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St. Louis Becomes Third City to Enact New Energy Standards for Commercial Buildings

St. Louis Becomes Third City to Enact New Energy Standards for Commercial Buildings
Move Meant to Help City Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 100% by 2050

By Cara Smith-Tenta
CoStar News

May 7, 2020 | 04:16 P.M.

St. Louis has become one of the first cities in the nation to enact a set of new energy efficiency requirements for commercial buildings in a move intended to bring the bulk of the city’s buildings to stronger energy efficiency standards and bring the city closer to its goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades.

Mayor Lyda Kewson signed into law the Building Energy Performance Standard, which creates legal energy requirements for building owners and establishes minimum energy usage metrics for building owners to meet in the coming years. St. Louis’ new energy requirements apply to all commercial buildings 50,000 square feet or larger, including office, multifamily, municipal, retail and industrial properties.

"The coronavirus has shown us how a crisis can disrupt the entire world," Alderwoman Heather Navarro, a bill sponsor and alderwoman of the city's 28th Ward, said in a statement. "The threat that was with us before COVID-19 and will be with us after is climate change."

St. Louis is only the third city to adopt a Building Energy Performance Standard, joining New York City and Washington, D.C., according to the Institute for Market Transformation, a D.C.-based nonprofit green buildings advocacy group. Building Energy Performance Standards, as opposed to general energy usage restrictions, tend to be more aggressive but give building owners more flexibility in the ways they meet those stricter standards.

Generally, a Building Energy Performance Standard establishes the amount of energy a building is allowed to use, giving building owners the freedom to reach that energy level through whatever method they deem most effective. That's different from a policy that outlines specific measures a building must take to reduce its energy output.

For example, under a Building Energy Performance Standard, building owners will be given short-term energy goals to meet over time, designed to ratchet up into a significant reduction in energy. And when a city enacts a Building Energy Performance Standard, it allows local leadership to send clear signals to the business and political community, as well as require "direct action with measurable results," according to the Institute for Market Transformation.

Greenhouse gas emissions from buildings account for 80% of St. Louis' greenhouse gas emissions, according to the city. The city is aiming to eliminate 100% of its emissions by 2050.

It’s a lofty goal and one that only a handful of U.S. cities have taken. St. Louis is the first Midwestern city to set such a goal, joining the ranks of New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and 34 other cities that have pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80% or more by 2050, according to a report from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, a global organization of local governments that have committed to promoting sustainable development.

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@carasmithtenta