Chapter 10 Action Plan: 18 Recommendations for Advancing Sustainability in Reconstructed Buildings

We offer the following recommendations in the hope that they will help step up the pace of high-performance building reconstruction in the U.S. and Canada. We consulted many experts for advice, but these recommendations are solely the responsibility of the editors of Building Design+Construction. We welcome your comments. Please send them to Robert Cassidy, Editorial Director:

May 11, 2012


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1. The Energy Information Administration should update and refine the CBECS data file.

CBECS—the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey— is a national survey by the Energy Information Administration that collects data on the stock of U.S. commercial buildings, their energy-related building characteristics, and their energy consumption and expenditures. It is the basis on which Energy Star rates buildings, and it hasn’t been updated since 2003. That data hole needs to be filled.

After a budget delay in 2011, CBECS will now be conducted beginning with data collection in April 2013, with the first data releases expected in spring 2014. That work needs to be completed as quickly as possible. Following data collection, the documentation and presentation of the data must be improved so that Building Teams can utilize the data in referencing their own work against CBECS metrics.

2. Energy Star should create a new program to encourage energy efficiency in tenant spaces and reconstructed buildings.

The activities of tenants—their use of lighting, heating and cooling, plug load for electronics, etc.—impact at least half of all energy use in a typical office building. Yet there are few incentives for tenants to be more conscientious in their use of energy.

Energy Star should investigate ways to recognize conscientious energy use by tenants1 (See Anthony E. Malkin (President of Malkin Holdings LLC), “Lessons Learned at the Empire State Building: From Innovation, to Implementation, to the Future,” in “Lessons Learned: High Performance Buildings,” available for purchase at: Since 2001, Energy Star has given “Industrial Awards” to manufacturers who excel in energy management. Why not extend this concept to building owners who improve their energy efficiency? Similarly, LEED should consider a system to reward building owners whose renovations result in significant energy reduction, even if they don’t achieve LEED certification.

3. Congress needs to straighten out the mess with the PACE program for energy improvements.

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) allows states to grant local governments—cities, counties, special districts—the authority to issue bonds to fund nonpublic energy improvements for homes and commercial buildings. Property owners repay the loans over time (as long as 20 years, in some states), and the obligation to repay the loan stays with the property upon sale. Twenty-seven states have adopted PACE2 (PACENOW is advocacy blog that covers PACE-related events:

On 6 July 2010, the Federal Housing Finance Agency directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop underwriting mortgages for properties with PACE assessments. Since then, the validity of existing PACE programs throughout the country has been thrown into doubt, and the order has had a chilling effect on the creation of new PACE programs.

PACE has had a solid record of providing voluntary financing for energy improvements without a burden to taxpayers. Congress needs to step in and clean up the mess FHFA has created. Although as a matter of principle we do not comment on pending legislation, HR 2599 ( makes the case for the rescision of the FHFA order.


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