The Philadelphia City Council is on the verge of approving an ordinance that would require owners of commercial office buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to report their energy and water consumption in the form of a “green score” based on the federal government’s Energy Star program. If enacted, the ordinance would take effect on June 1, 2013. It calls for the implementation of “a Citywide program to provide for the reporting of Citywide benchmarking data online and in a manner that permits owners and tenants of [qualifying commercial office buildings], prospective purchasers and lessees, and the public to view and compare energy and water usage among comparable buildings and uses.”
But on June 5, representatives from BOMA’s Philadelphia chapter testified before the City. Although they called the ordinance “well-intentioned,” they objected to the law’s requirement that the green scores be publicly disclosed online. Specifically, BOMA is concerned that a building’s score could be deceptively low thanks to a particuluarly energy-intensive tenant (like a financial services firm or a data center) and not because the owner is doing anything particularly noxious vis-a-vis building performance.
“The bill could easily and unjustifiably apply a `scarlet letter’ to a building,” Doug Hoffman, BOMA’s chairman, testified. BOMA requested that the Council reconsider the public disclosure requirement and only require its release to prospective purchasers and tenants. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown – the bill’s sponsor – disagreed. “”It’s important for consumers to know,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “For those of us who are conscientious about being sustainable, we may make judgments about where we want to conduct business.”
The Philadelphia law is actually modeled on similar benchmarking laws enacted in San Francisco, D.C., and New York City. But as we’ve noted here previously, New York’s exempts certain buildings for which public disclosure of water and energy use would be problematic (like high energy users like data centers). And failure to comply with Philadelphia’s law would be punishable by a $300 fine for the first 30 days and then $100 a day.
We’ll follow up here at GRELJ if and when the ordinance is approved, in its current form or something closer to what BOMA is pushing for.