Boston has recently become the most recent of several US cities to pass an ordinance requiring owners of larger buildings to report their energy and water usage to the city. The data will be posted online for all to see. The idea, fairly widely used in environmental circles, is that public disclosure of environmental impacts will encourage businesses to move towards lighter environmental footprints.
In GallonDaily’s opinion, results of this type of initiative are mixed, depending both on enforcement of meaningful and accurate reporting and on annual coverage and interpretation by the media so that the public continues to understand what the data mean. Too many government and industry association reporting initiatives disappear into the fog of time and end up with very little improvement in environmental performance. Others are so late in posting reports or contain so many obvious inaccuracies that companies are able to claim that the situation has changed dramatically since the data were reported. We wish the City of Boston well as it moves towards fully implementing its energy, greenhouse gas, and water usage reporting system.
Under the new Boston ordinance:
the City will annually disclose energy and water use in all its facilities beginning in 2013 for the 2012 calendar year.
all large and medium buildings or groups of buildings will be required to report annual energy use, ENERGY STAR rating (if applicable), water use, and greenhouse gas emissions
the requirement will be phased in over 5 years and will ultimately apply to non-residential buildings 35,000 square feet or greater and residential buildings with 35 or more units.
the City will make the data as well as other identifying and contextual information for individual buildings available online.
buildings not demonstrating high energy performance or continual improvements or other appropriate exemption criteria will be required to conduct energy assessments or actions every 5 years to identify opportunities for energy efficiency investment. Building owners will not be required to act on the audit.
failure to comply with reporting requirements will lead to fines for building owners.
Given that building energy use is one of the largest contributors to energy use in cities, GallonDaily sees this effort by the City of Boston to be one of the more significant environmental initiatives that can be taken by municipalities.
Details of the City of Boston initiative, as well as a link to the bylaw, can be found at http://www.cityofboston.gov/environmentalandenergy/conservation/berdo.asp