Disinformation on Boston's Building Energy Disclosure Ordinance continues - The Boston Globe needs a fact check when discerning building energy rating and disclosure' fact from fiction.
NEEP's Jim O'Reilly wrote a response to the Boston Globe's article, Boston Energy, Water Use Law Approved, to set the record straight on Boston's Building Energy Disclosure Ordinance.
You would have done your readers a much greater service when in writing the piece that appears in today’s Globe regarding the city of Boston’s new building energy reporting and disclosure ordinance you didn't simply accept as fact the claims of the Harvard professor regarding the costs of an energy audit.
You've played right into his hands and that of his financial backers, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, by accepting without countering comment or information his figure of $35,000 to perform an energy audit on a commercial building.
If you had bothered to check with organizations like ours – which has been working on similar building energy laws and regulations for the past five years – we would have pointed you to reliable and industry-accepted information that shows that energy audits as they have been implemented in cities like New York result in a far, far lower cost. The professor’s figures are drawn from analysis that was performed 13 years ago for a very different set of regulatory circumstances in California which showed costs of anywhere between $.12 and $.50 per square foot, depending upon size and complexity of the commercial structure being audited. That same study also showed that the audit costs for larger buildings (greater than 250,000 SF) was only $0.12 per SF, and even less for larger buildings. More salient to Boston’s case is the much more recent experience seen via New York City which shows that the cost of audits – applied in the same way the Boston ordinance would be applied – are closer to $.15 per square foot, for an average cost of approximately $7,500 for a 50,000 square foot building. The New York case is much more of an apples-to-apples comparison to Boston’s ordinance, and we would have explained that to you if you had bothered to ask for another perspective rather than simply accepting the claims of GBREB’s well-funded opposition campaign.
Further, we could have told you that the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has been for the last 18 months working on a pilot project to test new methods for conducting energy audits at a much, much lower cost that that cited by the professor. The point of the DOER’s research was to make affordable commercial building energy asset ratings WHEN REQUIRED. The other fact your story fails to point out is that no audit is required of any building unless, after five years of using the FREE benchmarking tool to report energy and water use that building owner shows no pattern of improvement whatsoever. Other circumstances under which the audits are avoided are if the building attains an ENERGY STAR level that places the building in the 75th percentile of like buildings via Portfolio Manager; a LEED designation (with no specification as to which LEED level); establishment of an energy management plan; or "patterns of significant and consistent improvements in energy and water efficiency." In other words, as long as the building owner is showing that he/she is doing something to improve energy performance, and energy use is shown to improve via the FREE Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool, then an audit is NOT required.
And, as has been well-documented, the EPA itself has a lot of data showing immediate and significant energy savings measures being undertaken in buildings that benchmark their energy and water use via the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool, meaning energy savings are almost always instantly identified and can be acted upon at little or no cost. Further, according to BOMA’s 2012 Experience Exchange Report (BOMA, of course, being a member of the GBREB and a leading trade association for the commercial real estate sector) showed that the average operating expenses for commercial properties is $18.16 per SF per year. At $.15 per SF, the annualized cost of an energy audit would $0.03, or less than 0.2 percent of the average annual operating costs of a commercial building. Moreover, the annual savings from audits and retrofits will be 8 to 16 times the cost of the audit itself. And that is only applicable to instances where the audits are actually required (see above).
A little more digging would have resulted in a much more accurate story. I hope you’re planning a follow-up to your initial coverage to give Globe readers a much better picture of the new ordinance.