City working to educate commercial buildings on energy consumption through ordinance

Beth LaBerge/Special to The SF ExaminerA big deadline is looming in April for the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance

San Francisco’s commercial buildings are beginning to reduce their energy consumption, leaving The City with cleaner air and businesses with heavier wallets.

“Energy is the single largest controllable operating cost in commercial facilities,” said Barry Hooper, the green building specialist for the Department of the Environment. “Buildings are responsible for more than half of communitywide greenhouse gas emissions in San Francisco, and nonresidential buildings are responsible for nearly two-thirds of local emissions from building operations.”

Last year, Mayor Ed Lee signed into law the Existing Commercial Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance, which affects structures of more than 10,000 square feet. The ordinance, described by Hooper as an educational tool, is intended to help commercial buildings improve their energy use, thus saving money.

There are two portions of the ordinance. The first one requires building managers to study their energy consumption, set a goal to reduce it and record this online.

The deadline for those actions was April 1, 2012, for buildings larger than 25,000 square feet and April 1, 2013, for those between 10,000 and 25,000 square feet.

“You can’t reduce or control what you don’t know, so you have to measure energy consumption,” said Ken Cleaveland, vice president of public policy for the Building Owners and Managers Association.

The second portion of the ordinance is obtaining an energy consumption audit from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, Cleaveland said.

“Awareness on the part of the occupants, we hope, will lead to conservation on the part of the offices and retailers that occupy the buildings,” said Steven Ring, who was co-chair of the task force that drafted the ordinance.

Noncompliant buildings can be fined up to $100 a day, to a maximum of $2,500 per year. Since the requirements of the ordinance are new, and the intent is educational, the Department of the Environment has yet to exercise that authority, said Hooper.

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