EPA Energy Star building certifications spark emissions and reductions

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on the U.S. Cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings that shows significant cost savings and emissions reductions from energy efficiency. Since the program’s inception in 1999, the energy efficient buildings certified as energy star in these top 25 cities have saved over $866 million in energy costs and prevented greenhouse gas emissions from the equivalent of over 543,000 average homes.

These statistics, however, represent only the 3,808 buildings in the top 25 cities. With almost 14,000 buildings certified, the program overall suggests massive savings in costs and emissions avoided from traditional, energy-intensive construction. With a 60% increase in buildings registered with the project from 2009 to 2010, the Energy Star program also shows dramatic growth in interest in energy efficiency construction.

Los Angeles lies at the top of the city list which has over 500 Energy Star labeled buildings, followed by Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago and New York. The list, ranked by numbers of projects, also gives statistics on square footage, cost savings, and avoided emissions.

For the most part, the city ranking stays the same for square footage and cost savings. However, when ranked by greenhouse gas emissions reductions, Chicago comes in first place followed by Minneapolis-St.Paul and Houston. Although the EPA report does not investigate this distinction, these cities likely are powered by dirtier sources of energy, like coal-fired power plants.

According to the EPA, energy use in commercial and manufacturing buildings costs more than $200 billion and represents more than half of all energy consumption in the United States in a single year. Energy Star Certifications in buildings require that the buildings perform in the top 25% of all similar buildings nationwide, and it requires verification by a professional engineer or registered architect.

Buildings such as hospitals, data centers, schools, offices, retailers, supermarkets and warehouses can get certified under the commercial buildings program. Manufacturing facilities like auto plants, cement plants, glass manufacturing facilities, pharmaceutical facilities and petroleum refineries can also get certified under the manufacturing category of the program.

The Energy Star certification for buildings and manufacturing plants are only one type of certification in the Energy Star program. Other certifications include labels for energy efficient products and appliances, energy efficiency for home installations and certifications for new homes.

All Energy Star programs are intended, as the EPA site says, to “ us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.” Significant growth in the program is expected to continue due to the significant savings and cost and energy reductions displayed by buildings are certified by the Energy Star program.