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Boston Building Energy Reporting Ordinance Proposed

By John J. Slater III on April 2, 2013

Recently, Mayor Menino filed a proposed Ordinance with the Boston City Council to require owners of medium and large sized residential and commercial buildings in Boston to report energy and water use to the Boston Air Pollution Control Commission (“APPC”), a unit of the City’s Office of Environmental and Energy Services (“EES”).  Reporting would be required on an annual basis and will initially take effect for certain buildings in 2014.  The APCC is authorized to develop detailed regulations for the reporting and disclosure of the information to be required of building owners.  A copy of the proposed Ordinance is attached and the following is a link to a fact sheet provided by the City.

A summary of the proposed schedule for implementing the reporting requirements in the Ordinance is, as follows:

  • Non-residential buildings of 50,000 s.f. or more, 2014;
  • Residential buildings with 50 units or 50,000 s.f. or more, 2015;
  • Non-residential buildings of 25,000 s.f. or more, 2016; and
  • Residential buildings with 25 units or 25,000 s.f. or more, 2017.

Under the proposed Ordinance, energy and water use per square foot, Energy Star Ratings (Energy Star rates buildings from 1 to 100 using comparisons based on type of building, level of use and other characteristics) greenhouse gas emissions, and other identifying and contextual information for individual buildings will eventually be posted online.

In addition to reporting energy and water use, building owners may be required to conduct energy audits or other evaluations every five years to identify opportunities for energy efficiency investments.  Buildings deemed in the top tier of energy performance based on the Energy Star Ratings system or already taking significant efficiency actions will be exempted from this requirement.  Building owners would not be required to act on the audit.

Several other major cities, including San Francisco, Seattle and New York City, have adopted similar ordinances.  The City of Boston, in announcing the proposed Ordinance, stated that lessons learned from those cities informed the Ordinance proposed by the Mayor.

A Better City (“ABC”) has been working with EES to attempt to resolve concerns expressed by the commercial real estate industry.  ABC reports that several changes have been made to the Ordinance as originally proposed through their efforts.

Some building owners and real estate organizations have nevertheless expressed concerns about the proposed Ordinance and questioned whether requiring such reporting will actually produce savings in energy use.  The Greater Boston Real Estate Board has commissioned a study to determine if the ordinances adopted in other cities actually resulted in significant energy savings.  Brian Swett, Chief of EES, in announcing the proposed Ordinance, asserted that measuring energy and water use has been shown to lead to greater energy efficiency, and a lowering of operating costs for building owners.

In filing the proposed Ordinance with the City Council, the Mayor stated that this proposal is intended to encourage energy efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and help the City to meet its climate action goals.

John J. Slater III

John J. Slater III is a partner in the firm’s Real Estate Department and Business Law Group Read Bio

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