ken Cleaveland, BOMA S.F.’s director of government and public affairs.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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