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Program offers options for Green Building compliance

Amber Wood
Energy Program Administrator,
Department of Public Health and Environment,
Environmental Quality, city and county of Denver

Every building represents an opportunity to address climate change, enhance community and improve health by increasing energy efficiency. Denver’s Green Buildings Ordinance is designed to help building owners in Denver enhance sustainability, resulting in healthier buildings with happier occupants.

Energy efficiency in buildings is good for the bottom line and affordability because it lowers operating expenses, improves net operating income and can help attract tenants.

The Green Buildings Ordinance requires all existing buildings in Denver over 25,000 square feet to install a cool roof at roof replacement and choose one of five compliance paths including green roof/space, pay for off-site green, on-site solar, certification or the Energy Program. The ordinance was developed from the citizen-led Green Roof Ordinance and provides flexible compliance options while honoring the original intent of the voter approved initiative.

The Energy Program is a unique compliance path within the Green Buildings Ordinance for existing buildings that includes flexible energy efficiency and renewable energy options. The compliance options in the Energy Program include maintaining an Energy Star score above 85, improving the energy use intensity by 10% (buildings 25,000-49,999 sf) or 15% (buildings over 50,000 sf), adding on-site or off-site solar, or maintaining a third-party Green Building Certification. The benefits of using solar are detailed in the July 3 CREJ article “Consider solar to meet the Green Building Ordinance.”

Why choose the Energy Program for your compliance option? One of the most favorable aspects of the Energy Program is that building owners have up to five years from June 1 of their enrollment year to demonstrate they have met one of the Energy Program’s compliance pathways. And the building owner may pick a baseline year up to five years prior to enrollment. So, for example, if you enrolled a building in the Energy Program in 2019 and wanted to take advantage of the EUI improvements option, you could effectively receive credit for all energy-efficient upgrades for the building dating back to 2014 and would have until 2024 to reach your target EUI for the building.

How can you enroll in the Energy Program? Building owners and managers can enroll a building in the Energy Program prior to or at time of roof replacement. Enrolling before it’s time for a roof replacement allows you to get credit for recent energyefficient improvements and get ongoing credit for energyefficient improvements so only a cool roof is needed at roof replacement.

• To enroll at the time of roof replacement, fill out the standard existing building Green Building Declaration form found at www.denvergov.org/GreenRoofs and select the Energy Program box.

• To enroll early in the Energy Program, you simply complete an early enrollment Energy Program Form online, which can be found at www.denvergov.org/EnergizeDenver>Energy Program. Enrollment applies to a building for 20 years or through one roof replacement, whichever is longer.

How can I know if my building has possibly already saved enough energy to comply? Hundreds of buildings already meet the energy savings required. Look up your building’s energy savings online on the Energize Denver Benchmarking Map to determine if your building already complies with the Energy Program.

Your building already complies if:

• It has an Energy Star score of 85 or greater.

• The annual weather-adjusted EUI has improved by 10% or 15% (based on building size) compared to previous reporting years.

How do you report annually for the Energy Program? Annual reporting is required for each option in the Energy Program via the building’s annual energy benchmarking report sent to the city via Energy Star Portfolio Manager. When you provide your Benchmarking Ordinance report to the city, we’re using the same report and June 1 deadline for the Energy Program.

What happens if your building falls out of compliance? If your building falls out of compliance, as shown by an annual report, you will have two years to remedy the issue and come back into compliance by June 1 of the second year. Keep in mind that a variety of solutions may be available, from making operational or system improvements, selecting a different Energy Program compliance pathway from the figure above or through additional third-party verification on specific projects within the building.

What are the benefits of the Energy Program for building owners and tenants? The Energy Program helps building owners retain and attract tenants to healthy buildings, lower energy expenses, improve NOI and increase building valuation. The benefits to the building tenants include: healthy and productive occupants through lower carbon dioxide, happy occupants due to natural daylight, reduced allergies via better air quality and better thermal comfort.

What is the overall benefit for the city of Denver? The energy used in large buildings in Denver is equivalent to 57% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Improving energy efficiency can be beneficial for the bottom lines of both building owners and occupants – and is critical to meet the climate goal of reducing Denver’s greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. It is also integral to a beautiful, clean, fair and balanced Denver community where every individual enjoys health and affordability.

How can I learn more? For more information about the Energy Program, including compliance pathways, the history and full program details, please see the Energy Program’s website (including the dropdown menus), email us at EnergyProgram@denvergov.org, or give us a call at 720-865-5451.

Featured in CREJ’s Aug. 7-20, 2019, issue

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.