Seattle, Washington, has joined the growing list of U.S. cities that are publishing detailed reports on building energy use in an effort to motivate property owners to make their buildings more efficient, and to ultimately save energy and money.

The Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment released a report in January 2014 that details energy use for all large commercial and multifamily buildings. The findings, which are based on EPA Energy Star scores and Energy Use Intensities (EUI), are the result of the mandatory benchmarking measure that Seattle passed in 2010.

The compliance rate was surprisingly high for multifamily buildings. Over 96% of multifamily properties have benchmarked. The city is projecting that building owners could save a collective $90 million a year on energy if all of the high energy using buildings were improved to become low energy users. Almost 50% of the buildings are multifamily.

And there’s plenty more work to be done in the city. Multifamily housing, which accounts for nearly half of Seattle’s buildings, used about 31 kBTU per square feet. That is far less energy per square foot than offices, which use nearly double that amount, but the number of buildings means that multifamily could be ripe for increasing efficiency for the low performers. Low-income and affordable housing properties also had higher EUIs than other multifamily buildings. Another interesting fact from the report is that as the number of units in an apartment goes up so does the EUI.

Energy Benchmarking Spreading Fast Across America

While Seattle was certainly an early adopter, it’s not alone among U.S. cities. Austin, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. all have benchmarking policies in place, helping building owners determine if they’re wasting energy while helping utilities and governments identify the energy efficiency standards and incentives that will work in their market.

For instance, San Francisco’s second annual benchmarking report found municipal buildings cut energy use 3.6% and decreased their carbon footprint from 2011 to 2012, while benchmarking is boosting building values in Washington, D.C. and could cut New York’s emissions up to 15% per year.

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