The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a white paper in June calling on jurisdictions globally to explore mandatory building energy performance standards to meet long-term climate goals, energy savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions.  The white paper can be found at:

The adoption of building performance standards is a fairly new trend.  Of the 10 jurisdictions with existing standards, seven of the programs were enacted in the last two years as governments scramble to adopt measures that will curb the effects of climate change.  But as buildings account for 39% of U.S. energy use (EIA 2020) and 31% of GHG emissions, the need for more aggressive building performance standards is critical, ACEEE said.

The benefits are not just seen across long-term climate goals.  A separate analysis from ACEEE found legislation to boost the energy efficiency of homes and commercial or industrial buildings could save consumers $51 billion on energy bills through 2050.

In the U.S., only a handful of mandatory building standards have been implemented, including those detailed in New York’s Climate Mobilization Act, and most recently, St. Louis’ Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS).  St. Louis became the first city in the Midwest to pass such standards and is “setting an example for other cities of all sizes,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The lack of such mandatory building standards across the U.S. isn’t for lack of trying.  ACEEE found a number of U.S. cities — including Atlanta, Boston and Denver — have “adopted prescriptive building standards” such as retrofit requirements or tune-up and audit requirements, yet these efforts fall short of whole-building standards, ACEEE said.

For jurisdictions hoping to advance their own building performance standards, ACEEE said slow but effective implementation and enforcement are key. And to be successful, such standards will also need to be complemented with ongoing policies and programs including benchmarking, education and technical assistance.

“We are entering an exciting period of experimentation that will likely teach us many lessons on how best to structure and implement such policies to best meet the objective of quality housing and workplaces,” while moving the needle on energy and emissions savings, ACEEE wrote in its report.

Author:  Kristin Musulin