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Denver’s interactive map shows energy usage

A screenshot of the Energize Denver Benchmarking Map on energizedenver.org.

Katrina Managan
Senior adviser, energy efficiency, Denver Department of Public Health and Environment – Environmental Quality Division, city and county of Denver

Benchmarking the energy performance of buildings is the first step to understanding and reducing energy consumption, because you can’t manage what you don’t measure. The Energize Denver Benchmarking Map, https://energizedenver.org, launched by the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment in December, is an interactive tool designed to help building owners and tenants make better-informed energy decisions, showcasing energy performance data collected by DDPHE through the Energize Denver benchmarking requirement.

The Energize Denver Benchmarking Ordinance was first approved by Denver City Council in December 2016, and implementation began in 2017. At the time, the ordinance required owners or managers of buildings that exceed 50,000 square feet in size to annually assess and report the building’s energy performance using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s free Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. Beginning June 1, the pool will expand to include buildings that exceed 25,000 sf in size. Thus far, 90 percent of buildings have complied with the ordinance.

The Energize Denver Benchmarking Map provides an easy-to-use representation of this progress. Using Energy Star scores, the map compares the energy efficiency of similar buildings on a 1-100 scale, with a score of one being the least energy efficient and 100 the most energy efficient. Much like miles per-gallon ratings for vehicles, Energy Star scores allow building owners, managers and tenants to compare their energy efficiency to that of their competitors and peer buildings.

Denver buildings currently have an average Energy Star score of 68. The largest building types in Denver, as measured by total square footage and number of buildings, are offices, apartments and condominiums. The Energize Denver 2017 Annual Report further analyzed data collected during the first year of the program and found that a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption could be reached in Denver if all buildings became as efficient as those currently performing at the 82nd percentile (as determined by energy use intensity) of the same building type. If achieved, Denver would see an annual energy savings cost of $82 million from this same improvement in energy efficiency. Office buildings would save $13 million while multifamily buildings would save $15 million.

These energy cost savings can be achieved with energy-efficiency measures that provide a good return on investment. For example, investing an estimated $340 million in improving the energy efficiency of buildings across Denver could result in the creation of 4,000 new local jobs and $1.3 billion in energy savings over 10 years. Improving building energy efficiency also will help protect Denver’s quality of life and strengthen the economy.

Many recommended energy-efficiency improvements are as simple as switching to LED lighting and tuning up a building’s heating and cooling systems. There are even opportunities for financial assistance with these energy-efficiency improvements, including Xcel Energy rebates and Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy financing.

A building located at 1720 S. Bellaire St. in Denver, which already had a high Energy Star score of 91, took advantage of both Xcel Energy rebates and C-PACE financing to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent. That property now saves $64,000 annually in energy costs and has been upgraded from Class B to Class A. C-PACE financing provided $1.5 million for 1720 S. Bellaire’s improvement project. This financing is repaid through a special assessment on the property tax bill, which transfers with the sale of the building. The tenants of the building pay back the assessment under their triple-net lease, but they also see the benefit of lower annual energy costs.

The owner and manager of Prado Condominiums also improved the building’s Energy Star score from 27 to 67 and saw a 38 percent reduction in energy costs thanks to energy-efficiency improvements. These case studies and other resources on how to improve building energy efficiency can be found in the Resource Center at denvergov.org/energizedenver.

Measuring and publishing energy performance scores marks a major milestone toward achieving the city’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Denver’s large buildings emit 57 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, and Energize Denver aims to reduce energy consumption by large buildings by 30 percent by 2030. Other cities with benchmarking and transparency requirements have seen 2-3 percent energy savings each year by covered buildings.

This year, Energize Denver will update the interactive map with calendar year 2017’s energy performance data, which will include all buildings 25,000 sf in size and larger. This will continue to drive energy-efficiency improvements in Denver through the well-informed business decisions of building owners, managers and tenants.

Featured in CREJ’s April 2018 Property Management Quarterly.

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.