Call it energy efficiency meets keeping up with the Joneses. New York City recently became the first city in the nation to make the energy use of every large private-sector building -- gathered via a citywide mandatory benchmarking process -- available to the general public. This publication of this information, comprising 2,065 buildings in all, is a first for any U.S. city, state, or county, and is aimed at giving New Yorkers a better picture of how much energy the building next door is using, as well as how much they could stand to save.

“New York has just taken a giant leap for transparency: this is the largest publication ever of metered energy performance data from buildings in a single city,” said the executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation, Cliff Majersik, in a statement. “Markets need information to function, and this will let New Yorkers know how much energy the buildings around them are using.” He went on to note that this will also offer residents of the city crucial real-estate information that, until now, hasn’t been available.

The results of the 2011 energy-benchmarking process for commercial buildings in New York City are now online on the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan website, along with a letter offering a detailed explanation of the output scores. This benchmarking and posting process will now be an annual requirement for all large buildings in New York City, with results for large residential buildings joining those for large commercial and municipal buildings on the site for the first time in the fall of 2013.

Energy use in buildings is considered to be responsible for around 75 percent of New York City’s overall carbon emissions, so this benchmarking, or measuring, and disclosure of energy use in buildings forms the cornerstone of the city’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. This plan, in turn, is a key component of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s overall PlaNYC goal, which is to reduce citywide carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030.

The city’s recent disclosure of private building energy use contains the first analysis of New York City benchmarking data collected as part of Local Law 84, which requires all privately owned properties with individual buildings over 50,000 square feet (or with multiple buildings with a combined square footage over 100,000 square feet) to annually measure and report their energy and water use. This law may be just one more hoop that building owners have to jump through to do business in the Big Apple, but it comes with rewards as well.

By using benchmarking data, building owners and managers will find it easier to assess where cost-effective building improvements can be made -- the way the Empire State Building did, to the tune of $4.4 million in savings on an annual basis. It will also allow companies offering energy-efficient upgrades and retrofitting services to locate those buildings most in need of their products and services. And finally, since the city’s benchmarking requirement will be, henceforth, an annual occurrence, the city will also be able to hand out rewards for buildings that improve their performance from one year to the next.


Editor's note: This article is reposted in its original form from EarthTechling. Author credit goes to Susan DeFreitas.