Learning from History

Three major U.S. cities – New York, San Francisco, and Boston – have created energy ordinances that pair benchmarking with energy audits and/or building tune-ups (retro-commissioning) every five to 10 years.

We anticipate San Francisco to transition its energy ordinance for Commercial buildings to Multifamily properties in 2014 or 2015. As a result, the question on the table  is “Are multifamily owners ready”?

Energy audits are hitting building owners dealing with the complexities of audit and reporting requirements in San Francisco. Owners manage increasingly complex reporting requirements. Buildings over 10,000 square feet now require an energy audit from a qualified energy auditor along with the submission of a Confirmation of Energy Audit to the San Francisco Department of Energy. San Francisco’s requirement is varied depending on such factors as building size, age, ENERGY STAR certification and more.

In the past year, nine cities and two states have been impacted by new legislation that requires energy reporting for buildings that meet certain qualifications. In an effort to drive down energy consumption and promote sustainability, several of the new ordinances require reporting through ENERGY STAR®. This trend is expected to continue, with several additional cities and multiple states expressing interest or considering similar requirements.

In San Francisco, reporting alone is no longer enough as the city requires energy audits as part of a recently passed ordinance. Some engineering services firms offer energy audits as the first step. They have found average savings opportunities of over 20% of annual utility spend, providing clients with significant energy efficiency opportunities.

Qualifications for Auditors

The Energy Efficiency Auditor responsible for the Energy Efficiency Audit Report and Confirmation of Energy Audit must possess experience in energy efficiency audits or commissioning of existing buildings, and either a license or recognized certification in energy efficiency evaluations. The industry has not adopted a single standard certification or qualification for energy audit services. To be as flexible as possible, a wide range of energy auditor credentials are recognized as acceptable for compliance with the ordinance.

Overview of the Audit

The complexity of an energy audit and the potential for savings vary with the size, intricacy, and use of a building. The city requires owners of buildings to Benchmark by April 1 of each year.

Building Size Benchmark Deadline

> 50,000 SF October 1, 2011

> 25,000 SF April 1, 2012

> 10,000 SF April 1, 2013

The ordinance also requires that an energy audit be performed on the building every five years. The schedule for building audits is as follows:

Due Date Audit

November 15, 2012 – Confirmation of audit due for initial group of buildings, approximately 1/3 of building stock.

April 1, 2013  – Confirmation of audit due for second group of buildings, approximately 2/3 of building stock.

April 1, 2014 – Confirmation of audit due for final group of buildings

2017 and beyond – Confirmation of Energy Audit due for 20% of building stock every year.

Owners are required to:

1. Disclose when the audits were conducted
2. Affirm that the audits were conducted properly
3. Detail all retro-commissioning and retrofit measures that are available to the owner and have a payback of three years or less
4. List the estimated cost and savings of these measures
5. Indicate which have been implemented.

The auditing requirements are being phased in over a three-year period that runs into spring 2014. Unlike the energy performance summaries, only information about compliance with the audit requirement will be made public. Violation of the ordinance could result in finds of as much as $100 per day for buildings over 50,000 square feet and $50 per day for buildings under 50,000 square feet. While the new law mandates energy benchmarking, auditing and reporting of those assessments, it does not specifically require owners to make energy efficiency improvements. Early research has shown that 70% of owners who conduct audits take action to save energy costs.

Looking for financing help

Energy Upgrade California’s Bay Area Multifamily Building Enhancements offers cash rebates and free energy consulting for multifamily properties that undertake energy upgrades. The program assists in planning energy saving improvements designed to save about 10% of a building’s energy usage and provides $750 per unit in rebates to help pay for the upgrade.

The program is open to multifamily buildings with five or more attached dwelling units in the nine county Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma).

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