2017ENERGY STAR Top Cities Banner

EPA's annual Top Cities list shows which metro areas were home to the most ENERGY STAR certified buildings in the previous year. These regions continue to make impressive strides in cutting American energy bills and pollution through energy efficiency. Their efforts contribute to stronger economies, healthier communities, and cleaner air for all of us.


How cities get ranked

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 2016 and ranked the cities accordingly.

About ENERGY STAR certified buildings

ENERGY STAR certified buildings are verified to be more energy efficient than 75% of similar buildings nationwide. Thanks to their efficiency, they use an average of 35% less energy than typical buildings, and cause 35% fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 30,000 diverse buildings have earned the ENERGY STAR since 1999, ranging from the Chrysler Building to a small elementary school near the Alaskan wilderness. Together, these buildings have saved more than $4 billion on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use of 2.9 million homes. 

Current trends in energy efficiency

We’re continuing to see a significant increase in the use of LED lighting. First it was used in areas like parking garages, but as prices have come down we’re seeing more interior LED retrofits, as well.

On the high-tech side, we’re also seeing more building automation systems. Put simply, these systems make a building smart. You can program all your equipment to go on and off at certain times. You can also remotely monitor and control your equipment from off-site. This is similar to smartphone apps for homes, where you can turn the lights on and off and set the thermostat while you’re away.

Additionally, we’re seeing a huge increase in the availability of energy use data, including real-time data in 15-minute intervals. Facility managers used to have to wait until the monthly bill came before they realized there was a problem. Now they can see variations in energy use almost immediately, which makes it easier to identify, find, and fix problems.

What’s behind DC’s success

While we can’t pinpoint the specific reasons why nearly 800 DC-area buildings chose to earn the ENERGY STAR last year, the following factors may be worth noting.

  • A handful of local school districts contributed nearly 280 buildings to DC’s total: Fairfax County Public Schools (151), Prince William County Public Schools (52), Loudoun County Public Schools (57), and Stafford County Public Schools (17).
  • Several DC-area initiatives have aimed to improve the energy efficiency of the area’s commercial buildings. Most significantly was The Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008 (PDF, 116 KB). The bill was the first of its kind in the US: it requires that the energy performance of commercial buildings be rated and publicly disclosed every year.
  • Other initiatives have included tax credits and a voluntary campaign by the downtown DC Business Improvement District called the “Smarter Business Challenge.”
  • Federal agencies may only lease space in ENERGY STAR certified buildings. Landlords across the region might be motivated to earn the ENERGY STAR in order to retain and attract Federal tenants.

A few noteworthy 2016 ENERGY STAR certified buildings

National Geographic Society Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

  • The 1963 headquarters for the National Geographic Society also serves as a museum showcasing explorations from around the world. This year, the building was nominated to become a national historic landmark.

MGM Studios Headquarters, Beverly Hills, Calif.

  • This sleek glass building in the heart of Beverly Hills serves as the home of MGM Studios.

Empire State Building, New York, N.Y.

  • When completed in 1931, this 102-story Art-Deco building was heralded as an unprecedented marvel of the modern mechanical age. Now, more than 80 years and one deep energy retrofit later, the historic structure once again serves as a modern marvel—this time, of energy efficiency.

Williams-Sonoma Corporate Offices, San Francisco, Calif.

  • San Francisco’s historic Ice house building was built in 1914 as an ice warehouse for the National Ice and Cold Storage Company, but now serves as corporate offices for Williams-Sonoma and its family of brands, including Pottery Barn and West Elm. 

The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Philadelphia, Pa.

  • Originally built as a Victorian-era Romanesque mansion in 1885, this building now provides accommodations for families of seriously ill children undergoing treatment in local hospitals. It was the first Ronald McDonald House Charity in the country.

Cambridge Savings Bank, Cambridge, Mass.

  • Built in 1820, the Cambridge Savings Bank building in Harvard Square was the oldest building to earn the ENERGY STAR last year.

ENERGY STAR certified buildings

2017 ENERGY STAR Decal

ENERGY STAR certified buildings are verified to perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide over a specific one-year period. 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. Certification is valid for one year.

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