Background:  In the past several years the District of Columbia has instituted many proactive green initiatives and has become a national leader in developing and implementing innovative sustainable strategies.  One such important initiative is the energy benchmarking requirements: the District was the first city in the country to pass an energy benchmarking law. 

What is it?  Energy benchmarking means “tracking a building’s energy and water use and using a standard metric to compare the building’s performance against past performance and to its peers nationwide.”  The goal of measurement and reporting is to raise awareness of energy and water efficiency and help owners and tenants identify ways to save energy, water, and money.

Who has to file a benchmark report?  The Green Building Act of 2006 and the Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 established requirements for the District government to annually measure and report the energy use of all public buildings 10,000 sf or larger. More critically to the private sector, owners of private buildings over 50,000 sf are also required to report the energy and water performance of their buildings annually. "Private buildings" includes condominiums and cooperatives, although the regulations provide different approaches for them--see below.

Public buildings:  District-owned public buildings over 10,000 sf have been required to be benchmarked since 2009.  On January 18, 2013, the District released the energy benchmarking results for more than 200 of the District government facilities, managed by the Department of General Services, with new or updated results for fiscal years 2009 through 2012.  The full report can be found at www.ddoe.dc.gov.

Private buildings:  On January 18, 2013, the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) published the final rulemaking for energy benchmarking of private buildings in the D.C. Register (60 D.C. Reg. 367).  The rulemaking is supported by multiple guidance documents, with technical details on what needs to be reported and how, including forms for requesting utility data and instructions for the adjustments made to the program for its initial year.  This information can be found at the DDOE website at http://ddoe.dc.gov/page/private-building-benchmarking and includes a useful benchmarking compliance checklist and a comprehensive frequently asked questions document.

Reporting schedule:  The initial benchmark reporting schedule for privately owned buildings is as follows:

Click here to view table.

Benchmarking and data submission:  The DDOE requires the use of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s free, industry-standard online tool, ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager software, for benchmarking and reporting, available at www.energystar.gov/benchmark.  The requirement applies to both residential and non-residential private buildings.  It should be noted that District law requires that the DDOE make the results of buildings’ benchmarking public following the second year of reported data.  The results will be reported on DDOE’s website. 

Is my building covered?  The DDOE will send out a notice to all building owners listed as having a building above the applicable size threshold for the first year they have to report.  In addition, to determine if a specific building is covered and to look up a Building ID number to use when benchmarking, an owner can consult a listing published by the DDOE of covered buildings over 100,000 sf. 

Residential and non-residential tenants:  The DDOE’s Frequently Asked Questions document, as noted above, provides much useful information about the benchmarking process.  Two interesting questions and responses concerning performance information from residential and non-residential tenants follow:

  1. Are tenants required to provide energy and water use information to a building owner?  What about tenants who manage their own energy use?

Non-residential tenants are legally obligated to provide the requested information to the owner within 30 days of the building owner or their agent requesting the data.  Residential tenants are not required to provide any energy, water, or space use information to their landlord.  Failure of a tenant to provide requested information, or of an owner to report benchmark results, may subject the tenant or owner, respectively, to a fine from DDOE of not more than $100 per day of noncompliance.

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  1. Do I have to collect data from residential tenants?

No.  You do NOT have to collect any space use or energy information from residential tenants.  For a master-metered building, you would still benchmark the whole building since you have access to total energy use.  For a residential building with separately-metered tenants, you would only benchmark common spaces and non-residential tenants until such time as you are able to acquire aggregate data for the whole building, at which point you will be required to benchmark the whole building using the aggregate utility data.

This information should be of particular interest to condominiums and cooperatives in the District, to which the benchmarking regulations apply if they are over the size threshold.

To find answers to many questions concerning the District’s benchmarking process, please consult the DDOE’s benchmarking webpage at www.ddoe.dc.gov/energybenchmarking.