Philadelphia City Council Proposes Mandatory Benchmarking and Reporting of Building Energy and Water Usage

May 24, 2012
by BRENDA HUSTIS GOTANDA and BRYAN P. FRANEY
MGKF Special Alert

On May 17, 2012, Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds Brown and James Kenney introduced a bill in Philadelphia City Council that would require owners of commercial buildings that are 25,000 square feet or more to annually benchmark and report energy and water usage data. Under the proposed bill, by June 30th of each year, commercial building owners would be required to upload into EPA's "Portfolio Manager" database the prior year's (1) building energy usage, (2) building water usage, and (3) building characteristics and use attributes (e.g., the building size, age, types of uses, operating hours, etc.). In addition, commercial building owners would be required to provide the Statement of Energy Performance generated by Portfolio Manager to prospective purchasers or prospective tenants upon request. Commercial building owners that fail to comply with the annual benchmarking requirements within 30 days of the due date may be subject to a $300 fine plus additional fines of $100 per day for each day the violation continues after that period. The bill also calls on the City's Administration to implement a program that would allow this data to be posted online for public viewing.

The initiative follows the trend of benchmarking and disclosure legislation that has been adopted in other cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Austin. Such legislation is designed to focus more attention on energy and water use in commercial buildings and to encourage more informed choices by property owners, prospective purchasers, and tenants. For prospective purchasers and/or tenants, it may provide a basis to compare building performance. For owners, it may provide a basis to prioritize opportunities for energy savings. However, some building owners have concerns with public disclosure of benchmarking data because such data may not accurately reflect a building's performance, particularly if tenant operations involve intense energy usage. Similarly, concerns have been expressed regarding data accessibility for tenant-occupied spaces.

For more information on energy benchmarking or the proposed bill, contact Brenda Gotanda (bgotanda@mgkflaw.com; 484-430-2327) or Bryan Franey (bfraney@mgkflaw.com; 484-430-2308).