Minneapolis Buildings To Report Energy, Water Use

Following the lead of several other major cities around the country, Minneapolis has passed an ordinance requiring all large commercial buildings in the city to report their annual energy and water use totals in an effort to raise awareness about resource conservation and the greenhouse gas emissions from urban buildings.

The new law covers all privately owned commercial buildings in excess of 50,000 square feet, which will have to begin reporting their energy and water use to the city by June 1, 2015 and publicly disclosing these figures by 2016. Larger buildings will have a shorter time table: Commercial buildings with more than 100,000 square feet of space must begin reporting by June 1, 2014, and publicly sharing the information in 2015.

Minneapolis commercial building owners will soon have to fess up about their energy use. Image by Dusty J via Flickr.

Minneapolis commercial building owners will soon have to fess up about their energy use. Image by Dusty J via Flickr.

The ordinance doesn’t require that buildings make retrofits to meet an arbitrary standard. Instead, by making these water and energy audit figures public, market forces will give building owners and tenants more of an incentive to make improvements and initiate conservation programs, the city said. Owners will also become eligible for rebates and loans for retrofits, should they choose to pursue them.

As an act of good faith, the city government said that, beginning this year, it will publicly share all energy and water use audit information at its own buildings that have more than 25,000 square feet of space. According to the city, commercial buildings account for roughly 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Minneapolis.

“Other cities’ experiences with disclosure requirements are showing that they will result in lower energy costs for businesses,” said City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, author of the ordinance and chair of the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee. So far, the U.S. cities that have passed similar energy and water auditing laws include Austin, Texas; New York City; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Seattle and Washington, D.C.

To help owners and tenants comply with the ordinance, the City of Lakes is distributing free software from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, called Portfolio Manager. The software, managed by the Energy Star program, automatically keeps track of a building’s energy and water consumption and generates an overall score for each building, similar to a car’s fuel-economy rating.  Some of the variables that are factored into each efficiency score include the building’s age, operating hours, workers per square foot, occupancy rates and space usage.

For those property owners who want some help in improving their audit scores, Minneapolis is also partnering with the nonprofit Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment to offer energy efficiency training and consulting training in early 2014, in time for the first reporting deadline.

For FAQs, contact information and other details about the ordinance, check out the city’s Environmental Services page.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.