Aspen electeds approve mandatory energy, water use reductions for commercial buildings |

Aspen electeds approve mandatory energy, water use reductions for commercial buildings

Building IQ program will phase in benchmarking and building performance standards

Aspen City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a new law that mandates owners of commercial buildings 20,000 square feet or more to track their energy and water use and then have their properties meet certain performance standards.

The ordinance codifies the city’s Building IQ program, which was first introduced in 2018 and later offered as a voluntary initiative but no property owners participated.

With council’s adoption of Building IQ, Aspen is the 44th community in the United States to adopt a benchmarking policy and the ninth one to adopt a building performance standard policy, according to Tessa Schreiner, the city’s climate action manager.

The program has two phases: The first is a data tracking phase that requires certain properties to benchmark energy and water usage annually. The second part, the carbon reduction phase, will require certain properties to reach a building performance standard.

Schreiner told council that Building IQ is the single most impactful action it can take to reduce carbon locally and move closer to achieving the community greenhouse gas emissions goals.

Council has in the past adopted additional climate targets and committed to necessary climate-focused initiatives, all of which recognize the need to reduce emissions specifically in the building sector.

The city has a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 63% by 2030 and 100% by 2050, along with waste reduction goals, none of which can be achieved without electrifying buildings since the built environment accounts for 57% of the community’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to Schreiner.

Before buildings can strategically implement energy and water efficiency upgrades and reduce emissions, they must first know where their energy and water usage come from, she explained. Additionally, for the city to continue developing effective programs and incentives to support property owners, it needs better community resource consumption data, which phase one of the program achieves.

Council members spent little time discussing the new law when it came before them at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, since they have been considering such a program for years and they were approaching the fifth hour of the meeting.

“I’m just really excited about this,” Councilman John Doyle said. “This is the direction we want to be headed.”

Added fellow Councilman Ward Hauenstein: “This has been years in the making. This is as close to a no-brainer for me, which is good because I have no brain left after four-and-half hours.”

The program will change the building code and specifically will require owners of commercial and multifamily properties to annually benchmark and report their energy and water usage, and then reduce building energy and water use over time.

The specific building performance standards will be developed by staff and stakeholders and presented to council for consideration and adoption in 2023.

In the first year of benchmarking, the ordinance directs commercial properties over 20,000 square feet to conduct an assessment, offered for free through the city’s partnership with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency.

The ordinance does not require commercial properties under 5,000 square feet, multifamily properties under 15,000 square feet, or single-family homes of any size to benchmark or comply with a performance standard.

The city will notify property owners whose properties will be the first to benchmark by Dec. 1, and support them in the process and begin bringing together key stakeholders for engagement in the building performance standard development.

City buildings will go through the benchmarking first, beginning in June.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards said the new policy is important in a time when watersheds are being comprised, drought conditions continue and fire dangers loom.

“It’s really important that we do what we can and our part to start leading the way in the valley and in this part of the country,” she said.