Did you know? In most cities, commercial buildings are the largest source of carbon emissions. In Chicago, for example, they estimate that the energy used by buildings accounts for 70 percent of the city’s carbon emissions. In New York City, that figure jumps to nearly 80 percent.
The good news is that cities and buildings across America are already taking steps to reduce emissions by making these buildings more energy efficient. In fact, since 1999, more than 23,000 commercial buildings have earned EPA’s ENERGY STAR—signifying that they are among the nation’s most energy efficient. They have saved more than $3.1 billion on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use from 2.2 million homes. The cities on this list demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits achieved by facility owners and managers when they apply a proven approach to energy efficiency to their buildings.
New technologies on display
The path to energy efficiency is typically found in operations, maintenance, and good behaviors. But within those categories, some clear trends are emerging. As prices of LED lights have come down, more buildings are investing in full LED retrofits. Green roofs are popping up as a way to insulate buildings as well as create an urban oasis for workers and residents. Building automation systems give facility managers more control over the buildings, allowing them to program when equipment powers up or down, or to control equipment from off-site. Finally, better data in nearly real-time allows managers to discover and correct problems immediately, rather than having to wait for the utility bill to arrive in the mail.
Growing demand for sustainable green buildings in cities
EPA started noticing growing numbers of ENERGY STAR certified buildings in major cities, and announced the first city rankings in 2009. At that time, Los Angeles was in first place with 262 buildings, and the next closest city was San Francisco with 194. This year, L.A. counts 443 buildings, and Washington, DC, is hot on its heels with 435.
How EPA ranked the cities
We defined cities based on the US Census’ “core based statistical areas,” commonly known as metropolitan areas. We then tallied the total number of buildings that had earned the ENERGY STAR in each metro area in 2013 and ranked the cities accordingly.
ENERGY STAR certified buildings
Commercial buildings that have earned EPA’s ENERGY STAR are verified to perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide. On average, these buildings use 35 percent less energy and cause 35 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their peers. ENERGY STAR certification is awarded based on a single year of actual, measured energy performance. It is valid for one year.