News Analysis

Cities Move to Improve Energy Efficiency

Cutting carbon, saving money, and creating green jobs were the leading themes in April 2009 announcements from Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle. Each city plans to use federal stimulus funds for building retrofit programs.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring that all city-owned buildings over 7,500 ft2 (700 m2) or built before 1978 be retrofitted with the aim of LEED Silver certification. The City will prioritize buildings in low-income areas and buildings that benefit mostly low-income populations. Construction-related training programs will benefit disadvantaged workers and establish a “pipeline” of labor for green projects. The ordinance was brought to the city council by the Apollo Alliance, a labor and environmental group.

New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a proposal on Earth Day to improve the efficiency of the city’s buildings. A loophole in current law exempts all but major renovation projects from meeting the International Energy Conservation Code. Bloomberg wants to eliminate that loophole and also proposed that buildings over 50,000 ft2 (4,700 m2) upgrade lighting, undergo energy audits and retrocommissioning every ten years, and make all the possible energy- and water-efficiency improvements that have payback periods of five years or less. His proposal also includes a plan to establish a loan fund to help finance the mandated improvements when building owners are unable to finance these cost-effective measures themselves. The plan would also require that the city’s buildings be benchmarked to give owners the information needed to assess their functioning. Anticipating an increased need for energy auditors, contractors, and other workers to meet these energy goals, the City has been investigating workforce development opportunities.

Published May 29, 2009