• May 15 Deadline for Building Owners to Report under Boston Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance
  • June 19, 2015 | Author: Elizabeth F. Mason
  • Law Firm: Bernkopf Goodman LLP - Boston Office
  • Make sure to circle May 15, 2015 on your calendar if you own a residential building in Boston that has 50 or more units or 50,000 or more square feet. That date is the fast-approaching deadline under the City of Boston’s Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance for reporting these and certain other buildings’ 2014 energy consumption and water usage to the City for public disclosure.

    Who’s Covered, and When?
    • Commercial buildings with 50,000 or more square feet and two or more buildings on the same parcel with a total of 100,000 or more square feet were required to begin reporting last September 15.
    • In addition to residential buildings with 50 or more units or 50,000 or more square feet, parcels with two or more buildings that are “held in the same condominium form of ownership” and “governed by the same board of managers” and have 50 or more units or 50,000 or more square feet must begin reporting by this coming May 15.
    • Commercial buildings with between 35,000 and 50,000 square feet must begin reporting by May 15, 2016.
    • At full implementation on May 15, 2017, the Ordinance will require all residential buildings in Boston with 35 or more units or 35,000 or more square feet to begin reporting to the City.
    Why? The Boston City Council enacted the Ordinance in May 2013 as part of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions 25% by 2020. In so doing, Boston joined other cities that have adopted similar policies, including New York, San Francisco and Washington DC. The underlying premise is that having to quantify and report building energy and water usage - and the resulting GHG emissions - every year will motivate owners and tenants to reduce energy costs, increase energy efficiency and take advantage of existing incentives for both. In addition to this carrot there is a stick: fines of up to $3,000 per building per year for owners who fail to comply with the Ordinance.

    What’s Required? The Ordinance requires covered building owners to report “the previous calendar year’s energy and water use of each building and other building characteristics necessary to evaluate absolute and relative energy use intensity” - such as building size and types of uses - through the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA’s”) Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Portfolio Manager (which is a free Web-based tool) uses the reported information to assess building energy and GHG emission performance and create a report that the building owner can electronically submit to the City’s Air Pollution Control Commission. This report must contain information relating to, among other things, occupancy, space use attributes, energy use intensity, energy use by fuel, GHG emissions, Energy Star rating (where available) and water consumption. The City, in turn, is required to make this information available to the public on its website by no later than October 1 of every year.

    A few key points about reporting under the Ordinance:
    • You will not have to chase individual tenants for energy data. Because the Ordinance requires data for the entire building, the utilities serving Boston - including Eversource (formerly NSTAR) and National Grid - are making whole-building totals for electricity, natural gas and steam available to building owners.
    • If you have leased your building to a single tenant and that tenant has assumed management of the entire building, you may, at the request of and with the consent of the tenant, delegate Ordinance reporting responsibilities to the tenant through the lease.
    • If your building is newly constructed, you must comply with Ordinance reporting requirements for the first full calendar year after the building receives a Certificate of Occupancy.
    • When a building changes ownership, the previous owner shall provide to the new owner any energy, water, and space use data that has been collected and is necessary for completing the next required annual energy and water report.
    What Else? The Ordinance also requires covered building owners to complete detailed energy efficiency assessments or undertake “energy actions” every five years.
    • Energy efficiency assessments must be performed by a “qualified professional.”
    • Acceptable energy actions include reducing energy use intensity, increasing Energy Star rating by at least 15 points, connecting with district steam or cogeneration or installing and using on-site renewable energy.
    • Covered building owners may obtain an exemption from the energy assessment/energy action requirement.
      • To get an exemption, the building in question must qualify for one of the Ordinance’s specified exceptions. These include buildings that (1) have earned EPA Energy Star certification in at least three of the five years before the assessment or action is due, have been Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified at the Silver level, or generate an amount of energy equal to or greater than the amount of energy they consume. 
      • In addition, buildings that have been vacant for five years or are scheduled for demolition qualify for an exemption, and owners of financially distressed buildings may apply for a one-year extension of the assessment/action due date.
      • To claim an exemption, the building owner must notify the Commission by no later than May 15 of the year in which the energy assessment or action is due. The exemption application must be on a Commission-provided form and accompanied by supporting documentation.