Portland, Oregon: Green Building Practices Mandatory as of April, 2015

Portland—an urban leader in sustainability practices—passed policy on April 22 of this year mandating that buildings over 20,000 square feet track energy and carbon emission practices. The Portland City Council unanimously voted to implement this system, which will drastically reduce the city's carbon footprint and energy spending—and on Earth Day, no less! So, who will be required to submit energy use, how will this energy use be tracked, and what will this new policy mean for the sustainability efforts of Portland and other urban areas around the world?

What building types are covered?
Covered buildings include commercial offices, retail spaces, grocery stores, health care and higher education institutions and hotels.  Residential, parking structures, places of worship, primary and secondary education, warehouse and industrial buildings are not included.
Timeline for reporting energy performance
Reporting requirements begin: 
  • IN 2016 > for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet
  • IN 2017 > for commercial buildings between 20,000 to 50,000 square feet 

Policy Requirements:
To reduce energy costs and carbon emissions, the City of Portland's new policy requires commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet incorporate the following practices:Portfolio Manager illustration
  • Track energy performance using EPA’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool.
  • Calculate an Energy Use Intensity (energy use per square foot), ENERGY STAR score, and carbon emissions.
  • Report this information to the City of Portland on an annual basis. 

The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is "an online tool you can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions," (sample charting page pictured above). A three-part training program for building managers, staff, and the general public is available fully online for free, through the City of Portland: Planning and Sustainability website, as are additional green building resources, designed, publications, and videos.

As outlined by a BPS News Release, the new policy will require over 80% of Portland's commercial space (about 1,000 buildings) to track and submit energy use and carbon footprint data. Of the buildings in Portland, only 100 of them had ENERGY STAR certification as of April 22, 2015. This landmark vote represents a drastic shift in Portland's sustainability culture, implementation, and practices.

Mayer of Portland, Charlie Hales, explains the importance of this new sustainability policy: “Portland has set a goal to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. To reach that goal, we all have a role to play — public and private, at work and at home. Reducing energy use in buildings is a critical part of that picture. Tracking energy use and investing in energy efficiency saves money for the building owners. And for the city as a whole. Last year alone, the city saved $6 million on its own energy bills.” What does the savings mean for Portland? It's not only reducing city spending, it's also reducing the city's environmental impact and contribution to climate change, freeing up opportunities for expanding Portland's sustainability programs.

  • Gives prospective buyers and tenants information to make informed decisions. 
  • Helps building operators track energy use and identify options to improve efficiency.
  • Provides market recognition for the most efficient buildings.
  • Reduces building owners’ energy costs by an average of 2.4 percent per year.
Portland is not alone is making urban building sustainability practices commonplace. According to Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Susan Anderson: "This isn't new. It's tried and true — and already has been adopted in 12 other U.S. cities."

  • The energy used to power buildings is the largest source of carbon pollution in Portland.
  • Similar to a MPG rating for a car, the energy performance policy allows potential tenants and owners to have access to important information about building energy performance.
  • Commercial energy reporting policies in 12 other U.S. cities have proven to motivate investment in efficiency improvements that save money and reduce carbon emissions.
What do Portland natives think of environmental sustainability, policy, and climate action? And what do these views contribute to global environmental awareness and implementation?

"I think that one of the things that makes Portland so great is that everybody wants to work together to make the best place for everyone in our community, and this is really a chance where we can have business, individuals, and government all working together."
"We need bold policy. We need bold action."
"It's a combination of the right policies to encourage the right behaviors, but also the right innovations that bring to the foreground the right solutions."
"We do have now practices, habits, and understanding that can lead us to be a global competitor in exactly what the world wants and needs."

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