The City of St. Louis released its first energy benchmarking report for municipal buildings and privately owned buildings that are over 50,000 square feet. More efficient building performance would reduce the city's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 11%, saving more than $65 million in annual energy costs.
Energy consumption in the city's residential, commercial and industrial buildings constitutes 77% of St. Louis' GHG emissions. Initial findings from the report revealed that offices, hotels, multifamily housing and hospitals were the top energy consuming buildings.
The city also created an energy efficiency checklist that provides a set of recommended steps for saving energy in buildings and investing in building maintenance staff. The steps include low-cost and no-cost solutions like turning off lights or heating and cooling systems, Cliff Majersik, the director of market transformation at the Institute for Market Transformation, told Smart Cities Dive.
If all eligible St. Louis buildings achieved an energy star rating of 75, the rating among the top 25% of buildings across the country, the annual savings would add up to $65.1 million. Currently, the median energy star score for eligible St. Louis buildings is 65, compared to the national average of 50.
The city is also undergoing major retro-commissioning projects for its highest energy-consuming buildings, including its City Justice Center, City of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, Juvenile Courts Center and Carnahan Courthouse. Once those upgrades are complete, including changes to lighting systems and chillers, they are estimated to save over $509,000 each year.
Benchmarking is an important first step, according to Majersik. “[It] gives you an understanding of where energy is being used, how efficient the buildings are, [and] what are the opportunities for saving energy," he said. "The market can reward buildings that are more efficient so that tenants can seek out more efficient buildings to reduce their own GHG footprint and to reduce their costs."
St. Louis is one of many cities looking to reduce the emissions of its large buildings, one of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions.
Chicago rolled out an Energy Rating System in August to rate the energy efficiency of over 3,400 buildings across the city. The ratings will be physically displayed on-site and tracked with the Chicago Data Portal. The city estimates that buildings account for 72% of Chicago's GHG emissions, making the initiative a key part of its plans to become more energy efficient and convert to 100% renewable energy citywide by 2035.
Boston is also taking a serious look at its buildings emissions. The city recently announced a major update to its Climate Action Plan, requiring that all new city buildings be carbon-neutral. The update mandates the development of performance standards to decarbonize large buildings, which account for about 70% of the city's emissions. Such efforts would reduce the city’s emissions almost 40% by 2050 compared to current "business-as-usual projections."