City Hall update // Large buildings would disclose energy use under proposed policy

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December 3, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter

A new city policy is in the works for Minneapolis that would require large commercial buildings to make public the amount of energy they use. 

If a building’s energy ratings were made public, tenants and owners would be motivated to make energy efficiency improvements, thus creating green jobs, according to policy author Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8). 

“We know that large buildings such as these are significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, so being able to impact how these buildings operate can have a very significant positive impact on the environment,” Glidden said. 

Glidden’s policy would apply to private commercial buildings of 50,000 square or larger and public buildings 25,000 feet or larger. It would not apply to industrial buildings. 

In total, nearly 550 buildings meet those criteria. 

Building owners would be required to plug their energy and water consumption information into a free Energy Star software program. The building’s energy score would then be benchmarked with buildings of similar size and use and would then be published on the city website for the public to see.  

The policy would be phased in over three years. Public buildings would need to comply by 2013, 100,000-square-foot buildings would have to comply by 2014 and buildings with more than 50,000 square feet would have to comply by 2015. 

Kevin Lewis, executive director of the Greater Minneapolis Building Owners and Managers Association, said the policy would have unintended consequences. He said property would lose value because vacancy rates would increase when a building is “stained” with a bad energy rating. 

A bad rating could mean the loss of tenants, he said. 

“Things mandated upon private businesses are never welcomed with open arms, and many [owners] have already done things to make their buildings energy efficient,” Lewis said. 

Brendon Slotterback, the city’s sustainability program coordinator, said building owners and managers often have “a lot of things on their plate” and they don’t always have energy efficiency on their minds. 

“There are a lot of companies and a lot of buildings paying very close attention to their energy use, but some of the smaller buildings probably haven’t looked at it or thought about it a lot,” Slotterback said. 

Dan Huff, the city’s manager of environmental management and safety, said most of the costs of starting such a policy would be funded through a $40,000 grant that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency awarded the city. 

The city’s Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee is likely to hold a public hearing on the policy on Jan. 14, Glidden said. 

Forum will give residents chance to weigh in on riverfront’s future

As the city prepares to make changes to the document that will guide development along the riverfront north of downtown, the public will have a chance to weigh in at a forum on Dec. 10. 

The forum, hosted by the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership and the Above the Falls Citizen Advisory Committee, will allow residents to ask questions of city and Park Board staff. 

Officials will incorporate comments and suggestions before presenting a new Above the Falls Master Plan to the Park Board and City Council in 2013. 

The plan was first adopted in 2000, but is in need of updating since the Park Board recently approved a RiverFirst plan, which envisions parkland and trails on both sides of the river. 

The forum will run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Headquarters, 2117 W. River Road. An open house will be followed by a program and discussion. 

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.